Fiordland National Park

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Milford Sound Fiordland

Fiordland National Park

Fiordland national park lies in the southwest of New Zealand, covering an area of approximately 12,000 km across New Zealand’s South Island. The park is one of four in the larger Te Wahipounamu world heritage area, which includes Mt Cook, Mt Aspiring, Westland National Park, and Fiordland. The name ‘Te Wahipounamu’ is derived from the indigenous Māori, meaning ‘the place of greenstone’, this is due to the areas’ access to abundant varieties of Jade, important symbolically in Māori culture. The Fiordland region was shaped in its past by the presence of glaciers, with each glacier further carving the landscape of the fiords from the surrounding cliffs, this slow process of erosion has distinctly shaped the area, with fiords dotting the southeast coast.

As its name suggests, Fiordland national park is famous for its breath-taking fiords, rising from the surrounding Tasman Sea to its enormous sheer cliffs, punctuated by its lush rainforest. Of these fiords the most famous is Milford Sound, dubbed the eighth natural wonder of the world, as well as the smaller Doubtful, and Dusky Sounds. Fiordland national park is also famous for its amazing hiking and walking tracks, such as the Milford track, Hollyford track, or the Routeburn track. While a great walk, the hike can get quite wet from local climate conditions, so be sure to bring wet weather gear while hiking.

Highlights: Milford Sound

Milford Sound is one of New Zealand‘s most celebrated landmarks, with its spectacular scenery punctuating the already pristine wilderness of New Zealand’s south island. Milford Sound, or Piopiotahi in its Māori name, is a fiord located in the south west of New Zealand’s south island, running 15km inland from the Tasman Sea. The region surrounding Milford Sound is uniquely shaped by its distinctive environmental conditions, which has the highest amount of annual rainfall of anywhere in New Zealand, and some of the highest in the world. This climate has shaped the fiord in a distinctive way, with its huge vertical cliffs punctuated by rolling waterfalls making for a dramatic vista, regardless of rain of shine. This deluge of fresh water also has the effect of turning the surrounding sea an inky black colour, with the runoff from the surrounding forests staining the top layer of fresh water much like a tannin.

Milford Sound also hosts an abundance of aquatic wildlife, such as bottlenose dolphins, fur seals, whales, as well as the endemic fiordland crested penguin. This variety makes Milford Sound a popular destination for nature lovers, able to take in the spectacular vista of Mitre peak on a scenic cruise, while spying darting penguins and dolphins alongside the boat. As its name suggests, Milford track is another popular way to visit the fiord, with the walk stretching from Milford Sound in the south, to Te Anau in the north. This track also passes other popular landmarks in Fiordland national park, such as the Mackinnon Pass, Sutherland Falls, Giant Gate Falls, and Lake Te Anau. Coach tours are also available to Milford Sound and depart regularly from both Te Anau and Queenstown.

Milford Sound waterfall
Cascading Waterfall at the Milford Sound

Highlights: Te Anau

Located in the heart of Fiordland‘s southern alps, Te Anau is a small but popular town where travellers can stay before exploring the surrounding national park. Te Anau is the departure point for many a tour departing to Milford Sound, as well as along the Milford Track, though there are a few attractions near the town itself that are definitely worth visiting during your visit. Amongst these attractions the most notable and unique is the Te Anau Glowworm Caves. Lying just across the other side of Lake Te Anau, the Te Anau Glowworm Caves are a fascinating and unique collection of caves notable for the abundance of bioluminescent worms within. The otherworldly light emanating within the caves, as well as the rush from the underground waterfall make this an unmissable part on a tour of Fiordland national park.

Traveling to Fiordland National Park

When traveling, or taking a tour to Fiordland national park, there is a plethora of variety when it comes to ways to appreciate the pristine natural beauty of the national park. Whether a guided walk, scenic flight or cruise, be sure to find the time to catch some of Fiordland‘s highlights. Many a tour and day trip to Fiordland depart from the nearby town of Queenstown, located just outside the park. Queenstown is a popular resort town famous for its mountain views, crystal lake, and mist filled valleys. Queenstown is a popular destination for a number of reasons; for those interested in skiing, Queenstown is a hub for New Zealand’s ‘southern alps‘, and for nature lovers, a short walk to see Lake Wakatipu reflecting the surrounding mountains is unforgettable. And assuming you’re fan of the Lord of the Rings, you can always take a short trip out of Queenstown and find many of the locations used in the filming of the trilogy’s, including Beorn’s cabin, Isengard, and the Misty Mountains. From the visitor centre you can also find a huge variety of outdoor activities from zip lining to horseback riding to keep yourself occupied.

Te Anau, New Zealand
Landscape photo of sunset over Lake Te Anau, Fiordland, New Zealand

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