Things You Can’t Miss in the Fiordland National Park
Covering 12,607km, Fiordland National Park is New Zealand’s largest national park and one of Earth’s last remaining untouched wilderness. No wonder you want to see it’s breathtaking mountain peaks, enchanting forests and fascinating wildlife! With that in mind, we’ve put together this list of must-dos in the Fiordland National Park!
While there’s so much to experience in Fiordland, just check out Fiordland National Park – Guide for Backpackers, we’ve whittled down the offering to just 10 Fiordland National Park must-dos. It’s a list for those you travellers that are particularly choosy or have limited time in the area. However, if you do have some time to stick around in Fiordland, take a look at 6 Best Backpacker Hostels in Te Anau & Milford Sound for cheap accommodation inspiration.
1. Cruise in Doubtful Sound
As the name suggests, Fiordland National Park is famous for its beautiful fiords. One of the best trips out onto these fiords is in Doubtful Sound. Although not the easiest fiord to access, getting there is just part of the adventure. The journey starts of the shores of Lake Manapouri with a boat trip across the stunning lake. Then it’s a bus trip down New Zealand’s most isolated road cutting through the thick native forest all the way down to Doubtful Sound. Cruise, kayak or even stay overnight in this quiet fiord that seems to have frozen in time.
Location: Trips depart from Lake Manapouri with Real Journeys, about 20 minutes drive down State Highway 95 from Te Anau. Alternatively, there is the option to be picked up from Te Anau with Real Journeys.
2. Tramp the Hollyford Track
To explore one of the best-loved wilderness environments in New Zealand and get to those hard-to-reach places, it’s best done on foot. Fiordland National Park has the country’s top multi-day hikes but at the top of our hiking list, we’ve put the Hollyford Track! Whatever multi-day hike you do in Fiordland National Park, chances are you’re going to be mind-blown by the scenery, so that just leaves the cost and popularity of the track to take into consideration when choosing a tramp. With less expensive hut accommodation than the Great Walks, less promotion, but still well-maintained facilities, you’re likely to find organising your 4-6 day hiking experience pretty straight-forward. For the rest, just enjoy the amazing environment.
Location: The Hollyford Track starts at the Lower Hollyford Road, a side road off the Milford Sound Road about 87km from Te Anau. The track can be walked as a return track or transport can be organised at either end. Guided hikes and helicopter transfers are also available.
3. Do the Milford Sound Road Trip
The road between Te Anau and Milford Sound is said to be one of the most scenic roads in New Zealand. Not only that, but there are lots of short walks and viewpoints along the way making it well worth taking a whole day to complete. Do a nature walk at Lake Gunn, see the Mirror Lakes, walk to The Chasm, embrace the views of the Eglinton Valley, and so much more! Take a look at our 15 Stops You Can’t Miss on the Road to Milford Sound for ideas.
Location: State Highway 94 between Te Anau and Milford Sound.
4. Hike to the Key Summit
One of the highlights of the Milford Sound Road makes this Fiordland National Park must-do list, as it’s just too good to miss. The Key Summit hike is part of the Routeburn Track Great Walk but can be accessed from The Divide on the Milford Road. A zigzag climb for about 2 hours brings you to the Key Summit with breathtaking mountain views from around the entire summit. It takes about 3 hours to complete the return track.
Location: The Divide car park. 84km along the Milford Sound Road from Te Anau.
5. Do the Kepler Track Great Walk
Another fantastic multi-day hike is the Kepler Track. This purpose-built Great Walk starts with a steep climb up into the mountains but, if the weather is on your side, you’ll be rewarded with sensational views. Another highlight is the forest sections of the walk often described as “enchanting”. The Kepler Track is a 60km loop track taking 3-4 days to complete. It can even be walked to from Te Anau. Remember, Fiordland is a high rainfall area so be prepared for at least one rainy day on your trip.
Location: 5km from Te Anau township. The track begins and ends at the Kepler Track car park, at the southern end of Lake Te Anau. It can be walked to from the DOC Visitor Centre, 50 minutes away.
6. Jet Boat Down the Waiaurahiri River
Moving into the southern end of the Fiordland National Park, there are some more “off the beaten track” experiences to be had. Jet boat trips depart from the placid Lake Hauroko feeding onto the grade 3 Waiaurahiri River where jet boat trips are action-packed! Either use your jet boat trip for one of the wilder hikes in the area or take a jet boat tour all the way to the sea, passing some of New Zealand’s oldest forest.
Location: Trips depart from Lake Hauroko, 32km from Tuatapere. 20km of the drive down Lilliburn Valley Road is on an unsealed road.
7. Scuba Dive in Milford Sound
One of the more unique experiences to have in the famous Milford Sound is scuba diving. Thanks to the dark freshwaters created by tannins being washed into the sea, Milford Sound is home to coral and fish species that would otherwise only be found in deep seawater. Even if you’re not qualified, your scuba diving guide will take you to see some of the creatures of the deep like black coral.
Location: Trips depart from the Deep Water Basin boat ramp just before the Milford Sound Marina.
8. Take a Scenic Flight Over Fiordland National Park
We get it, sometimes you just don’t have the time and energy to walks for days in the Fiordland National Park. A great alternative to capture those views is by doing a scenic flight. Get an amazing perspective of this land shaped by glaciers with jagged mountain peaks, winding rivers, lakes and forest for as far as the eye can see.
9. See the Te Anau Glowworm Caves
How can you not be intrigued by glowworms? These shiny maggots native to New Zealand produce magical displays that you only appreciate with your own eyes. The most popular spot for seeing glowworms in Fiordland is on the western shores of Te Anau in a cave that the lake itself was named after – Te Anau meaning “swirling waters”. Boat trips depart from the Te Anau township taking you into these caves of waterfalls and limestone rock formations, which also, of course, hold a spectacular display of glowworms.
Location: Trips depart from Te Anau town lakefront with Real Journeys.
10. Tackle the Hump Ridge Track
Our final Fiordland hike to mention is one for those who appreciate the comforts in life yet still want to experience the great outdoors that Fiordland has to offer. The Hump Ridge Track is 3-day loop walk in south Fiordland taking you through the forests and sub-alpine regions of the Hump Ridge. Unlike your classic hut accommodation on New Zealand multi-day walks, the Hump Ridge Track accommodation is in more luxurious lodges with hot showers and, if you really wanted, you can even have your bag flown in by helicopter. We’re serious!
Location: The track starts and ends at the Rarakau car park near Bluecliffs Beach. 21km from Tuatapere.