The Must-Dos in the Fiordland National Park!
Covering 12,607km (7,834 miles), Fiordland National Park is New Zealand’s largest national park and one of Earth’s last remaining untouched wildernesses. No wonder you want to see it’s breathtaking mountain peaks, enchanting forests and fascinating wildlife! So where do you begin to plan a trip to such a breathtakingly beautiful part of New Zealand? Well, this list of things to do in Fiordland National Park will lay out some of your best options.
While there’s so much to experience in Fiordland, just check out our Southland destination category, we’ve whittled down the offering to just Fiordland National Park must-dos.
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 on 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 (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor), 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 (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor).
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 here pretty straightforward. 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 (54 miles) 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 on Viator and Tripadvisor.
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 so it should definitely be at the top of your list of things to do in Fiordland. 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. See more walks near Milford Sound in the 11 Best Walks in Milford Sound.
Location: The Divide car park. 84km (52 miles) along the Milford Sound Road from Te Anau.
5. Do a Scenic Cruise at Milford Sound
One of the most popular things to do in Fiordland National Park, a cruise in Milford Sound captures the colossal scenery of New Zealand’s famous fiord. A cruise will take you along the length of the fiord, past picturesque waterfalls and under towering glacier-carved mountains. Many cruises also feature wildlife too, seeing a seal colony and the occasional pod of dolphins. Check out some of your best cruise options in 6 Best Cruises in Milford Sound.
Location: Cruises depart from Milford Sound Marina.
6. Kayak in Milford Sound
Experience more adventure in Milford Sound with a kayaking tour. Get closer to wildlife and enjoy a more intimate experience in the fiord with Roscoe’s Milford Kayaks. You’ll need a reasonable fitness level for this paddle under waterfalls and across the fiord. Find out more about the kayak tour on Viator and Tripadvisor. Alternatively, combine your Milford Sound cruise with a one-hour guided kayak tour with Southern Discoveries. Again, more details are available on Viator and Tripadvisor. For more ways to experience Milford Sound, don’t forget to check out 10 Best Things to Do in Milford Sound.
Location: Roscoes’s Milford Kayaks depart from Deepwater Basin Road, approximately 1km (0.6 miles) from Milford Sound., Milford Sound. Southern Discoveries depart from the Milford Sound Marina.
7. 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 (37-mile) 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 (3 miles) 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.
8. 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 remaining forests. Trips are available with Waiaurahiri Jet and Waiaurahiri Wilderness Jet.
Location: Trips depart from Lake Hauroko, 32km (20 miles) from Tuatapere. 20km (12 miles) of the drive down Lilliburn Valley Road is on an unsealed road.
9. 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. Trips are available with Descend Scuba Diving.
Location: Trips depart from the Deep Water Basin boat ramp just before the Milford Sound Marina.
10. 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.
Location: Flights depart from Milford Sound with Milford Sound Scenic Flights (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor), Te Anau with Te Anau Helicopter Services (on Viator and Tripadvisor), Wanaka with Siberia Experience (on Viator and Tripadvisor), and Queenstown with Over The Top Helicopters (on Viator and Tripadvisor). You can also see the 5 Best Scenic Flights to Milford Sound from Queenstown for some ideas.
11. 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.
12. Say Hello to the Takahe at the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary
A fun free thing to do at the gateway to the national park is to see some of the wildlife that inhabits the park. The Te Anau Bird Sanctuary is a free attraction with a rehabilitation program for getting injured birds ready for the wild. See rare birds like the flightless blue takahe, alpine parrots called a kea, other forest parrots like kaka and kakariki, and more. Check out more things to do in Te Anau in our 5 Te Anau Must-Dos.
Location: 181/209 Manapouri-Te Anau Highway, Te Anau.
13. Fish for Trout
Fiordland offers fantastic trout fishing, which you can experience for yourself on a half-day jet boat fishing tour with Fiordland Outdoors Co. Speed up to a tranquil fishing spot on the Waiau River in a jet boat and get expert advice from your fishing guide. Alternatively, fly-fishing on the Waiau River is also available. Find out more about fishing trips with Fiordland Outdoor Co. on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Tours depart from Te Anau.
14. 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 a 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! Learn more about this hike in the Guide to the Hump Ridge Track.
Location: The track starts and ends at the Rarakau car park near Bluecliffs Beach. 21km (13 miles) from Tuatapere.