What to Do in Tuatapere: The Gateway to Southern Fiordland National Park
Swap the tour bus-crammed towns like Te Anau and the bustling Fiordland hubs like Milford Sound for the uncrowded town of Tuatapere. The town in Western Southland is the gateway to the southern reaches of the Fiordland National Park where the unspoiled wilderness awaits. The town has a frontier spirit, which you can learn all about at the local museum. Or immerse yourself in the scenery that you came to New Zealand to see along the Hump Ridge Track or on a jet boat tour along Lake Hauroko and the Wairaurahiri River. It’s all here in this list of things to do in Tuatapere.
While you’re here, you might also be interested in the 5 Fun Things to Do in Riverton.
1. Hike the Hump Ridge Track
Discover a part of the Fiordland National Park with fewer crowds and more wilderness to immerse yourself in. The Hump Ridge Track is a 62km (38.5-mile) 3-day loop walk featuring untouched coastline, lush forest and the sub-alpine zone of the Hump Ridge. What’s more, the accommodation along the trail is much more luxurious than your standard multi-day hike. Swap basic huts for private rooms in super king/king beds and breakfast. Find out more in our Complete Guide to the Hump Ridge Track.
Location: Rarakau car park, 21km (13 miles) west of Tuatapere
2. Explore Clifden Caves
One of the very few cave systems in the Southland region, Clifden Caves provides a real unguided adventure. Navigating through the caves takes around 1h30min-2 hours, featuring limestone formations, glowworms and hell of a lot of scrambling. While there are not many claustrophobic sections, there is a deep pool section with a terrace that you will have to sidle along which can be difficult if you are not “nimble” enough. You’ll then need to climb up several ladders in place to exit the caves. Note that the caves should not be entered during or after heavy rain.
Location: Clifden Gorge Road, 16.5km (10 miles) north of Tuatapere
3. Visit the Bushman’s Museum
Learn about the timber milling history of Tuatapere at the Buchman’s Museum. See photographs, milling equipment and get an insight into the lives of the early pioneers of the area.
Location: 31 Orawia Road
4. Check Out Bluecliffs Beach
This pebble beach is worth stopping by before making your way to the Hump Ridge Track. Wander among the driftwood, take in the expansive coastal scenery and keep an eye out for Hector’s dolphins often seen from the beach. It’s even sometimes possible to spot Southern right whales from here too!
Location: Bluecliffs Beach Road, 13km (8 miles) southwest of Tuatapere
5. Visit the Stunning Lake Hauroko
A super scenic part of the Fiordland National Park accessible from Tuatapere is Lake Hauroko. After a long drive down a gravel road, you’ll arrive at the lakefront with a number of hikes to choose from. The Lake Hauroko Track (40 minutes return) is a flat easy walk through the forest and along a swampy area close to the lake. The Lake Hauroko Lookout Track (4 hours return) is a tough climb but rewards with breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding national park. Finally, you can start a tough tramping track to the Teal Bay Hut (9 hours one way) popular with hunters.
Location: Lillburn Valley Road, 48km (30 miles) northeast of Tuatapere
6. Do a Jet Boat Tour in the Fiordland National Park
Experience more of Lake Hauroko and delve deep into the Fiordland National Park on a jet boat tour with Wairaurahiri Jet or Wairaurahiri Wilderness Jet. After speeding across Lake Hauroko, you’ll venture down the Wairaurahiri River all the way to the coast. The tours take you through some of the oldest forests in New Zealand along the steepest river to be commercially jet boated with grade 3 rapids!
Location: Lake Hauroko, Lillburn Valley Road, 48km (30 miles) northeast of Tuatapere
7. Search for Precious Gems on Gemstone Beach
South of Tuatapere along the Southern Scenic Route is an intriguing beach well worth stopping by. Gemstone Beach is famous in these parts for its constant state of change in between the storms and tides. What is sometimes a sandy beach is often transformed with pebbles and stones, where semi-precious gems have been found, such as garnet, jasper, quartz and nephrite. So try your luck and search for precious gems on the beach!
Location: Mullans Road, 19km (12 miles) south of Tuatapere