Fiordland National Park is located in the southwestern part of the South Island. Situated in the corner of the island, the national park boundaries encompass an area of 4,868 square miles (12,607 sq km) making it the largest national park in New Zealand.
Doubtful Sound, Dusky Sound, and Milford Sound are three of the most significant fjords of the park. Some of the fjords reach back into the mainland as far as 25 miles (40 km). The southern portion of the Southern Alps accounts for much of the Fiordland National Park.
The Darren Mountains in the north provide viewpoints out to Mount Aspiring, which is actually in the sister Mount Aspiring National Park. Traveling south from there, the national park features the Franklin Mountains, the Murchison Mountains, and the Stuart Mountains.
Lake Hauroko, Lake Manapouri, Lake Monowai, Lake Poteriteri, and Lake Te Anau, make up the five most significant lakes. The fjords provide views of some spectacular waterfalls:
- Bowen Falls – 531 feet (162 m)
- Browne Falls – 2,742.8 feet (836 m)
- Humboldt Falls – 902.2 feet (275 m)
- Lady Alice Falls – 919 feet (656 m)
- Sutherland Falls – 1,902 feet (580 m)
Browne Falls, at 2,742.8 feet, is the tallest waterfall in New Zealand. They all add to the stunning landscape of Fiordland National Park.
The national park is home to the largest region of pristine wilderness that has gone untouched by mankind. The forests are comprised of silver and mountain beech with a few conifers. Ferns are found throughout the dense forest floor.
Wildlife highlights include the kakapo which is the earth’s only flightless parrot and the Fiordland crested penguin.
Fiordland National Park is the country’s most popular tourist attraction. Hundreds of thousands of people explore the area annually. Boat tours and cruises are the most common way to experience the majestic world of the fjords.
Kayaking is another popular way to experience the fjords, however, this is for the more conditioned and adventurous. Alpine climbers who are conditioned and adventurous can venture into the multi-day climbs of Hollyford, Kepler, and Milford. Mirror Lake is a popular attraction and stops along the road through Homer Pass.
Milford Sound reaches depths of 1,680 feet (512 m). It measures a length of 12 miles (19 km) while reaching widths around 2 miles (3 km). Mitre Peak at 5,560 feet (1,695 m) and Pembroke Peak at 6,710 feet (2,045 m) serve as backdrops of the astounding landscape of this beautiful fjord.
Doubtful Sound is the second most popular sound right behind Milford Sound. It reaches depths of 1,381 feet (421 m). It measures a length of 25 miles (40 km) and is the second-longest sound in New Zealand. The cliffs surrounding the fjord are not as captivating as they are with Milford, however, it is an exquisite landscape.
Browne Falls is one of two waterfalls that is argued to be the tallest waterfall in New Zealand. Brown Falls is part of the Doubtful Sound experience. It has a cascading plunge of 2,742.8 feet (836 m).
Trails in Fiordland National Park
There are close to 40 trails that meander about, around, and up into the mountains of the national park. Trails range from easy to difficult giving everyone a chance to hike and explore.
Milford Foreshore Trail: This is a short 0.7 (1.12 km) loop trail that walks along the coastline providing views of the fjord.
Chasm Path Trail: This is another easy and short 0.5-mile (0.8 km) loop trail that meanders through the forest with chances to see wildflowers and birds.
Mount Burns Trail: This is a short but moderate rated trail that ascends up 626 feet (1,007 m) up Mount Burns providing panoramic views of the surrounding terrain.
Lake Marian Trail: This is a 3.8-mile (6.11 km) which heads up the terrain with an elevation gain of 1,381 feet (420.9 m). The trail engages a river with views of a waterfall as well as chances to see wildflowers and wildlife.
Kapler Trail: This is a trail for the more adventurous. It is rated difficult and covers a distance of 37.7 miles (60.6 km) loop trail with an elevation gain of 7,270 feet (2,216 m). This alpine terrain provides captivating panoramic views of the terrain below as well as views of the lake.
- Milford Sound
- Doubtful Sound
- Sutherland Falls and Browne Falls
- Mirror Lakes
- 100% Pure New Zealand, Fiordland National Park, https://www.newzealand.com/us/feature/national-parks-fiordland/, retrieved September 2019.
- All Trails, Best Trails in Fiordland National Park, https://www.alltrails.com/parks/new-zealand/southland/fiordland-national-park, retrieved June 2020.
- Britannica, Fiordland National Park, https://www.britannica.com/place/Fiordland-National-Park, retrieved September 2019.
- Britannica, Milford Sound, https://www.britannica.com/place/Milford-Sound, retrieved June 2020.
- Department of Conservation, Fiordland National Park, https://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/fiordland/places/fiordland-national-park/, retrieved September 2019.
- Lonely Planet, Fiord and Southland Travel, https://www.lonelyplanet.com/new-zealand/fiordland-and-southland, retrieved September 2019.
- Destination Fiordland, Fiordland National Park, https://www.fiordland.org.nz/about-fiordland/fiordland-national-park/, retrieved September 2019.
- Wikipedia, Doubtful Sound, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doubtful_Sound, retrieved June 2020.