Fiordland in the Spring
Fiordland in springtime - as it awakens from winter slumber with crisp frosty mornings that develop into warm cloudless days - is often at its glorious best.
Located on New Zealand’s south-west coast of the South Island, Fiordland mountains, lakes, rivers, rainforest and wild coastlines present a powerful atmosphere as the immense panorama emerges from the icy grip of winter. With the mountains still dressed in a mantle of snow, red flowering Southern Rata adds colour and brings the first signs of the warmer months ahead while nesting migratory birds promise new life to the changing cycle.
Visitors to Fiordland’s renowned Milford and Doubtful Sounds are enthralled with seals, dolphins and penguins that abound there at this time of year, and the mountainous landscape becomes busy with swelling rivers from snow melt and bird song as native wildlife including endangered species like the Takahe and Kakapo continue their seasonal quest within the protected forests.
Meanwhile at Fiordland’s hub, Te Anau, picture perfect spring scenes often bring traffic to a halt as visitors stop to photograph new-born lambs and fawns on nearby farms.
Te Anau offers seven days a week shopping facilities, a wide range of accommodation, cafés, bars and restaurants and is the place where visitors can step back from the fast pace of city life and enjoy the tranquil setting of this magnificent region.
Coach services bring passengers in from Christchurch, Queenstown, Dunedin and Invercargill.
Te Anau is a beautiful two-hour drive from Queenstown (and international airport), following the stunning lakeside drive along Lake Wakatipu, through the rugged Northern Southland Ranges to Fiordland’s spectacular snow-capped mountains. It is 3.5-4 hours to Dunedin and 2 hours from Invercargill.
Milford Sound is probably the most famous and most photographed location in the country. Easily accessible by road, is just 2½ hour drive from Te Anau – along the spectacular Milford Road.
Equally impressive Doubtful Sound offers a vision of nature’s timelessness, with unkempt bush lining the steep slopes of the glacier-hewn mountains.
As well as day cruises amidst the wilderness scenery, overnight cruises and kayaking are also options in both Milford and Doubtful Sounds. Lake Te Anau is also home to the spectacular Te Anau Glowworm caves, the only publicly accessible geologically evolving caves in the Southern Hemisphere.
But this is not just a haven for followers of nautical pursuits, and spring is the perfect time for early trampers to make the most of the walking tracks in the area. Fiordland is the ‘walking capital of the world’ and contains 3 of New Zealand’s Great Walks – the Milford, Routeburn and Kepler Tracks, as well as the Hollyford, Greenstone and Caples and the Tuatapere Hump Ridge tracks.
For the less fit, or time-restricted, these same views can be viewed from the air by helicopter, fixed wing or float plane on offer from the many scenic flight operators in Te Anau or at Milford.
There is also a good range of short but no less spectacular day and half day walks on offer - including a variety of walks off the Milford Road such as Key Summit and Lake Gunn or a short walk on the Kepler Track.
Jet boating, horse trekking, quad biking and paintball are also available from Te Anau.
Several annual events draw large crowds including the Labour weekend Yamaha Stabicraft Te Anau Fishing Competition, the athletic Asics Kepler Challenge and Luxmore Grunt in December – the 61km and 28km marathon contests through the Kepler Track, the Milford Mountain Classic Cycle race in January and the Fiordland Big 3 Hunting competition at Queen’s Birthday weekend. The Te Anau Rodeo, numerous golfing and yachting tournaments are also hosted by local clubs over summer months.
So, while the unparalleled scenery of this UNESCO-rated World Heritage area is the major drawcard, there is a great deal more to be discovered and enjoyed in Fiordland.