Frequently Asked Questions
Some questions which people often ask about the Fiordland region are listed below.
- How do I get to Fiordland?
Te Anau is accessible by State Highway (SH) 6 & 94 from Queenstown (2 ½ hrs drive), SH’s 1 & 94 from Dunedin (4 hrs drive) or via two options from Invercargill the Southern Scenic route or State Highway 1 & 94 (both between 2 –3 & 1/2 hrs driving). Queenstown, Dunedin and Invercargill all have regular scheduled domestic flights. Regular coach connections are also available from each of these centres. Te Anau airport also has a weekly (Saturday) service with Air Milford connecting with Queenstown in the peak season, plus charter flights available.
- Sounds or Fiords?
Fiordland's West Coast is deeply indented by 14 fiords spanning 215 km of coastline. A true "Sound" is a river valley that has been drowned due to the land sinking below sea level. Fiords are created by glacial action that produces u-shaped valleys with steep cliffs. Fiords are also characterised by shallow entrances that slope quickly seaward to deep water. Although the famous Sounds continue with the misname, the region was renamed Fiordland to recognise this error.
- Do I need to book in advance?
In the Peak period between October and April it is very important to book your accommodation and activities in advance to ensure you secure these. Te Anau can get particularly busy in February and it is a long way to the next town if you have not already made accommodation bookings. There are times over the summer months when both Te Anau and Manapouri accommodation properties fill up.
- What Services are available in Te Anau?
Te Anau has two supermarkets operating seven days a week and three banks. Medical and dental services are available along with two 7 day a week pharmacy's. Visitor Information and activity bookings are available seven days as are petrol and gas stations. Te Anau also has a range of service clubs, churches and community organisations, legal, accountancy and real estate services.
- While in Fiordland which fiord should we visit? Milford or Doubtful?
People struggle to choose which of the Fiords they should visit when they have limited time available, but the reality is that Milford and Doubtful Sounds offer very different experiences.
Milford Sound is a popular and scenically stunning place to visit. The drive into Milford is a journey in itself in terms of the beautiful scenery you will view en route. Milford’s abruptly carved peaks are majestic, and everyone recognises the dramatic figure of Mitre Peak rising from the fiord. Because of the road access and popularity of this area, Milford can be a very busy place in summer and visitors should realise that they will be sharing their experience with others. This does not, however, distract from the sheer beauty of the area.
Doubtful Sound on the other hand is more subdued. The rounded hills put up a greater resistance to glaciation so are not as dramatically carved into the abrupt cliff faces that appear in Milford, but the scenery is still awe inspiring.
The difficulty of accessing Doubtful Sound creates a limitation to the number of people who go there, so you are more likely to have a more “remote” experience. Wildlife is slightly more abundant here so you have a higher chance of seeing the resident pod of dolphins or penguins and seals.
A visit to both fiords will not disappoint.