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8 epic facts about Patea / Doubtful Sound

You will never forget a trip to Patea / Doubtful Sound. Located in the far southwest of New Zealand, this magical fiord is famed for it’s wildlife encounters, stunning scenery, and untouched appeal. Below are 8 facts about Patea / Doubtful Sound to get you schooled up before your visit

Date 17 Dec 2020

Doubtful Sound's Maori name is Patea

Doubtful Sound was named Patea by the Maori settlers. Patea translates to “the place of silence” and, if you have ever stepped foot in Doubtful Sound you will see (and hear) why. Doubtful Sound was named Patea by the Maori settlers. Patea translates to “the place of silence” and, if you have ever stepped foot in Doubtful Sound you will see (and hear) why. In Doubtful Sound you will see the four arms – First Arm / Taipari-poto (short), Crooked Arm / Taipari-nui (big), Hall Arm / Taipari-roa (long) and Deep Cove / Taipari-tiki (little). Bradshaw Sound and Thompson Sound also link to Doubtful Sound, you may find yourself here during an overnight cruise adventure. 

The Wilmot pass construction finished in 1965

The Wilmot Pass is the road that connects the West Arm of Lake Manapouri to Deep Cove in Doubtful Sound. The pass is 671m high and named after E.H.Wilmot, a former road surveyor. He noted the pass while checking the area in 1897, and construction began in 1963. It is said to be the most expensive road to be constructed in New Zealand.

Captain Cook originally named this place Doubtful Harbour.

Way back in 1770 when Captain cook sailed around Aotearoa, he named the sound ‘Doubtful harbour’ He did not enter the inlet with his ship as he was doubtful it would be navigable under sail. He instead continued around the island, happening upon Milford Sound on route. It was later renamed Doubtful Sound by the whalers and sealers who lived there.

Doubtful Sound is in fact a fiord

A Fiord is an underwater valley carved by glaciers, generally narrow, with steep mountains on either side. These U and V-shaped valleys are the work of ancient rivers of ice. The valleys sit below sea level meaning when the ice retreats they become inundated with sea water. The early sealers and whalers renamed Cook’s harbour Doubtful Sound it should technically be called Doubtful Fiord.

The sound is approximately 40kms in length

Doubtful Sound is the second-longest Fiord and sits at depths up to 421 meters making it the deepest of the South Island Fiords. Like the rest of Fiordland, Doubtful Sound receives a high amount of rainfall, ranging from an annual average of 3000-6000 millimeters.

There is no direct access to Doubtful Sound

This means there is no road which you can drive yourself. So how do you get there? The first drive is to the Manapouri visitor centre, you then board a boat crossing Lake Manapouri to West Arm, then a bus ride over the Wilmot Pass down into Deep Cove. Deep Cove is the harbour where all boats depart and return.

There are adventures to be had

You can kayak the fiord during a day or on an overnight adventure and charter companies offer fishing, scuba diving or paddle boarding options too . With day cruises exploring Hall Arm and the mouth of the sound to overnight and multi-day trips heading further and deeper into one of New Zealand’s finest landscapes.

The wildlife is plentiful

With an average of 7 meters of rain a year in Fiordland National Park, native flora and fauna flourish in these conditions, making Doubtful the perfect home for native wildlife. It’s common to be surrounded by our native bird song, it is also highly likely that you will see the New Zealand Fur Seals basking on rocks, Pods of Bottlenose Dolphins riding the bow waves and if you are really lucky, Whales, Albatross, and the Fiordland Crested Penguin may make an appearance.

Hall Arm - Real Journeys

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