Fiordland: A hidden world of wonder
Fiordland National Park is New Zealand’s largest national park, covering over one million hectares of indescribable bush, mountain and glacial environments. While many famous sights are easily accessible by cruise or coach tour, there are parts of Fiordland which require a little more work to get to but worth the time and effort.
Fiordland offers over 500 kilometres (311 miles) of walking tracks through the national park. There are also more than 60 backcountry huts and ample opportunity to explore a primeval world of mountain peaks, alpine lakes, moss-carpeted valleys and Jurassic forests.
You can make your exploration into deep Fiordland as easy or difficult as you like. Multi-day small boat cruises into the southern fiords have become more popular in recent years as people discover not only the beauty of these places but the rich Māori and European history that makes them so special.
At the other end of the spectrum are those who visit Fiordland to test themselves against Mother Nature. The Dusky Track and George Sound Track are the most rugged hikes you can take in Fiordland. Alternatively the remote Hollyford Track offers both independent and guided hiking. Before you head out on a big adventure in Fiordland, ensure you’ve done your research.
The Dusky Track offers trampers a challenging 84-kilometre (52 mile) hike which takes around eight days to complete. The track links Lake Hauroko with Lake Manapouri and can include a two-day detour to Supper Cove in Tamatea / Dusky Sound. An experience that is sure to become a lifelong memory, the track traverses three major valley systems and crosses two mountain ranges. Not surprisingly, the Dusky Track is recommended for experienced hikers, and the experience covers wire bridges, tree falls, deep mud, tree roots and river crossings. It is recommended that you hike with a companion and carry emergency equipment including a personal locator beacon.
The Hollyford Track
The Hollyford Track is the only major track in Fiordland found at low altitude, meaning it can be walked in any season and is rarely cut off by snow. Like all tracks in Fiordland, the Hollyford Track is prone to damage from heavy rainfall and hikers should always check weather conditions before setting off. Emergency equipment including a personal locator beacon should be carried.
The Hollyford Track is a moderate tramping track, beginning at the Hollyford Road (off the Milford road) and finishing at Martins Bay. The tramp begins within the Darran Mountains and follows the impressive Hollyford River to Martins Bay, making it the ultimate mountains to sea experience. Hikers are rewarded with the chance of seeing kekeno the New Zealand Fur Seals and tawaki the rare Fiordland Crested Penguins at Martins Bay at certain times of the year.
The Track can be undertaken as an independent walker, or with a guided walk party. Guided walkers stay in different huts and have a value-added experience by way of accommodation and hosting. Find out more about guided walks in Fiordland here.
Expeditions to the Southern Fiords
For those looking to explore Fiordland’s lesser-known fiords, there are several expedition style cruises that offer an incredible way to access areas of exceptional remoteness and beauty, rich in both Māori and earliest New Zealand European history. Multi-day sailing adventures cover locations such as Tamatea / Dusky and Te Puaitaha / Breaksea Sounds, Rakituma / Preservation and Taiari / Chalky Inlets and the old whaling station on Stewart Island. Inaccessible by any means other than boat or helicopter, experiences such as these offer a glimpse into a landscape very few get to lay their eyes upon.
FAQs about Fiordland
Can I stay in Fiordland National Park?
Yes. Te Anau and Manapouri are "base camp" for your Fiordland National Park visit.
How big is Fiordland?
Fiordland National Park is now over 1.2 million hectares in size, and encompasses mountain, lake, fiord and rainforest environments.
What is there to do in Fiordland National Park?
Fiordland is most famous for hiking and walking. Three of New Zealand's Great Walks are found in Fiordland (Kepler, Milford and Routeburn) and there is a huge number of day walk options. Te Anau and Manapouri offer a huge range of activities to do on the lake.