Fiordland National Park is the largest national park in New Zealand and part of the Te Wāhipounamu UNESCO World Heritage site. Located in the southwestern corner of the south island, Fiordlands is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Many of New Zealand’s most-famous sights are located here, and it is a must-do for anyone visiting the south island.
Milford Sound is spectacular, and many consider it to be the crown jewel of a country that is full of amazing beauty. Although it is called a sound, it is actually a fiord since it was carved by glaciers. Taking a boat tour into the sound provides breathtaking views of the rocky cliffs that tower above. Waterfalls line the cliff walls, and their numbers increase during times of high precipitation. You may also find seals lazing on rocky outcrops, trying to catch some rays from the warm sun. Weather in the sound is largely unpredictable, so expect anything from sunny, clear days to rainy, windy days or even snow.
Driving to Milford Sound
A trip to Milford Sound is not just about the final destination. The drive on Highway 94 provides fantastic views of mountains, rivers and waterfalls along the way. You can complete the drive from Te Anau to Milford in about two hours, but you’ll want to spend at least half a day to take your time at the various pull-offs and short hiking trails.
New Zealand has nine “Great Walks” that showcase some of the most epic and beautiful scenery the country has to offer. The Routeburn Track (32 km) is one of the most popular Great Walks, and it is easy to see why, as you walk along the mountain peaks from Fiordland National Park into Mount Aspiring National Park. The trail is very diverse in both landscape and vegetation, with both tropical and temperate rain forests visible at different points. While it is technically possible to complete the track in one day, most people take two to four days to complete it, stopping at huts along the way. The huts are relatively nice, but only have basic amenities and use hostel-style rooms. We completed the trail in three days, and this was the highlight of my time in New Zealand.
The Kepler Track (60 km) is another one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, and it is one of the most physically demanding of the walks. To complete the Kepler Track in it’s entirety usually requires three or four days with overnight tent camping or in huts. We didn’t get the opportunity to complete this walk in it’s entirety, but we walked a short section out to the Moturau Hut. Our effort was rewarded with beautiful lakes and mountain views.
The final Great Walk in Fiordland National Park is the Milford Track. This track is the most famous of all of the Great Walks, which also means it is one of the most popular. The Milford Track is typically completed as a four day / three night walk, and bookings for the huts on the track are required well in advance. We didn’t get an opportunity to complete this walk during our trip, but it is definitely something I would want to check out next time I’m in New Zealand.