Experiencing the ‘real’ New Zealand is a great reason to include a few nights in Fiordland as part of your itinerary. You might call us bias, but Fiordland has got to be one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand. The craggy mountains, glacier-formed fiords and alpine vistas tend to stay with you forever – whether you live here, like us, or you’re just visiting. To make the most of your time in Fiordland, and experience the New Zealand you came to see, we’ve put together our favourite Fiordland activities – experiences that will help you explore Fiordland from all angles.
1. By water: Kayak the Sounds
Both Milford and Doubtful Sounds lend themselves to exploration by paddle power. With beautiful beaches, inlets and bays – as well as towering waterfalls and rainforest-clad cliffs – both Milford and Doubtful sounds are incredible places to take a kayak tour. Keep in mind that while the former is the most famous, Doubtful Sound – although more difficult to get to – offers fewer crowds and a deeper wilderness experience. Kayaking is a great way to get close to the local wildlife, with visitors being able to spot seals, penguins and even dolphins (the odd whale sometimes visits Fiordland as well, but you would have to be very lucky to see one!) Double kayaks are available which makes the tour much easier and more relaxing – take turns paddling and catch your breath – and you’ll be provided with guides, clothing and often lunch.
2. By air: Scenic tours by helicopter
It probably comes as no surprise, but the most spectacular views of Fiordland are from above. If you’re going to invest in a scenic helicopter flight once during your New Zealand vacation, then Fiordland is the place to do it! You’ll journey deep into the heart of our wild, remote region; seeing hanging valleys, mountain lakes, glaciers and deep valleys too difficult to visit in any other way. Our awesome team here at Southern Lakes have been operating for more than 30 years, and we offer air tours and experience packages that promise to knock your socks off (that’s kiwi speak for be pretty unforgettable!) Many of our packages combine a flight with hiking, cycling or even jet boating – a great way to combine a number of different activities in one day.
3. By bike: The Lake2Lake Cycle Trail
Exploring our backyard by foot is fantastic, but sometimes you want to pick up the pace a little. The Lake2Lake trail is a new and wonderfully scenic path that starts at Lake Te Anau, and heads out towards Lake Manapouri. With an ‘easy’ grading, the track is perfect for all ages and fitness levels (especially awesome for kids). Electric Assisted bikes (e-bikes) are welcome, and are available to hire alongside standard models. The Lake2Lake trail is a great morning or afternoon activity – pack a picnic, soak up the scenery and fill your lungs with a heap of pure Fiordland air.
4. By foot: Spend a day walking up to Key Summit on the Routeburn Track
The Routeburn Track links stunning Fiordland National Park with the impressive Mount Aspiring National Park. It’s one of our most popular Great Walks, and the entire trail is 32km. If three days of hiking is a bit tricky to fit into your itinerary, a day walk up to Key Summit on the Routeburn Track is an awesome option. Starting from The Divide, which is just over an hours’ drive from Te Anau along the Milford Road, you’ll hike on a well-formed section of the track, through lush forest and up into an alpine herb field. With a 400m elevation gain, the views from Key Summit are simply spectacular. Take a picnic and it will be one of the most scenic lunch spots you’ve ever had!
5. Underground: Te Anau glowworm caves
Admittedly, this starts off as a trip ‘by water’. The glowworm grotto in Te Anau is reached with a scenic cruise across the lake, giving you time to enjoy some pretty special views before entering the dark of the caves. You will get to explore the caves by boat and through walkways, in small groups with knowledgeable guides. The species of Glowworm found here are unique to New Zealand, and journeying through the ancient, silent caves with hundreds of shining lights above you is an experience not to be missed.