Fiordland National Park is one of New Zealand’s most popular national parks. Without a doubt, it’s one of the best places to visit on the South Island.
It’s home to the famed Milford Sound, which according to some, is the unofficial 8th Natural Wonder of the World. Although I agree with this statement, there is so much more to do in Fiordland National Park than visit Milford Sound.
In fact, Milford Sound is only the tip of the iceberg and as you’ll read below, there are so many more amazing attractions to see and experience in Fiordland. You’ll discover epic hikes and other lesser-known fiords, and if you’re lucky enough you may even end up soaring through the air on a scenic flight. So, get your New Zealand bucket list ready because you’re going to need it!
About Fiordland National Park
Fiordland National Park is a 12,000 sq km protected area on the southwest coast of New Zealand’s South Island. The park is made up of several fiords that were carved by glaciers thousands of years ago. Every year around 500,000 people visit the park with most coming to see the famous Milford Sound. This actually makes it the most visited National Park in New Zealand!
In 1990, Fiordland along with 3 other national parks were named UNESCO World Heritage Sites in what’s known as the Te Wahipounamu (South West New Zealand.) Fiordland National Park is most famous for its deep fiords but it’s also home to stunning alpine lakes, huge waterfalls, rainforest, and unique wildlife. In fact, within the fiords, you can find dolphins, New Zealand Fur Seals, Fiordland Crested Penguins, and even the occasional whale.
Fiordland National Park is also one of the wettest places in New Zealand and it rains here around 200 days per year with an annual rainfall of around 7 meters (23 feet)! With so much rain many visitors are not welcomed with blue skies, however, Fiordland National Park is almost more beautiful during the rain. Although hard to believe, during rain thousands of waterfalls are created in the valleys along the steep cliffs – it’s truly magical!
Visiting Fiordland National Park is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and with this list of epic activities, it’s sure to be one to remember! It should come as no surprise that many of the attractions in the park are the best things to do on the South Island.
Related Read: Visiting Queenstown? Be sure to read all the best things to do in Queenstown when it’s raining. Just in case you get some bad weather!
Fiordland National Park FAQs
EPIC Things to do in Fiordland National Park
1. Explore Milford Sound
Let’s be real, no trip to Fiordland National Park would be complete without visiting Milford Sound. Milford Sound is first and foremost just a stunning place to visit, but there are surprisingly lots of things to do in Milford Sound too. The most popular is a cruise along the inky waters of the sound – or should I say “fiord”. That’s right, despite Milford being called a “sound” Milford is actually a fiord meaning it was carved by a glacier, not a river.
There are several cruise options to choose from in Milford Sound. You may opt for a larger boat for more onboard space or a smaller vessel that can really get up close to the waterfalls in Milford Sound. Some boat drivers will take you so close that you will get what they call a ‘free glacial facial’ – the freezing cold droplets from the waterfall will definitely give you a kick in your step.
Personally, I recommend doing this nature cruise. It’s on a smaller vessel and gets you as close to the action as possible with the best chance of spotting wildlife. If you’re lucky you may even see dolphins and seals from your boat. If you’re truly lucky, you can also spot the Fiordland Crested Penguin which is one of the rarest in the world!
A cruise in Milford Sound lasts between 90 minutes and two hours. During the busy summer months, you MUST book in advance!
For a truly bucket-list-worthy experience, why not book yourself on a kayaking tour through Milford Sound. It’s the perfect way to get up close to the many waterfalls and sea life in the area. I highly recommend the sunrise tour to see the sound in complete stillness, but due to the early start of this tour, you will need to spend the night in Milford Sound Lodge.
The kayaking tours range from an easy one-hour tour to a more advanced three-hour tour. For convenience, you can book this cruise and kayak tour online in advance to secure your place.
2. Hike the Milford Sound Lookout Track
Starting at the parking lot behind the Milford Information Center and Café is the Milford Sound Lookout Track. The trail is only 400 meters (1,312 feet) each way and takes most people around 20 to 30 minutes to complete. It is one of the best hikes in Milford Sound.
There are quite a number of steps up to the viewpoint but the view is truly spectacular taking in Milford Sound and its surrounding peaks. After snapping a few photos you return via the same track.
It’s a short easy walk in Fiordland National Park that I recommend to everyone!
3. Walk the epic Milford Track
Often labeled as the ‘finest walk in the world’ by guidebooks and travel websites, the famous Milford Track takes you through glacier-carved valleys, lush rainforest, and past giant waterfalls. It’s no wonder you need to book this hike so far in advance!
At 55 kilometers (34.2 miles) long the Milford Track is usually hiked over 3 nights and 4 days. Below I’ve broken down each day for you:
Day One: Glade Wharf to Clinton Hut (5 KM/3.1 MI) – you must take a boat from Glade Wharf in the Te Anau Downs to start with. Once you land on dry land after the 75-minute boat journey it’s an easy walk through native forest and along the Clinton River to your accommodation for the night at the Clinton Hut.
This is a 40-bunk hut and bookings are required from late October until the end of April. During these dates, it costs $78 NZD per adult per night or $110 NZD for international adults. Outside of these dates the hut operates on a first-come-first-served basis and costs just $15 NZD per adult per night (as with all the huts below.)
Day Two: Clinton Hut to Mintaro Hut (16.5 KM/10.3 MI) – you will start the day with a slow and steady climb along the Clinton River to Lake Mintaro. This Lake sits at the base of the famed Mackinnon Pass and the scenery here is gorgeous. After this, you will pass Hirere Falls – the views from here are spectacular and include the Pompolona Icefield as well as the Mackinnon Pass. The end of this section of the track involves a climb up the Clinton Valley to Mintaro Hut.
Mintaro Hut is a new hut that opened in April 2021, it has 40 bunks.
Day Three: Mintaro Hut to Dumpling Hut (14 KM/8.7 MI) – start this day with a climb up the Mackinnon Pass to the McKinnon Memorial. Pause here to take in the views of Lake Mintaro and Clinton Canyon. Then, climb steeply to the Mackinnon Pass Shelter at 1,154 meters (3,786 feet) above sea level. After this, you need to descend past the alpine garden and several waterfalls to the valley floor and Quintin Shelter. From here, the track to Dumpling Hut offers excellent views of Sutherland Falls.
Dumpling Hut has 40 bunks and you’ll spend the night here.
Day Four: Dumpling Hut to Sandfly Point (18 KM/11.2 MI) – your last day on the track requires the most effort taking in a whopping 18 km of terrain. Depart Dumpling Hut and follow the track along the Arthur River to the historic Boatshed. A couple of kilometers in it will take you to Mackay Falls and Bell Rock. Thankfully, the final stretch is a flat wide track to the boat departure point which will take you back to Sandfly Point in Milford Sound village.
4. Visit Doubtful Sound
The second-largest fiord in Fiordland National Park is nicknamed “the sound of silence.” That’s because it doesn’t receive the same level of tourism as neighboring Milford Sound. Its popularity, however, has nothing to do with the scenery of the fiord (that’s epic) and more to do with how difficult it is to reach. With no direct road access into Doubtful Sound, you will start your journey with a cruise from Manapouri across Lake Manapouri and then a very bumpy coach ride down the Wilmot Pass.
The cruise through Doubtful Sound is 3 hours in total and takes you to where the fiord and the sea meet. A major drawcard is that you are unlikely to spot any other cruise boats. Not only are you very likely to spot dolphins and seals on your cruise but you have a high chance of seeing a rare Fiordland Crested Penguin.
With its rugged peaks, lush green rainforest, and many hidden coves and caves – Doubtful Sound will leave you speechless. Many people compare Doubtful Sound to Milford Sound, but you’ll have to visit both to determine your own personal favorite!
To visit Doubtful sound you must drive from Te Anau to Manapouri (a short 30-minute drive) but be sure to book your cruise in advance. Also worth noting is you can actually do an overnight cruise in Doubtful Sound for an even more memorable experience.
5. Enjoy the Milford Foreshore Walk
Milford Foreshore Walk is a 20-minute loop track of just 400 meters (1,312 feet). It’s suitable for the whole family and is wheelchair and stroller-friendly. It begins from the main parking lot in Milford Sound and is well signposted. Watch the cruise boats coming in and out from the viewing points and of course, take lots of photos of majestic Mitre Peak. You can read about the flora and fauna and birdlife in the area on the many interpretative boards dotted along the track.
This track hides a hidden treasure too, because it leads to the Milford Swing – a gorgeous wooden swing with the most beautiful view of Mitre Peak. To reach the Swing, continue on the Foreshore Walk, after you cross the little wooden bridge keep walking for about 5 minutes and keep a lookout to your right and you will spot the swing – it’s on a small sandy patch jutting out into the water.
Related Read: For more info in popular trails in the area, read my blog about the best hikes in Milford Sound.
6. Take a boat to Bowen Falls
Bowen Falls is Milford Sound’s largest waterfall and it actually powers the small village and hotel in Milford. Although you can see Bowen Falls from your cruise you can actually get a closer look by taking a short ferry and then walking around 300 meters (980 feet) to a viewpoint.
To start the Bowen Falls Walk, get your $10 NZD return ferry ticket from the Visitor Terminal, where a boat will transfer you the short 120 meters (400 feet) to the other side. This is where the walking track officially begins.
It will take about 30 minutes total to complete (including the short boat journey there and back). It’s a gradual uphill climb through native forest to the viewing platform at the top. From here you can see the majestic 162-meter-tall (531 feet) Lady Bowen Falls! In fact, this is the tallest waterfall in Milford Sound. After rainfall, the falls are even more powerful!
7. Tour through the Te Anau Glow Worm Caves
A tour through a glow worm cave is a must-do in Fiordland National Park. It’s definitely a memorable experience for the whole family and in my opinion, seeing glow worms is one of the best things to do in New Zealand. Glow worms are actually unique to New Zealand (and one small region in Australia) so you’re unlikely to see them elsewhere in the world. These little larvae light up like the night sky through bioluminescence, and although they are technically just bugs, they are quite beautiful to see.
The Te Anau glow worm tour takes just over 2.5 hours total and includes a boat cruise across Lake Te Anau. This guided cave tour allows you to get up close with hundreds of glow worms. It combines both walking through the narrow cave passages to spot these creatures as well as a cruise through the caves in the dark on a small boat. This is easily one of the best things to do in Te Anau!
My advice is to wear appropriate walking shoes on this tour as the ground can be quite slippery (no flip-flops or high heels). Also, take a waterproof jacket – it is an underground wet cave after all. A warm fleece or sweater is also essential as the average temperature inside the cave is about 9 degrees Celsius (48 degrees Fahrenheit.)
Would you believe the caves here are 12,000 years old? They continue to be carved out by the flow of the river which runs through them. The glow worm caves are a twisting network of limestone passages with whirlpools and a roaring underground waterfall. For many years, these caves were but a local legend. Hinted at only by the Maori name for the area “Te Ana-au” which translated to English means ‘caves with a current of swirling water’. In fact, the glow worm caves were only discovered in 1948 by an explorer named Lawson Burrow.
Book your glow worm tour online in advance to avoid missing out!
8. Wander above The Chasm
The Chasm Walk is a short and sweet 400-meter (1,312 feet) loop track, that should take just 20 minutes to complete. The track starts at a large parking lot which is approximately 9 km (5.6 mi) south of Milford Sound just off the main highway.
You will hear the mighty Chasm waterfall before you see it. It’s notoriously hard to photograph due to the sheer depth of it but there are two decent photo opportunities to be had from the two footbridges over the Cleddau River. Be sure to check out the interesting rock formations caused by the falls on your walk.
9. Get lost on the road to Milford
No visit to Fiordland National Park can be considered complete without a road trip from Te Anau to Milford Sound. In fact, you can’t really explore much of Fiordland without this road. This road is almost completely within Fiordland National Park and along the drive are countless attractions and points of interest.
The drive into Milford is considered one of the most scenic drives in New Zealand and is often called by its Maori name – Piopiotahi Highway. Without stopping, the 118-kilometer (73 miles) long journey (one way) takes around 1.5 hours. But, I recommend allowing at least 4 hours for the drive to Milford as there is just so much to see along this route.
If you can’t drive or don’t feel comfortable doing so then you can take a coach tour from Te Anau to Milford Sound. These tours depart at various times throughout the morning and include stops at a few of the key points of interest along the road.
Staying in Te Anau
Because this road trip is so amazing I highly suggest booking a hotel in Te Anau the night before and after you visit Milford Sound. This will give you enough time to enjoy the drive and your Milford Sound cruise.
For budget travelers, you can’t beat staying at the Te Anau Lakeview Kiwi Holiday Park & Motels. It’s perfect for those on a road trip in a campervan or motorhome and they also have budget rooms available also. If you’re a social traveler, the Te Anau Lakefront Backpacker is another good budget option and they have dorm beds and private rooms.
If you can spend a little more then I love staying at the Aden Motel. They have studio,1 bedroom, and 2 bedroom apartments that are absolutely beautiful. For the price, it’s the best value place in town. Of course, if you have a larger budget then check out the Fiordland Lakeview Motel and Apartments. They also specialize in apartments but some of their rooms have magnificent views of the lake.
If you’re traveling in a larger group or just want a more local experience consider booking a holiday home in Te Anau. There are lots to choose from all the way from large houses to smaller apartments. The best part is they work out cheaper for the luxuries you get!
Related Read: Visiting Fiordland from Queenstown? Read my blog about driving from Queenstown to Milford Sound or Queenstown to Te Anau.
10. Tackle the Gertrude Saddle Route
The Gertrude Saddle Route is a very challenging hike in Fiordland National Park that will take around 4 to 6 hours and it’s 7 km (4.3 mi) in length. Due to the rocky terrain, steep climb, and need for rope assistance on some sections, I recommend only attempting this in good weather. It also isn’t a hike for beginners, and only more experienced hikers should tackle this trail.
The track starts from the Gertrude Valley parking lot, about 20 minutes from Milford Sound and near to the famed Homer Tunnel. The track is relatively easy to begin with and meanders through the Gertrude Valley. If you’re not an experienced hiker then I advise stopping here at the viewpoint and returning via the same track. If you wish to continue on, at the head of the valley the route is signposted for the saddle.
You will come to cross the Gertrude Stream which is below a steep waterfall area so water levels can be high and fast-flowing. Therefore, only follow the orange poles and don’t go off track as unfortunately, hikers have died by crossing the river at the wrong time.
The next section is very steep and not suitable for those with limited experience or a fear of heights (it’s very steep). The section up to Black Lake requires the aid of a rope. Sit by the shores of Black Lake and take in the astounding scenery before continuing. From here, the track follows over steep rock slabs – this section is very dangerous when wet or frosty but there are steel cables to assist you.
To get to the Saddle you will need to climb over rocks and boulders (usually covered in snow, even during the early summer months). Of course, the views when you reach the Saddle are breathtaking and many hikers (including myself) will tell you it’s one of the best hikes on the South Island. The unspoiled views of the Gertrude Valley and even down to Milford Sound are out of this world!
11. Visit Mirror Lakes
Mirror Lakes is easily one of my favorite places to visit in Fiordland National Park. This quick stop is simply a pullover bay on the side of the road and once parked, it’s around a 400-meter (1,300 feet) boardwalk that leads you to the dreamlike Mirror Lakes. On a clear day, you will get outstanding reflections of the Earl Mountains on the still lake – a perfect photo opportunity.
Seeing as the walk is so flat and quick it’s a perfect walk for the whole family. The pull-off is well signposted on Milford Road and it’s about 56 kilometers (34.8 miles) from Te Anau towards Milford Sound.
12. Hike the Kepler Track
One of my absolute favorite hikes in New Zealand starts just minutes from Te Anau in Fiordland National Park – the Kepler Track. Without a doubt, hiking even just a portion of the Kepler Track is one of the best things to do in Fiordland National Park.
The Kepler Track is a 60 kilometer-long (37 miles), 3 to 4-day loop track that follows along the shoreline of both Lake Te Anau and Lake Manapouri. Scenery highlights include golden tussock-covered ridges, cheeky Keas, views of deep fiords, and stunning alpine mountains. The trail is one of New Zealand’s 10 Great Walks.
If you don’t have time to complete the entire Kepler track, don’t worry, there are shorter day hike options available too!
One option is to walk from the car park to the Luxmore Hut for the night – approximately 13.8 kilometers (8.6 miles) each way. It will take you about 6 hours to complete. This part of the track follows along the shores of Lake Te Anau to Brod Bay. There’s a steep climb to the viewpoint over the Te Anau basin, from here it’s a 45-minute walk to the Luxmore Hut. From the hut you can explore the very cool Luxmore Caves, just a 10 minute walk away.
You can even shorten the trail more by taking a ferry from Te Anau to Brod Bay. This is perfect for anybody wanting to hike up to the hut and back down in just a day.
A detailed overview of the full Kepler Track
The entire Kepler Track is 60 kilometers (37 miles) long and it will take you around 3 days (about 6 to 7 hours of hiking each day) to complete. On your hike, you will spend the night at Luxmore Hut, Iris Burn Hut and Campsite, and Moturau Hut.
After spending the night at Luxmore Hut, continue to a ridge just below Mount Luxmore. From this viewpoint, you will have a great vantage point over Lake Te Anau and the Murchison Mountains. From here, continue along the ridges to Iris Burn Hut. After spending the night at Iris Burn Hut follow the track over a low saddle down to Rocky Point. Then, continue the winding downhill track to the shores of Lake Manapouri. This is where the beachside Moturau Hut is located – what a stunning location to spend your third night!
Start the next day’s hike in the forest and continue onto a wetland area. Thankfully, the track over the wetlands is a boardwalk – so you won’t get too muddy. The track continues onto another forested area that follows the Waiua River. After crossing the swing bridge at Rainbow Reach you may choose to catch a shuttle from here back to Te Anau. If not, continue a little along the track to the car park.
On this track, keep an eye out for the cheeky Kea, New Zealand’s very own alpine parrot. It’s notorious for its mischievous antics but very beautiful to photograph.
Even during the summer months, the weather here can change very quickly so be prepared with wet weather gear. This area is known for its high rainfall. The best time to hike the Kepler Track is during the warmer months (from late October to April). During the winter months, it’s not advised to hike the trail due to avalanche risk.
Related Read: After a long hike on the Kepler Track, you’ll definitely want to check out some of the top restaurants in Te Anau!
13. Lake Gunn Nature Walk
This popular and easy walking track begins from the Cascade Creek parking lot about 40 minutes from Milford Sound on SH94. Considering it’s a short 45-minute walk it offers a great adventure through the wilderness of Fiordland National Park. Spot mossy trees, stony beaches, and unique birdlife.
A short stony side path takes you down onto the shores of Lake Gunn – a gorgeous deep lake that sits at 480 meters (1,575 feet) above sea level. You may be lucky enough to see the rare Paradise Ducks here.
The track is wheelchair and stroller accessible and so is a great option for the whole family. There is also a DOC campsite here and it’s a great place to stay near Milford Sound for those in a campervan, motorhome, or tent. Cascade Creek Campsite must be booked in advance standard DOC campsite fees apply.
14. Lake Marian Track
Lake Marian Track is my personal favorite day hike in Fiordland National Park. You can access this popular hike from Hollyford Road just off SH94 on your way into Milford Sound. There are two walking tracks you can take here depending on how much time you have. There’s a 20-minute track to a series of stunning waterfalls and a 3-hour return track to Lake Marian.
From the parking lot, you will walk across a swing bridge before coming to the waterfalls. This section takes 20 minutes and for those with little time, it’s a great option.
After these falls, you can continue uphill for about 1.5 hours to Lake Marian. This track can get pretty muddy so wear appropriate footwear. It’s around 3.1 kilometers (2 miles) each way and the trail is not well maintained so be prepared (hiking poles are a great idea!)
Lake Marian is an alpine lake in a hanging valley formed by glaciers. Like Mirror Lakes it has stunning reflections of the surrounding mountains on a clear day. You can even take a dip in the lake but be warned, it’s freezing!
Related Read: Headed to Queenstown or Wanaka? Check out my favorite hikes in Queenstown blog and best hikes in Wanaka blog.
15. Go on a scenic flight
What could be more memorable than soaring high above Fiordland National Park and taking in views that very few get to see? Peer down at waterfalls, fiords, mountain peaks, and even the Tasman Sea. A scenic flight over Milford Sound and Fiordland is a bucket list experience!
There are a few different options when it comes to scenic flights in the area. The first, and one of the most popular, is to fly from Queenstown and into Milford Sound. These tours are breathtaking, and although expensive, they are easily worth every penny. This specific tour is one of the cheapest available and includes a return flight on a fixed-wing plane to Milford Sound from Queenstown and a cruise. All that for around $500 NZD per person.
Another option is to fly by helicopter and enjoy a glacier landing. This tour is really popular but does cost just under $900 NZD per person and does not include a cruise, however, it spends more time in the air and walking around on top of a glacier.
Priced more moderately like the first tour I mentioned this tour comes in at roughly $600 NZD and includes traveling by land, air, and boat so you really will not miss any of the views inside of the national park! That is my main con with the round-flight experiences because there is so much to see along the road too! However, it will involve a full day (up to 13 hours) so not ideal if you are rushed for time.
Finally, if you want more of a unique all-in-one flight there is a really cool helicopter experience with a cruise and glacier landing from Queenstown but it does happen to be one of the most expensive at around $1,000 NZD. You will see sights from above of Milford Sound, the Southern Alps, and Queenstown on your round-trip flight. To break up being in the air the whole time you will land on Mt. Tutoko and also cruise through the dramatic sound for an hour. What a lifelong experience this would be!
Or you may choose to explore the lesser-visited Dusky Sound by helicopter. This trip is 1 hour and 15 minutes total and actually combines Dusky Sounds, Lake Manapouri, and many other hidden gem lakes. This tour costs $895 NZD.
Related Read: Learn about the 11 best scenic flights in Queenstown – they are all very different!
16. Hike the Key Summit/Routeburn Track
The Key Summit Track is a really popular hiking trail that starts from The Divide parking lot, an hour’s drive from Te Anau towards Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park. From The Divide parking lot follow the Routeburn Track for about an hour, this will lead to the start of the Key Summit Track (which is signposted). It is a 20-minute uphill climb to Key Summit from there.
The Key Summit not the steepest climb and can be done easily if you have a reasonable level of fitness. At the top, there are 360-degree views over the Humboldt and Darran Mountains. All up the trail is 3.4 km (2.1 miles) each way and takes around 3 hours to complete.
The longer Routeburn track which this track forms part of is one of the most famous walks in the world. It was named as one of the “Top 10 classic hikes in the world” by Lonely Planet. This is considered by many as one of the most beautiful hikes in Fiordland National Park. It also offers the chance to spot native birdlife. If you plan on hiking the entire Routeburn Track then be sure to plan ahead. Bookings for the huts are required. If not you can also do some great day hikes on the Routeburn Track.
The Routeburn Track can be accessed from The Divide but also from Glenorchy (a small town near Queenstown.) In fact, hiking the Routeburn Track is one of the best things to do in Glenorchy.
If you aren’t planning on driving or prefer to hike with a guide there are also guided tour options that hike portions of the Routeburn Track with transportation from either Te Anau or Queenstown. The Te Anau Guided Walk of Routeburn and Key Summit is an 8-hour adventure through fields and forests leaning from your guide as you make your way to the summit to eat lunch (provided). You will walk around 6 hours of the tour so a moderate fitness level is recommended.
A similar tour from Queenstown lasts around 10 hours because of the longer travel time there and back. Otherwise, most aspects of this tour are the same. So, if you are spending time in Queenstown anyways this would be a convenient way to be able to explore Fiordland National Park.
17. Take in the views of Humboldt Falls
This short and easy track starts from the end of the unsealed Hollyford Road. Turn off SH94 at Marian Corner, a few minutes after The Divide.
It’s a lovely track through the rainforest and involves a short climb to the lookout point. Humboldt Falls is considered one of the best waterfalls in the area. The total height of Humboldt Falls is a giant 275 meters (900 feet)!
The track is 1.2 km (0.75 miles) and takes around 30 minutes.
18. Breathe the fresh air of the Eglinton Valley
This is one of the first stops when entering Fiordland National Park from Te Anau. You’ll notice the scenery change to steep rocky mountains and a valley covered in golden yellow tussock grass. The Eglinton Valley was actually carved by glaciers just like Milford Sound and when visiting it can be overwhelming to think just how much ice must have occupied this region at one point in time!
This is one of the few valleys you can drive through in Fiordland National Park and you may even spot a short-tailed bat here – a weird and wonderful creature that crawls along the forest floor in search of food. There are also a few places in the Eglinton Valley that were filming locations in the Lord of the Rings movies. Namely the Eglinton mountains, also known as the “Misty Mountains” in the Fellowship of the Ring.
Fancy a hike while you’re in the area? Why not test out the East Eglinton Track. Be warned, this is a challenging track and only recommend for experienced hikers. A high fitness level and experience in the backcountry is required and you’ll also need to cross a river on this track.
19. Test your fitness on the Hollyford Track
The Hollyford Track is a fantastic option if you want a true sense of the wilderness in Fiordland National Park. It’s one of the most interesting hikes in the area. The track is only suitable for those with a reasonable to high level of fitness as well as previous hiking experience as sections of the track can be muddy and ill-defined. Depending on the season there may be unbridged stream and river crossings as part of your hike, so, always check the weather before you depart.
The track starts at the end of the Lower Hollyford Road off of the SH94 and just after The Divide. The 56-kilometer (35 miles) track takes most experienced hikers between 4 and 5 days but you can allow up to 8 days to complete this impressive track. There are lots of huts you can stay in on your hike, all are on a first-come-first-serve basis.
The track takes you through lush forest, beside the Hollyford river, along impressive lakes such as Lake Alabaster and Lake McKerrow. It even passes through the abandoned Jamestown, a tiny farming village from the 1870s, before taking you out to the wild West Coast. The track ends at the sea at Martins Bay.
When you reach the end of the track at Martins Bay be sure to keep your eyes peeled for New Zealand Fur Seals frolicking in the waters as well as the Fiordland Crested Penguins.
With no alpine sections, this track is rarely cut off by snow so you can hike it even in Winter. Beware that flooding can sometimes affect the track so be sure to check conditions before you go.
20. Spot a cheeky Kea
Keas are one of the coolest birds I’ve ever seen. These cute alpine parrots are clever, witty, and downright mischievous. Because they spent thousands of years living in New Zealand with no predators they have very little fear towards people. In fact, they’ll approach you and likely steal the keys out of your hand (and you’ll never get them back.)
You can spot keas all over Fiordland National Park with the most common places being high up in the mountains. However, you can also spot them in easier-to-reach places. A few places that come to mind include Pop’s View, The Homer Tunnel, and Milford Sound. I swear the same kea is at Pop’s view every time I visit and although cute, this guy loves to steal things!
Of course this goes without saying, but please do not touch or feed keas. Although friendly, it’s important we keep them as wild (and mischievous) as possible!
21. Go on a scenic cruise on Lake Te Anau
A 3-hour cruise on a historic motorized yacht is a great way to spend a sunny day in Fiordland National Park. In fact, this yacht was built all the way back in 1935!
After 40 minutes cruising on the lake, hop off the yacht and enjoy a guided walking tour through the less-explored Hidden Lakes. Enjoy a 45-minute walk with your guide as you learn about the history of the boat as well as the native flora and fauna in the area.
Depending on which option you choose (morning or afternoon cruises are available) a delicious morning or afternoon tea will be served as well as drinks along the way. Personally, I prefer the afternoon cruise as the sun begins to set after a day of exploring. You can visit the engine room on your cruise back to Te Anau – a great experience if you have kids with you.
22. Go Jet Boating
Jet boat down the Waiua River to Lake Manapouri, ideal for thrill-seekers as the boats can reach a speed of up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) per hour. The Waiua River is featured in The Lord of the Rings as the Anduin River. If you’re an adrenalin-seeker this is easily one of the best things to do in Fiordland for you!
Your driver will stun with 180-degree high-speed spins. The journey also includes some scenic stops along the river to take in the scenery of the remote Fiordland area. The tour also brings you across stunning Lake Manapouri, where you will hop off for a guided walk. The whole trip will take 3 hours.
Where to Stay in Te Anau
Although only a small town, Te Anau boasts lots of amazing places to stay. I almost always stay here when exploring Milford Sound. The reason? Well, I like to take my time on the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound stopping along to way to enjoy hikes and viewpoints. The only way to do this is to stay in Te Anau or Milford Sound itself (which is much more expensive!)
For budget travelers, you can’t beat staying at the Te Anau Lakeview Kiwi Holiday Park & Motels. It’s perfect for those on a road trip in a campervan or motorhome and has budget rooms available. If you’re a social traveler, the Lakefront Backpackers is another good budget option and they have dorm beds and private rooms.
If you can spend a little more I love staying at the Aden Motel. They have studio,1 bedroom, and 2 bedroom apartments that are absolutely beautiful. For the price, it’s the best value place in town. Of course, if you have a larger budget then check out the Fiordland Lakeview Motel and Apartments. They also specialize in apartments but some of their rooms have magnificent views of the lake.
If you’re traveling in a larger group or just want a more local experience consider booking a holiday home in Te Anau. There are lots to choose from all the way from large houses to smaller apartments. The best part is they work out cheaper for the luxuries you get!
Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!
You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:
- Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to book a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
- Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It is what most budget backpackers get for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping! You can easily compare campervans, prices, and book on the website Motorhome Republic. We also have a 5% discount code (DTRAVEL5) with Mad Campers, which you can use at checkout.
- Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one, you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. Motorhome Republic is my suggested website for booking a motorhome in New Zealand simply because they are a reliable company and the website is super easy to use! We are also partnered with Kiwi Motorhomes, which is well known as the top motorhome rental company in New Zealand. You can get 5% off using the code Queen5. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!
Thanks for reading!
Fiordland National Park truly is a wild place. For any visitor to New Zealand or those traveling their own backyard, a trip to Fiordland is a must! I hope this blog has helped plan your upcoming adventure. Get out there and explore that’s what a visit to Fiordland is all about!
Thanks so much for reading! If you found this blog inspiring and informative be sure to keep browsing around. There’s plenty more to read and for me, there’s a lot more to write! Check all of my blogs about Milford Sound, epic road trips, or my favorite place, Queenstown! Or browse from the few guides I’ve left for you below:
Romantic getaways in New Zealand