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New Zealand - Fiordland

Yes, we know the correct spelling is Fjordland, but that's the way they spell it here.....

Having spent quite a bit of time at the northern end of Lake Wakatipu, we left Queenstown and headed to the southern end of the lake, stopping briefly in Kingston. Before the road network, all people heading up the lake arrived in Kingston by train and transferred to a boat to complete their journey. We whizzed down SH 6 and headed for Te Anau.

We had booked a boat trip into Milford Sound and with the South Island having just moved to Covid Alert Level 2, spaces were limited. Our camp spot was half way along the banks of Lake Te Anau, where my attempts to catch a fish failed, but at least I had the views of the Murchison Mountains across the lake.

The following day Rachel was driving, so we stopped everywhere taking six hours to complete a 90 minute journey at most! We finally arrived at the Homer Tunnel, a place where Rachel had met Kea, the world’s only alpine parrot, some 30 years ago. She was keen see them again and they did not disappoint. These parrots are highly inquisitive and intelligent. They will climb on your vehicle and investigate it thoroughly, but they come with a rather destructive beak, so when one tried to come in through the window, I quickly shut it.

When we woke the following day it was great to see more Kea flying around. The scenery in Milford itself is truly spectacular and the stillness of the Sound was beautiful, that was until the 10am flight rush started. With the borders currently closed, there are not a lot of tourists left in New Zealand, so I would hate to imagine how the noise from the planes kills the peace when there are thousands visiting his place a day.

We headed for the harbour for our trip out on the water. The sheer scale of the Sound is difficult to gauge because, when you are there, there is little to compare it to, but to get some sense of proportion, Mitre Peak rises 1 mile above the Sound. There had been very little rain recently and many of the waterfalls that spring up after rain had dried up. Bowen Falls, which is used to supply all of Milford’s electricity, was in full flow along with Stirling Falls. The weather was so calm, the Captain took us out of the Sound and into the Tasman Sea, something he can do only 2 or 3 times a year.

If we hadn't stopped on the way to Milford, Rachel ensured we visited on the way back. So a steady climb to Lake Marian, despite the lower part of the walkway having been washed away in last February’s storms. We stopped the night on a creek flowing out of Lake Gunn, entertained by a cheeky Robin.

We also stopped in Te Anau on the way back through and went to see the Takahe, which until 1948 had been thought to be extinct. A flock had been found in the Murchison mountains opposite and an intensive breeding program aims to rebuild their numbers.

As we continued south, we hiked a section of the Kepler Track from Rainbow Reach to the northern end of Lake Manapouri. A beautiful walk through Beech forest and Middle Earth (Tolkien), where part of the Hobbit was filmed. The sand-flies however proved too much, so it wasn't long before we fled the beautiful view of the lake.

Another day, another trip - this time Doubtful Sound. We woke to low cloud and fog making the journey across Lake Manapouri eerily beautiful. At West Arm we climbed on a coach and drove over Wilmot pass to Doubtful Sound, surrounded by stunning scenery.

The boat trip was amazing. The isolation at Doubtful Sound makes this place very special. We had a beautiful day out, seeing Fiordland Crested Penguins, fur seals and Bottlenose Dolphins. Just as we thought the day couldn’t get any better, and as we headed back to Deep Cove, we were given a spectacular acrobatic display by another pod of Dolphins. A great was to finish our time in the southernmost part of New Zealand.


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