Fiordland National Park

Largest nationale park in New Zealand, and home of Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound

Fiordland National Park is a rugged nature reserve in New Zealand. The fjords are world famous, but you will also find waterfalls, rivers, lakes and forests here. Full of special wild animals such as kiwi, kea, takahe, pukeko and weka. You might also spot other wildlife like penguins, glow worms and fireflies. It is also one of the best hiking areas in the world.

Milford Sound, and its lesser-known neighbours Doubtful Sound and Dusky Sound are perfect examples of New Zealand’s rugged landscapes.

Visiting Fiordland National Park. ©Corno van den Berg

History of Fiordland National Park

Fiordland is the largest national park in New Zealand, and this area on the South Island has a long history. Scientists believe that the mountains here are around 500 million years old. Around 200 million years ago, volcanic activity caused the sandstone and limestone rocks to rise out of the water.

Due to its location in the most south-western part of the South Island, the landscape is exposed to the elements. Especially during the ice age this brought forth many changes. The mass of ice pushed down the land below, while it slowly slid into the Tasman sea. The melting snow also caused erosion that created gorges, valleys and lakes.

The fjords and many lakes in the area are silent witnesses to this endless process. Big lakes such as Te Anau and Lake Manapouri are in fact just dips in the earth that filled up with the water from the melting ice that came off the surrounding mountains. The elements are still sculpting this landscape: the large amounts of rain impact the rocks, and rivers carve up the landscape.

Explorer James Cook

The famous English explorer James Cook was likely to be the first white man to visit this part of New Zealand. He was the one that named Doubtful Sound, as he wasn’t sure if he would ever make it out of the fjord. Milford Sound became famous in the 19th century, when the author Rudyard Kipling, who wrote The Jungle Book, said that Milford Sound is the 8th wonder of the world. That’s quite a statement, since the first seven were manmade…

The fjords are perfect to explore on foot. ©Corno van den Berg

Fiordland National Park is a perfect place to visit for active travellers, those who like to be outdoors and who enjoy being out in impressive landscapes. It’s great for people who like to walk, kayak and look at the interesting flora and fauna. The huge area lends itself well to those who like to spend days exploring, and who are not afraid of bad weather. Because that’s part of one of the most rugged areas in the world.

Best time for Fiordland National Park

  • Summer: The summer months (December 1 to March 1) are the driest out of the year, but there will still be plenty of rain. The temperature is pleasant, around 20 degrees Celsius.
  • Winter: Winter (June 1st to September 1) is cool, with possible frost during the night. There is relatively little rain.
  • Spring: The best time to visit the area is in between the summer and winter, so that’s spring time (September 1 to December 1) and the nicest month is in November. It’s relatively quiet when it comes to tourists and the flowers are in bloom. But of course, you can still expect rain.

Please Note!

Fiordland National Park is an extremely wet part of the world, one of New Zealand’s most-rained-on areas. There is between 5,5 to 7 metres of rain in Milford Sound per year.

You’re also likely to encounter the pesky sandfly here, tiny biting insects that are most found in sandy areas during the day. They are small enough that a mosquito net will not stop them. Their bites are more painful than a mosquito bite and will last longer too. Enquire with the locals whether they will be an issue when and where you’re going.