Exploring Fiordland National Park: A Natural Wonderland in New Zealand.

Fiordland National Park, located in the southwestern corner of New Zealand’s South Island, is a breathtaking sight eminent for its dazzling scenes and perfect wilderness. The park covering a region of over 12,500 square kilometers, is a UNESCO World Heritage Location and one of the biggest national parks in New Zealand.

This article will dive into the wealthy history, captivating sights, climbing opportunities, climate conditions, accommodation choices, and potential challenges trekkers might face in Fiordland National Park. 

Brief History

The geological history of Fiordland National Park dates back hundreds of millions of years. The park’s landscape is a result of glaciation and tectonic activity. It is believed that the region was once a part of the supercontinent Gondwana, which began to break up around 85 million years ago. As the Earth’s crust shifted, the Fiordland region experienced uplift and erosion, forming distinctive fiords, mountains, and lakes.

The Maori people have a significant cultural connection with the Fiordland region. The local Maori tribe, Ngāi Tahu, has inhabited the area for centuries and has a rich history and deep spiritual ties to the land. The Maori name for the region is Te Moana o Atawhenua, which translates to “The Fiords of Atawhenua.”

Maori legends and oral traditions tell stories of the creation of the fiords and the mythical beings that shaped the land. The fiords were considered sacred places, and their dramatic landscapes were revered for their beauty and spiritual significance.

European exploration of the Fiordland region began in the late 18th century. Captain James Cook, the famous British explorer, sailed along the coast of New Zealand in 1770 and documented the presence of the fiords. However, it wasn’t until the early 19th century that European settlers ventured into the area.

In the early 1800s, sealers and whalers arrived in Fiordland, driven by the abundance of marine resources in the region. They established temporary camps and hunting stations along the coast, leaving traces of their presence behind.

As the 19th century progressed, concerns grew about destroying New Zealand’s natural environment due to logging, mining, and other extractive industries. Recognizing the need to protect Fiordland’s unique and pristine landscapes, conservationists and nature enthusiasts began advocating for its preservation.

In 1904, the Fiordland National Park Act was passed, making it the first national park in New Zealand and one of the earliest in the world. The park was initially smaller in size and focused on protecting the scenic value of Milford Sound and the surrounding area. Over the years, the park’s boundaries were expanded to encompass a larger portion of the Fiordland region.

In 1986, Fiordland National Park, along with several other regional parks and reserves, was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, seeing its outstanding natural values and unique ecosystems.

Today, Fiordland National Park continues to be managed by the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) to preserve its exceptional natural beauty, protect its biodiversity, and provide opportunities for visitors to experience and appreciate its grandeur.

Description of the Sight

The park is characterized by its various fjords carved out by glaciers over millions of years. Milford Sound is the most popular and iconic among them, with its towering granite crests, cascading waterfalls, and crystal-clear waters. Other eminent fjords include Doubtful Sound and Shadowy Sound, each offering exciting magnificence and tranquility.

In addition to the fjords, Fiordland National Park is embellished with magnificent mountains and tremendous wilderness. The park is home to the Southern Alps, which form a dramatic scenery and give opportunities for climbing, mountaineering, and breathtaking picturesque views. Mount Tutoko, the most elevated top in Fiordland, stands at a noteworthy 2,723 meters (8,930 feet) over ocean level.

The region’s dense rainforests are another highlight of the park. Fiordland’s forests are ancient and teeming with differing plant and creature life. The lavish vegetation includes towering local trees such as rimu, totara, and kahikatea and various plants, greeneries, and epiphytes. The timberlands provide a living space for a few unique feathered creature species, including the famous and imperiled flightless winged creature, the kiwi.

Fiordland National Park is additionally celebrated for its copious natural life. Hikers may be able to spot seals, dolphins, penguins, and whales in the park’s coastal waters. The park’s remote and untouched nature guarantees that the natural life remains to a great extent, undisturbed, making it a sanctuary for biodiversity.

Hikers can set out on various open-air exercises to explore Fiordland National Park. These include climbing the famous Milford Track or the Kepler Track, offering multi-day experiences through awe-inspiring scenes. Other exercises include watercraft travels through the fjords, kayaking, fishing, and beautiful flights that give a birds-eye see of the park’s magnificence.

Strict regulations and rules are in place to guarantee that guests can appreciate the park whereas minimizing their effect on the environment. 

Ways to Get There

Fiordland National Park can be reached in four ways. You can reach Fiordland National Park by flying, driving, taking the bus, or traveling by water.

You can choose the ideal mode of transportation for you based on your budget, time limits, and preferences.

By Flying

Many small airports surround Fiordland National Park, including Queenstown Airport, the park’s closest airport. You can then take a bus or rent a car to travel to the park. However, some potential disadvantages to consider are:

Baggage allowance is limited: Most airlines have strict baggage allowances, which can be a disadvantage if you travel with heavy, bulky gear such as hiking poles or photography equipment. This can also be a disadvantage if you want to buy souvenirs or other items while traveling.  

Cost: Flying to Fiordland National Park may be more expensive than other forms of transportation, such as driving or taking the bus, depending on your plan and budget. This is especially true if you travel during peak season or book last-minute flights.

By driving

You can take a road journey to Fiordland if you prefer to drive. Your distance and driving time may vary based on where you’re driving from, but we’ll present some approximate distances and driving times from prominent cities below. 

Auckland: A direct journey from Auckland is 1712 kilometers long and should take approximately one day and three hours under normal traffic circumstances.

Wellington: If no significant stops are planned, the route is 1074 kilometers long and should take at least 19 hours.

Christchurch: On a good day with no traffic, it takes a little more than eight and a half hours to travel to the park. The overall distance is 642 kilometers.

Dunedin: The drive from Dunedin to Fiordland takes around 4 hours and 292 kilometers.

Queenstown: Depending on traffic, you could be on the road for up to three hours, but the park is only two hours away. Even if it is a shorter trip of 173 kilometers, ensure you have adequate petrol in your tank.

Invercargill: You are fortunate If you’re coming from here, because the park is only two and a half hours (159 kilometers) away. Allow an extra hour for travel if there is heavy traffic.

By Boat

You can take a cruise or a boat trip to see the fiords inside Fiordland National Park, including Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound; some cruises begin from Queenstown or Te Anau. 

Details on hiking Fiordland National Park.

When to Go: Weather and Season

The best time to visit Fiordland National Park, in terms of weather and access to the park, is during the summer. The weather during this period is generally mild, with average temperatures around 10°C (50°F) to 20°C (68°F). Days are long in December, with up to 16 hours of sunshine, and the park is accessible by car or boat.

However, Fiordland National Park is located in an area with high annual rainfall, so be prepared for wet weather at any time. The park receives an average of 6.5 meters (21 feet) of rain each year, averaging 200 days of rain. This can make hiking, trekking and other outdoor activities difficult, especially during the winter months of June to August when the weather is cold and wet.

If you want to enjoy the beauty of the park’s waterfalls and lush rainforests, the wet season is the best time to visit. Spring, from September to November, is also an excellent time to visit. This is because when winter ends, the weather warms up, and the flora and fauna in the park come alive again. 


If you are planning to stay overnight or multi-day trip in the Fiordland National Park, your options for lodging are almost entirely confined to DOC tramping huts and park campsites. Private housing is unavailable within the national park, with a few exceptions. The facilities at DOC sites range from very basic (only a tent site) to relatively well-equipped (huts with bunk beds and bathrooms). Whatever grade you choose, you must provide your food and cooking equipment and carry all your waste when leaving.

Many more possibilities exist if you’re considering a day trip to Fiordland. Te Anau and Queenstown have various lodging options, ranging from basic campsites to comfortable hostels and hotels. A few lodges in Milford Sound exist for individuals who don’t want to spend too many hours on the road in one day.

Food and Water

When climbing in Fiordland National Park, you must bring sufficient food and water for the whole trip. The park is known for its rough territory and eccentric climate, so being prepared is critical.

Water sources within the stop are, by and large secure to drink, but it’s still a great thought to bring a water channel or decontamination tablets with you, fair in case. You should bring sufficient water bottles or hydration bladders to carry at least 2-3 liters of water per day, depending on your action level and the climate.

As for food, it’s essential to bring high-energy, non-perishable things that are simple to pack and carry. A few great choices include trail mix, vitality bars, jerky, nuts, and dried natural products. It’s a great thought to bring a few instant oats or other hot suppers that can be prepared quickly and easily.

Tips to know when hiking Fiordland National Park.

  • Weather at Fiordland National Park can be fickle, especially in the fjords, so dress for wind and rain even in summer.
  • When trekking, wear comfortable shoes and bring lots of water and snacks, as there are few locations to buy supplies.
  • There is no public transit within the park; therefore, you’ll need to join a tour if you don’t have your own transportation.
  • Although cell phone coverage is restricted, the Fiordland National Park Visitor Center offers free Wi-Fi.
  • Some cruises and attractions are wheelchair accessible, but not all activities within the park are, so it’s essential to double-check ahead of time.

Potential Dangers

1.       Avalanche Hazard and not Listening To Local Advice 

Many avalanche trails cross these three Great Walks in the alpine regions. It is sometimes advisable to go in and out the same way to avoid the icy alpine section and avalanche hazard. Always Contact DOC to learn more about the current avalanche conditions on the path; Listen to what people say if they are telling you not to go, there could be a safer way to hike and learn and apply safe avalanche travel methods.

2.       Crossing Flooded and Unbridged Rivers 

Several bridges in Fiordland National Parks are removed for the winter season because they are vulnerable to avalanche damage. River crossing may be extremely dangerous, and many people have been murdered in New Zealand while attempting to cross overflowing (flooded) rivers. Always use caution when crossing the river, and If you are unsure, do not attempt to cross. Wait for water levels and river velocity to drop.

3.       Slippery Tracks and Rocks

During the winter, cold frosty spells can continue for days, and in shady areas (where the light can not penetrate to melt the frost), it can become extremely slippery underfoot. In these gloomy locations, several tracks are covered in ice and highly hazardous.

In the winter, water is frequently seen running along exposed rocks or raining onto pathways from above-ground cuttings. While beautiful to shoot, this water freezes and becomes slippery on the track. Please be cautious of slipping.

4        Undermining The Weather

The weather in New Zealand can change quickly, which can be dangerous if you are unprepared or disoriented. It is very easy to become lost in the mountains. High gusts can easily blow you off an exposed track, and clouds or snow (or both!) might cause you to lose your way. When planning your hike, consult the weather prediction; bring proper hiking gear and clothing. Listen to DOC personnel and people familiar with the area. Inquire about other hiking options and double-check the weather prediction because the weather can change suddenly.

5.         IT GETS COLD…QUICK!

Winter days in the sun can be breathtaking. It is easy to become engrossed in the beauty of the day/mountains and walk too far, leaving you unprepared for the cold/darkness that will arrive sooner than you think. As soon as the sun sets behind the mountain (usually in the middle of the afternoon due to the steep river valleys and high mountain peaks), you are left in a chilly wintery afternoon, the temperature drops swiftly, and everything begins to freeze anew. It becomes frigid.


New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park is a natural paradise offering awe-inspiring landscapes, unique wildlife, and unforgettable experiences for outdoor enthusiasts. With beautiful fjords, lush rainforests, and challenging hiking trails, the park attracts adventurers from around the world. By preparing carefully, respecting the environment, and understanding the potential challenges, visitors can fully appreciate the beauty and grandeur of Fiordland National Park while ensuring safety and enjoyment. 

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