If you know anything about New Zealand, you will know that it has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. New Zealand is split into two major islands: The North Island and the South Island. Each of these islands have different attractions that it is famous for. For the South Island, one of those places is Fiordland National Park. There are a million different things to do in Fiordland National Park, but I’ve chosen to highlight a few of them.
Visit Mirror Lake
There is only one road that will take you through fiordland. That road leads you as close as you can get to each of these places as any road can get you. Mirror Lake is one of the first stops in Fiordland along the way to Milford Sound. This lake is named for the incredible reflections it makes. The water has an amazing reflective quality to it due to some species of algae.
There are so many incredible places to photograph in New Zealand. Make sure to check out the Most Instagram-Worthy Places in New Zealand’s South Island
Fly Over Sutherland Falls
Sutherland Falls is located deep in Fiordland and is 1,904 feet tall, making it the tallest waterfall in New Zealand. This beautiful waterfall cascades from Lake Quill which sits right on the edge of the mountain. In order to get the best view of Lake Quill and Sutherland Falls, most people opt to take a helicopter ride there from Queenstown or Milford Sound. In doing this you get to see the majestic Lake Quill with the Sutherland Falls powerful waters rushing into the forest. Unfortunately, we were not able to do this because the weather was bad, but I will be going back to New Zealand specifically for this experience.
Go to Milford Sound
Milford Sound is the number one thing to do in the South Island of New Zealand. The famous Australian writer Rudyard Kipling even called it “the eighth wonder of the world.” Milford Sound, however, is named incorrectly! It is not a sound but a fjord, much like the ones you would find in Norway. This beautiful fjord has crystal blue waters that run between mountains full of cascading waterfalls. Because of the glaciers at the top of the mountains, the waterfalls are always running and changing as the glaciers move.
The absolute best way to see Milford Sound is to take one of the many cruises from the town that run from the base of the fjord to the ocean itself. It is a truly unforgettable experience. New Zealand truly is the perfect destination for anyone looking for beauty and adventure. The combination of nature and thrill is unbeatable, and Milford Sound delivers on that promise. If you like the idea Milford Sound, you can also do a Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise to spend more time exploring the magical land of New Zealand.
Embrace the Waterfalls
Anyone who knows me knows that I love waterfalls which made Fiordland a dream come true for me. Fiordland is home to hundreds of waterfalls that span both into the fiords and into the ocean on the other side of the mountains. The all stem from the receding glaciers on the tops of the mountains that surround the fiord. When it rains, there are even more waterfalls, and it is truly magical. Many of the cruises will actually take you under a waterfall and give you cups to collect and taste glacier water! It is surprisingly refreshing though it does have a hint of a mossy taste. A bonus, you get to tell all of your friends that you have drank water straight from a glacier!
Look for Wildlife
One of the best things to do in Fiordland National Park is to look for wildlife! New Zealand is famous for its birds, but Milford Sound and the fiords are famous for their aquatic life. While we were there, we saw hundreds of seals and even a dolphin! If you are lucky, you can rarely even see a whale when they take you out to sea! Searching for wildlife is one of the truly fun experiences while you are on the cruise. I highly recommend to bring a zoom lens if you want to capture the moving beauties! I didn’t and I regretted it big time.
Fly out of Queenstown
There a two ways to get to Milford Sound and into fiordland. One is by driving the one road that runs through it. It takes about 4 hours, but allows you to stop along the way and take pictures of the amazing scenery. There are also bus tours that you can take if you don’t want to drive it yourself.
However, the absolute best way to see Fiordland and get to Milford Sound is by air. There are many plane and helicopter tours that leave directly from the Queenstown airport and take you into Fiordland. From the skies, you can see so much more than just the sides of mountains. You can see frozen lakes, crazy forests, and mountaintops! Plus, all of the kiwis are knowledgeable of the Lord of the Rings filming sites and will gladly point them out to you as you fly over.
For Eric and I, we booked a small plane to take us (with a group) to Milford Sound. However, the weather was bad that day so they compromised, and we ended up getting the best of both worlds. The flew us most of the way into Fiordland so that we got to see the Queenstown and the mountains from the sky, and then they had a tour bus pick us up and take us the rest of the way to Milford Sound. This shortened the ride, let us experience New Zealand from the air, and allowed us to stop at Mirror Lake! It truly felt like we got the best experience even though weather had to change our plans.
Other Tips for Fiordland:
- Take a tour, don’t drive (If the shut down the road like they do frequently in winter, you can get stuck)
- Be prepared for weather delays. The weather here is unpredictable and can easily cause your excursions and plans to be changed.
- Pack a raincoat. Being so close to the ocean means that rain and fog are very common. Plus, the spray from getting up close to the waterfalls will soak your clothes.
- Bring bug spray because the bugs can actually be pretty intense.
- Bring snacks: There’s basically no place to get food in Milford Sound except one small cafe and a slightly unsatisfying lunch on the cruises. I highly recommend bringing snacks.
- Bring binoculars for the wildlife
- Schedule a tour based on what you would enjoy. There are hiking tours, bus tours, cruise tours, kayak tours, and flying tours. Choose which one combines your favorite things.