Milford Sound Cruises

All About Fiordland National Park | New Zealand's Rugged Southwest Corner Carved By Ancient Glaciers

Cruises in Milford SoundFiordland National Park

Spanning close to 12,600 square kilometers, Fiordland National Park is the largest national park in New Zealand. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is home to numerous stunning fjords, including the famous Milford Sound, and also some unique waterfalls, lush rainforests, deep blue lakes, and towering peaks. Read on to learn everything you need to know about planning your visit to one of the most scenic places in the world!

What is Fiordland National Park?

Fiordland National Park
  • Official name: Fiordland National Park
  • Location/Address: Southland, New Zealand
  • Date of opening: 1952
  • Timings: 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM; daily. 
  • Flora & fauna to spot: Tree daisies, hardy cabbage trees, buttercups, eyebright and tussock grass, and Kea parrots. 
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site: 1986
  • Number of visitors per year: 500,000
  • Function: Protected Conservation Site
  • Fun fact: Due to its natural beauty, Rudyard Kipling deemed the fjord within the Fiordland National Park, Milford Sound, as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Why Visit Fiordland National Park?

Stunning fjords

Stunning fjords

Perhaps the reason the park got its name, Fiordland is abundant in stunning fjords. One of the most famous fjords in New Zealand, Milford Sound, is located within Fiordland.

Southern Alps

Southern Alps

Most of the park is covered in the southern range of the Southern Alps. Mountain ranges in the national park range from 1500 meters to a whopping 2500 meters in height.

Lake Te Anau at Sunset

Mirrored lakes

Fiordland National Park is home to some scenic blue lakes at the foot of towering cliffs. Lake Te Anau,  Lake Manapouri, Lake Monowai, and Lake Poteriteri to name a few, are some of the spectacular lakes found in the western and southern parts of the national park.

Sutherland Falls

Massive waterfalls

The national park has a temperate climate where rain is not unexpected at any time of year. This makes the region conducive to housing gushing waterfalls, including Sutherland Falls, one of the world’s tallest waterfalls.

Fiordland National Park

Diverse wildlife

Due to the rains, the Fiordland National Park has lush rainforests almost throughout the year. The vegetation is so dense and is home to many endangered species of insects, birds, and reptiles.

Guided Tour of Routeburn Track

Hiking wonderland

The national park is a goldmine for hikers and trekking enthusiasts due to its trails. There are different trails for every level of hiking, from beginners to experts.

Plan your visit to Fiordland National Park

Fiordland National Park timings

The park itself is always accessible, although some facilities and services may have seasonal closures.

Opening hours:

  • May to October: 8:30 AM to 5 PM
  • November to April: 8 AM to 5 PM

Closed on: December 25th

Best Time to Visit:

  • Summer (December-February): Warmest weather (average highs 18-20°C), long daylight hours, ideal for hiking and outdoor activities. However, expect crowds and higher prices.
  • Autumn (March-May): Pleasant temperatures, fewer crowds, vibrant fall foliage, and good kayaking conditions.
  • Spring (September-November): Mild weather, wildflowers in bloom, great for wildlife viewing, but some tracks may be closed due to snow.

Winter (June-August): Shortest daylight hours, snow-capped mountains, fewer crowds, and potential for seeing the Southern Lights. However, some tracks and facilities may be closed due to snow and ice.

Fiordland National Park location

Address: Fiordland National Park, Southland, New Zealand 9600

Find on Maps

The Fiordland National Park is located in the southwest corner of the South Island of New Zealand. The National Park is in a remote region and is easier accessed via its nearby towns of Te Anau and Manapouri.

Things to do & see at Fiordland National Park

Milford Sound Cruise

Take a cruise along the fjord

One of the most popular attractions at the Fiordland National Park is the cruises along the famous Milford Sound fjord. The cruise takes you close enough to see the glacier-cut waterfalls and has you sailing beside the resident penguins and furry seals. You could opt for a short 2-hour cruise, or even choose to stay onboard overnight.

Sign at the top of the Mackinnon Pass, the high point of the famous Milford Track

Take a guided walk in the park

New Zealand has nine great walking tracks, of which three begin from Fiordland. Spend the day walking through the Milford Track, Kepler Trac, or Routeburn Track and enjoy the diversity of the park up close. You could also opt for a guided walking tour, where your guide would introduce you to the local flora and fauna of the region.

Milford Sound Scenic Flyover Tour

Hop on a scenic flight

From nearby towns such as Queenstown, you could hop on a scenic flight that would fly you over the famous fjords, and you can catch a glimpse of glaciers, Mitre Peak, lakes, waterfalls, and ice plateaus from up above. You can also choose to land at Milford Sound and board a cruise along the fjord.

Explore the local caves

Explore the local caves

Take a magical cruise along Lake Te Anau toward the Glowworm Caves. The limestone caves, sculpted by water eons ago, are now home to hundreds of worms that glow in the dark, making it a unique sight to witness.

Fiordland National Park tickets

Opt for water activities

If you’d like to get up close with nature in the fjord, you can rent a kayak and cruise along the deep trenches with nothing but glaciers and penguins around you. You could also opt for a scuba experience at the fjord and witness the diverse marine life that thrives below the surface.

Fiordland National Park tickets

Cycle along the park

Fiordland National Park has numerous trails that go along lakes, through forests, and more. These trails are wide enough for cyclists and trekkers alike and are generally categorized as a Grade 2 easy level. You can rent bicycles or e-bikes in the nearest town.

History of Fiordland National Park

Early Māori tribes began visiting Fiordland for hunting, fishing, and gathering, and eventually were one of the first settlers in the region. Due to its difficult terrain, only the most resilient settlers survived in the region. The National Park was officially constituted in 1952 and a few years later in the 1960s, Fiordland was the center of attention due to a conservation battle between the government and the people, which was finally settled in favor of the people. In 1986 due to its natural beauty, the park was named a World Heritage Site and today spans over 1.2 million hectares of rainforests, lakes, peaks, and fjords.

Topography of Fiordland National Park

Tourist photographing the mountains surrounding Milford Lake

During the ice age, large parts of New Zealand were covered in glaciers and ice caps. As the glaciers retreated, they cut through the rocks, forming the valleys, deep lakes, and fjords we see today. The high valleys and incessant rainfall have also made the region abundant in waterfalls. Fiordland also has some of the oldest rocks in New Zealand, especially the hard crystalline metamorphic rocks. As the area is close to the alpine fault where two of Earth’s plates meet, Fiordland has large deposits of sandstone, mudstone, and limestone.

Fiordland National Park Visitor Tips

  • Photography at the park: Non-commercial photography is permitted at the National Park, however, given that the region is regulated by the Department of Conservation, any commercial or recreational drone activity must be pre-approved. 
  • Weather conditions: Fiordland National Park is known for its unpredictable weather conditions throughout the year. Do make sure to pack waterproof clothing and/or extra warm clothes for any eventualities. 
  • Opt for a guided transfer for ease: Roads to Fiordland can be winding and steep. Leave behind the worry of driving and opt for luxury coach transfers so you can sit back and enjoy the views. 
  • Carry your essentials: If you plan on staying overnight, make sure to carry essentials such as medication, sunglasses, a camera, insect repellant for the sandflies, layers, comfy shoes, and a trusty water bottle, as purchasing them on-site might be tricky. 
  • Pets: Given the region’s protected nature, dogs and pets are not permitted inside the National Park without special permission.
  • Wildlife feeding: As you come across various forms of wildlife in the National Park, it is forbidden to feed them as you would be interfering with their natural cycles. 
  • Littering: Littering is prohibited in the National Park. Follow a Leave-No-Trace (LNT) mechanism when traveling through the region.

Frequently Asked Questions about Fiordland National Park

What is Fiordland National Park?

Fiordland National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a vast national park, encapsulating lakes, rainforests, waterfalls, mountain ranges, and more.

Can I visit Fiordland National Park with Milford Sound Cruise & Tour tickets?

Yes, Milford Sound is located within the Fiordland National Park so you can easily access the park.

Is it worth visiting Fiordland National Park?

Fiordland National Park is one of the most scenic regions in the world, with unique fjords, waterfalls, hiking trails, lakes, and numerous activities to keep you busy!

What can I do inside Fiordland National Park?

There is no dearth of activities to embark on in the National Park. You can kayak on the fjords, scuba dive, cycle or hike along the trails, take a cruise, or enjoy a scenic helicopter ride.

When was Fiordland National Park established?

The Fiordland National Park was established in 1952.

What’s inside Fiordland National Park?

Fiordland National Park is huge and has numerous landmarks such as Milford Sound, Mitre Peak, Doubtful Sound, Kepler Trail, Dapper Mountains, and more.

What are the timings of Fiordland National Park?

Fiordland National Park is open from 8:30 AM to 5 PM on a general basis.

Where is Fiordland National Park located?

Fiordland National Park is located in the southwest corner of the South Island of New Zealand.

Is Fiordland National Park wheelchair accessible?

Yes, entry to Fiordland National Park is accessible to those in a wheelchair, however, certain activities such as the Milford Cruise or the Guided Walk along Milford Track may not be accessible.

Is photography allowed at Fiordland National Park?

Yes, you are free to carry your cell phones to capture those stunning photos, however, the use of drones for commercial or recreational purposes requires special permission.

What should I wear to Fiordland National Park?

It is advisable to always carry waterproof clothing while visiting the Fiordland National Park as the region is notorious for its untimely rains.