Fiordland Bucket List – 5 Top things to do!

17 Sep 2020

Deep in the southwest corner of New Zealand is our home, Te Anau and in our backyard is Fiordland National Park.  Covering a massive 12,604 square kilometres of wilderness and a celebrated UNESCO World Heritage area, people travel from all around the world to visit and explore this area.  Now it is kiwis who have the run of the place, and there really is no better time to come and see why.

Fiordland offers a slower pace of life, against a backdrop of grand scenery.  Make Te Anau your base for a few days to truly experience all it has to offer. Here is my list of must dos with activity suggestions, whatever your budget or energy levels!

People on sandy tidal area in front of sea and mountains

See Milford Sound, a New Zealand icon, this is definitely a must-do!

1. Visit Milford Sound

This is a New Zealand icon and needs to be seen to be believed! Touted as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’, the dramatic scenery sculpted by ice is awe-inspiring. The journey to Milford Sound along the Milford Road is just as amazing as the destination, so ensure you take your time and stop often.

SAVE: Get the best view of the towering Mitre Peak and sheer sides of the fiord from the shoreline. Stroll along the DOC foreshore track or explore the tidal area at your leisure.

RELAX: Take a boat cruise to travel all the way out to the Tasman Sea. Cruise on the dark, tannin stained waters underneath the cliffs which rise vertically from the sea, see seals on the rocks and venture under a waterfall. A boat cruise is the ultimate way to experience all Milford Sound can offer.

ACTIVE: Walk on the famous Milford Track from the notorious Sandfly Point, to the mighty Giant Gate Waterfall. Wander under the ancient trees, and amongst the vibrant ferns and mosses of this lush rainforest. You need to access the track by boat (there is no public service), so join a guided trip and enjoy a half day walk with the team at Trips & Tramps.

2. Spot a takahe

These bright coloured birds were once thought to be extinct but were rediscovered in Fiordland in 1948. The flightless takahe is a conservation icon and survivor, with a great story. They have been part of a recovery programme which has seen pioneering conservation techniques for endangered species, including captive breeding, island translocations and wild releases.

SAVE: Stroll around the Punanga Manu o Te Anau (Te Anau Bird Sanctuary) at your own pace. You can walk from town along the lake or drive directly here, there is no entry charge but a donation is welcomed. Feeding tours are also available most days where you get to go inside the takahe enclosure.

RELAX: Sit back and chill in our amazing local cinema with a local wine or beer while you watch the locally produced short film (30 minutes) Ata Whenua Fiordland on Film. Spot the takahe in its natural environment high in the Murchison Mountains, as you are taken on an unforgettable journey through Fiordland from the comfort of your chair.

Person tramping in mountains above large lake

The Kepler Track offers diverse scenery and magnificent views, and is best explored on foot!

3. Take a hike on the Kepler Track

The Kepler Track is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks and right on the doorstep of Te Anau so worth checking out. Characterised by mossy beech forests, cascading waterways, and extensive mountain views, this track covers it all.  You could choose to tramp the full 60 km or take a more leisurely day walk.

SAVE: Access the track by road and cross the mighty Waiau River at Rainbow Reach. A large swing bridge spans the river and allows you to access the Kepler for a 3-hour return walk to Motorau Hut.  The track undulates gently alongside stunning waterways. You can even turn this into an easy, fun overnight tramp for kids.

SPLURGE: A guided Kepler heli-hike is the ultimate experience with Trips & Tramps! If you have one day for a walk and want a bit of everything, this really is the best option. Fly by helicopter to the alpine area, hike to the summit of a mountain for unrivalled panoramic views, then descend through the forest to the sandy shores of Lake Te Anau for a water taxi return. This is an amazing trip that will not disappoint.

4. Overnight on Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound is a large fiord and it takes effort to reach, as there is no road access.  It is the deepest of the fiords and is long and winding, with plenty of hidden waterways and secluded islands. The impressive scenery is more open and spread out than Milford Sound, hence the best way to see it is with an overnight excursion, as you have more time to look around.

SPLURGE: There are several options available with different accommodation styles and onboard activities. From bunk beds to luxury ensuite cabins, to fishing for your supper or going onshore to discover the native bush. Whichever operator you choose, it is guaranteed you will be well fed and entertained while cruising the wilderness with one of these trips of a lifetime!

ACTIVE: Kayak on Doubtful Sound during the day and camp in the forest at night. For the active adventurer, this two-day journey connects you with nature like no other and gets you directly into the elements! This trip is recommended for the more adventurous or those who are up for a challenge. 

child on bike riding on grass alongside lake

The lakeside trail around Te Anau offers fun for all ages.

5. Explore Lake Te Anau

Lake Te Anau is New Zealand's second largest lake, covering an area of 344 square kilometres. Carved by glaciers, this southern lake offers locals a magnificent playground for a variety of activities. A stay in Fiordland would not be complete without discovering this pristine lake in some form.

SAVE: Stroll or bike along the lakeside path. With interpretation panels along the way pointing out places of interest, plus plenty of scenic photo opportunities, this free activity is suitable for all ages.

SPLURGE: Splash out and experience a scenic seaplane flight with Wings on Water! Take off from the lake to enjoy stunning views from the air, including the incredible South Arm, mysterious Hidden Lakes and Kepler mountains with a Lake Explorer flight.

RELAX: Enjoy a memorable cruise on Lake Te Anau sailing aboard the historic Faith. With an attentive crew, experience genuine hospitality as you discover the tranquil waterways of Lake Te Anau.

ACTIVE: This one is for the kids, and those young at heart (or a little crazy). If you want to truly embrace the glacial temperatures of the lake, take the leap, and jump off the Te Anau wharf.  There really is no better way to embrace the fresh water!

There are so many activities available when you base yourself in Te Anau and these ideas are just a start. Offering true kiwi hospitality and something for all ages, come and check us out this summer, we would love you to come visit!


Read More Tales