Love staying active? Here’s a guide to Fiordland in winter
6 Jul 2017
There’s plenty to do in Fiordland in winter, despite the very cold temperatures we have plenty of clear, calm blue sky days! Winter brings Fiordland’s lowest rainfall and plenty of snow on the mountains, making Fiordland National Park picture perfect. Some areas may be out of bounds but there is still so much to see and do. Here are some amazing ways to enjoy this stunning part of the world during the cooler months.
1. Experience remote beauty
The first section of Kepler Track – a New Zealand Great Walk – to Luxmore Hut, can be hiked in any season by even lesser-seasoned trampers looking for an overnight adventure. This custom-built panoramic trail showcases the best of Eastern Fiordland, including Lake Te Anau and the remote Murchison mountains. Luxmore Hut, is one of the most beautiful ‘hut accommodations’ maintained by the Department of Conservation (DOC) in New Zealand. Nestled in the alpine area and often surrounded by snow from June to August, the views (especially at sunset and sunrise) make the hike totally worth the effort, plus spending a night in this hut is a real kiwi experience.
Hut facilities will be minimal in winter, so make sure you bring plenty of warm clothing and your own cooking gas. Luxmore is staffed by a volunteer during winter, and cell phone reception is available here so you will not be completely isolated. Visit the DOC Visitor Centre located in Te Anau before you set off to get the most up to date walking conditions and your hut tickets (NZD15 per adult per night).
While you are there we highly recommend taking your torch and exploring Luxmore Cave, located a short 10-minute walk from Luxmore hut. One of the many caves in this area, it features stalagmites and stalactites, open caverns and an underwater river.
2. See Milford Sound and Milford Road in winter
Soak in all the goodness of this region in one easy (and safe!) winter tour – the Milford Sound Coach, Cruise & Walk package. Departing Te Anau, you’ll be driven on the famously beautiful Milford Road which travels through the South Island’s main mountain divide. In a small group enjoy the best sights with scenic stops and a range of short walks through the ancient forests, vast open valleys and beside picturesque rivers. Icy roads and snow make the Milford Road challenging to drive in winter, so take the day off and enjoy the vistas with a local guide. On the boat, cruise under the majestic Mitre Peak, enjoy waterfalls and wildlife that are at their beautiful best in the cold season.
3. Illumination Festival
Fiordland in winter means short, crisp days and long, dark nights. The locals have found a novel way to break up these dark winter nights with a community based event. The Illumination Festival (9 July) sees residents of Te Anau (Fiordland’s major town) decorate their houses, shops and streets with lights. Complemented by some great entertainment, glow sticks and dress-ups, it is an evening to remember in this quiet little New Zealand town.
4. Te Anau Glowworm Caves
They may not be as well-known as their northern counterparts in Waitomo, but Te Anau Glowworm Caves make for a fantastic half-day tour. The tour begins with a boat trip across Lake Te Anau to a 12,000-year-old cave system that shimmers with hundreds of glowworms. By geological standards the caves are very young and are still being carved out by the force of the river that flows through them. The result is a twisting network of limestone passages filled with sculpted rock, whirlpools and a roaring underground waterfall.
5. Te Anau Bird Sanctuary
Located on the shores of Lake Te Anau, this bird sanctuary houses some of the rarest and most endangered feathered creatures of Fiordland. It is home to the takahe (a flightless, pre-historic looking bird), as well as the kaka (a native forest parrot), tui and kereru (New Zealand pigeon). Every morning at 9.30 am during winter you can see the takahe being fed by a local DOC ranger, and learn about these fascinating birds, once through to be extinct. Entry is by donation, and this activity is perfect for bird enthusiasts and families on holiday.
6. Take a scenic flight
See Fiordland National Park by air (helicopter or sea plane) with a scenic flight over Doubtful, Dusky and Milford Sound. You’ll understand why everyone runs out of adjectives when describing the beauty of this place. If you’re here for a short time, scenic flights are ideal – they generally take about half a day – and in winter, the snow makes everything look even more like a wonderland.
Don’t use winter as an excuse to hibernate – rug up warm, invest in a good jacket and get out there exploring. See you in Fiordland’s Great Outdoors.