Alpine tarn high on Key Summit, Routeburn Track, Fiordland

Things we love about hiking in Fiordland during spring

27 Sep 2017

Goodbye short days and polar blasts!  Haere mai and welcome to Spring – more daylight, warm temperatures and new life sprouting in the paddocks, gardens and even in the bush.  It must be time for some sensational Spring hiking in Fiordland!  Keep your eyes peeled for these Fiordland features…

Weka family outings

Weka are New Zealand’s native wood hen and most precocious of our bush birds.  Often mistaken for kiwi as they are about the same size – but without the long beak.  Weka raise 2-4 chicks each year.  They are commonly seen on our Milford Track Guided Walk.  You might think such a bird would make a typical ‘bird-like’ sound, but no!  Keep your ears open for a drum-like booming and rustling in the bushes.  If you tread quietly you will most likely find a mother weka with her cute-as-cotton-socks chicks fossicking in the bush by your feet.  Guides often tell tales of these birds causing all sorts of excitement on trips – including creating mayhem with our cups of hot chocolate!  Maybe they take them home for the family?!

You'll be able to pick up the sound of a Weka after hearing it only once

Spring flora

Seasonal change in Fiordland is often difficult to spot as our podocarps and beech trees are evergreen – there are only a handful of deciduous trees to give the game away.  Our native flowers all tend to be white or yellow.  This is an interesting evolutionary feature.  Surprisingly enough our major pollinators are insects – and often nocturnal insects like moths.  White and yellow reflects light particularly well, especially moonlight which Flower buds turn into full blooms at this of the year, especially October and November. Mountain ribbonwood, hebe and fuchsia grow on ground laid bare by snow. You’ll get glimpses of subalpine plants and native flowers, including alpine buttercups (called Mt Cook lilies) and daisies that grow among alpine shrubs and tussocks. 

In late spring you’ll see the bright red flowers of the Southern rata tree scattered in the dense rainforest. They belong to the same family as their northern counterparts, pohutukawa, and are known as New Zealand’s native Christmas tree.


Spring is the ‘waterfall season’ around the glacial valleys of the Southern Alps, brought on by the melting snow and rain (this is the wettest part of New Zealand!). The sheer force of some of the waterfalls is awe-inspiring. Among the many falls you will see when hiking in Fiordland in spring are Giant Gate and Sutherland Falls on the famous Milford Track, Humbolt Falls at the end of the Hollyford, and The Chasm seen on a short walk off the Milford Road. Also, after heavy rain the Milford Road gets inundated with dozens of temporary waterfalls – it’s like something out of a movie to see up close.

Enjoy the vast and open landscapes all to yourselves

Longer days and fewer people

Visit before the summer rush and enjoy Fiordland’s many tracks with less people. You’ll have the summer benefits of longer days (daylight saving kicks in at the end of September) and warmer temperatures, with the bonus of benefiting from the great spring deals on offer!

You can still shred the slopes

Visit in early spring (September/very early October) and you can enjoy the best of both worlds – hiking in Fiordland and squeezing in a day or two of skiing on Queenstown and Wanaka’s world famous slopes. Blue skies, mild temperatures and decent snow cover make for awesome days on the mountain.

So, what are you waiting for? With so many great reasons to visit, put Fiordland on your itinerary this spring!

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