A World Heritage wilderness


A World Heritage wilderness

Fiordland is undoubtedly one of New Zealand’s most breathtakingly beautiful regions. Home to the Milford and Doubtful Sounds as well as Fiordland National Park, the country’s largest park, this is natural and unspoilt wilderness on a grand scale, and an absolute paradise for adventure lovers.

Fiordland region marker

A place where few people live but thousands visit each year, the region was carved by glaciers over 100,000 years leaving behind deep fiords, lakes, waterfalls and mountain peaks covered in lush forest filled with life. It’s little wonder then that the region has been recognised as a World Heritage area. Hiking, kayaking and even scuba diving are all on offer or you could simply enjoy the incredible views with a scenic cruise.

Te Anau, a small town on the eastern shore of Lake Te Anau, is the main centre in the region and the gateway to Fiordland. Here are approximate travel times and distances to and from Te Anau.

Drive times

  • Queenstown to Te Anau: 170 km / 106 miles – 2 hours 10 minutes
  • Invercargill to Te Anau: 160 km / 99 miles – 2 hours
  • Dunedin to Te Anau: 290 km / 180 miles – 3 hours 45 minutes
  • Te Anau to Milford Sound: 120 km / 75 miles – 2 hours

Travel times can vary significantly, particularly in popular areas during peak visitor months (December – February). For current travel times and updates on delays, roadworks and road closures, use the NZ Transport Agency journey planner before travelling. It’s always a good idea to allow extra time for photo stops and, when travelling longer distances, rest stops.

Queenstown is the nearest airport, approximately 2 hours 10 minutes drive from Te Anau.

  • Auckland (AKL) to Queenstown (ZQN): 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Wellington (WLG) to Queenstown (ZQN): 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Christchurch (CHC) to Queenstown (ZQN): 55 minutes

A number of international airlines including Qantas and Virgin Australia fly into Queenstown from Australia. Check the Queenstown Airport website for details.

Being the most southwesterly region of the South Island and bearing the brunt of the prevailing westerlies, weather plays an important part in the overall character of the Fiordland region. And by weather we mean mostly rain, with Fiordland having some of the highest rainfall in New Zealand. So whether it’s from beneath you, falling on you from a waterfall or simply falling out of the sky, at some point during your visit, you’re likely to get wet. That said, the varied landscape from high mountains and mountain passes to coastal inlets means that weather can be quite localised. Don’t worry, the sun does shine but it pays to be prepared for anything.

In summer (December – February) the temperatures are relatively mild with an average high of 19 °C / 66.2 °F and an average low of 10 °C / 50 °F. In winter (June – August) it gets cold with frosts and snow down to low lying areas. The average winter high is 10 °C / 50 °F and the average low is 2 °C / 35.6 °F.

Check current conditions and get the latest Fiordland weather forecasts on

While there’s not much you can do about the weather once you’re here, it’s worth knowing what to expect at different times of the year and in different parts of the country. These two articles are well worth reading:

Top things to do in Fiordland

Looking for ideas to help you plan the ultimate New Zealand outdoor adventure? Here are some of the top things for active travellers to see and do in the Fiordland region.

Explore Milford and Doubtful Sounds

Milford Sound is the more popular and more easily accessible of the region’s fiords. At the head of the fiord, approximately 16 km / 10 miles from the sea, is a small settlement that serves as a base for tourists. From here you can catch one of a number a scenic day or overnight cruises. For the more adventurous there’s the opportunity to explore the fiord in a kayak with Rosco’s Milford Kayaks or scuba dive with Descend Milford Sound.

Doubtful Sound is the deepest of all the fiords and since it’s not directly accessible by road, it remains remote and virtually untouched. Getting there involves catching a boat across Lake Manapouri and then a coach ride to the head of the sound. This should all be arranged as part of a scenic cruise or guided kayak experience.

Milford Road

Hike the Great Walks

New Zealand has 10 officially designated Great Walks that showcase some of the countries best scenery. Unsurprisingly, 3 of these walks, Milford, Kepler and Routeburn, are located in the Fiordland National Park. All three are multi-day hikes taking between 2 and 4 days. Even if you don’t have the time to do the full walks, consider these tracks as day options are available. You can find more details on the Department of Conservation website.

Kepler Track

See glow worms near Te Anau

If you find yourself in Fiordland not having visited glow worm caves on the North Island, most notably at Waitomo, then this is your opportunity. A boat ride across Lake Te Anau to the western shore will take you to the cave entrance where, together with a guide, you can explore this underground world, complete with subterranean waterfall. For more details visit the Real Journeys website.

Te Anau Caves