Fiordland National Park is New Zealand’s largest National Park, covering over 1.2 million hectares of the southwest corner of the South Island. Its breathtaking landscape, formed by glaciers, consists of massive fiords, snow-capped mountains, impressive waterfalls and stunning lakes. The most popular feature in Fiordland National Park is without a doubt Milford Sound. Apart from this mighty beautiful fiord, there are a bunch of awesome viewpoints and spectacular hikes as well.
In this blog post we’ll tell you about some beautiful and fun things to see and do in Fiordland National Park, New Zealand.
Milford Sound, a stunning fiord in Fiordland National Park
Scenic flights and cruises are a popular (and sometimes the only) way of exploring parts of Fiordland National Park. We booked a cruise with Go Orange to tour Milford Sound. The views are amazing and if you’re lucky you’ll even see some wildlife. Go check out our blog post about our Go Orange Milford Sound Cruise for more detailed information.
Milford Road, the Fiordland National Park highway
During our visit to Fiordland National Park we stayed in Te Anau, the gateway to Milford Sound. There’s just one road between Te Anau and Milford Sound: Milford Road. On this 120 km drive you’ll pass some awesome viewpoints, like the one where we pulled over to admire the pink sky surrounding Mount Crosscut. We took that stunning sunrise/early morning photo from the car park before the Hollyford Valley Lookout.
About halfway through the drive you’ll reach the Homer Tunnel, an unlined (without help from steel or other construction materials) tunnel taking you through sheer rock. Pretty awesome!
The Chasm Walk, a short hike in Fiordland National Park
The Chasm Walk is a (very) short loop forest walk taking you to The Chasm, where the powerful waters of the Cleddau River have sculpted the rocky underground. The river becomes suddenly very small and the water drops down into a dark abyss, making a thundering sound. There’s a foot bridge spanning this part of the river, providing a great view.
It took us about 10 minutes to hike this short and easy loop track, including plenty of time for photos. We would recommend hiking in counterclockwise direction, saving the best for last. The waterfalls and chasm are pretty impressive, definitely worth a short stop!
Key Summit Track, an awesome hike in Fiordland National Park
The Key Summit Track is said to be a popular, easy half-day walk, starting from The Divide car park. However, in my opinion it’s pretty tough with its gradual but continuous ascent. If you do this hike every day, I bet you’ll have a kick-ass butt in no time!
We started the hike at 12:30, after our Go Orange Milford Sound Cruise. The first 40 minutes you walk through native forest over the Routeburn Track (one New Zealand’s Great Walks), before reaching the well signposted turn off to the Key Summit Track. From there it took us about 30 minutes (this is the hard part) to get to the Lake Marian Viewpoint. The track zigzags up above the bushline, taking you to shrubland, along a tiny alpine lake. Near that lake is Key Summit, where there’s a plaque telling you what you see 360° around you.
We only stopped there for a quick photo before continuing to the Lake Marian Viewpoint. There, at the summit, we took a 15 minute lunch break, enjoying the panoramic views and a Summit Beer. You’ll see mountains and valleys wherever you look, and in the distance there’s Lake Marian. By 15:00 we were back at our campervan, 2.5 hours after starting our hike from that same spot.
Did you know? Key Summit got its name because that’s where you’re at the top of three different valleys, with each valley river flowing to a different coast.
During our entire New Zealand road trip we used the NZ Frenzy guidebook, which is full of awesome hikes and viewpoints. Scott, the writer, claims that the road to Milford Sound is probably a greater visual highlight than a cruise on Milford Sound itself. We agree: definitely plan some time to explore a couple of hikes and viewpoints on your way to or back from Milford Sound, like we did. Fiordland National Park is so much more than just Milford Sound!
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