The park is administered by the Department of Conservation.
Fiordland National Park is home to the quintessential tourist destination in New Zealand.
A vast mountainous wilderness of over 3 million acres, Fiordland National Park is quite literally one of the most spectacular places on this planet. Jaw-dropping ice-carved fjords, pristine alpine lakes, snow-capped mountains and ancient rivers cutting valleys through the native forest.
*Fiord(fjord) is a geological term for an ice-carved landscape that has been inundated by water (usually the sea), and a sound is a geographical term for a large ocean inlet.
Declared a World Heritage Area in 1986, Ata Whenua (the native name for the park) is a place of Maori legend where the demi-god “Tuterakiwhanoa is said to have carved the rugged landscape from formless rock.”
The name Fiordland National Park stems from the twelve major fjords that jut into the west coast from the Tasman Sea. These fjords were actually incorrectly named by early explorers as ‘sounds’ and the names have never been changed (see definitions below).
The largest three are the Dusky Sound, the Doubtful Sound and the Milford Sound — the only one of the twelve accessible by road.
Discover the fiords:
- Piopiotahi / Milford Sound
- Patea / Doubtful Sound
- Tamatea / Dusky Sound
- Rakituma / Preservation Inlet
Fiordland National Park Map
Milford Sound / Piopiotahi is a fiord in the south west of New Zealand's South Island within Fiordland National Park, Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) Marine Reserve, and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site. It has been judged the world's top travel destination in an international survey (the 2008 Travelers' Choice Destinations Awards by TripAdvisor) and is acclaimed as New Zealand's most famous tourist destination. Rudyard Kipling had previously called it the eighth Wonder of the World. The fiord is most commonly accessed via road (State Highway 94) by tour coach, with the road terminating at a small village also called Milford Sound.
Doubtful Sound / Patea is a fiord in Fiordland, in the far south west of New Zealand. It is located in the same region as the smaller but more famous and accessible Milford Sound / Piopiotahi. It took second place after Milford Sound as New Zealand's most famous tourism destination.
At 40 kilometres (25 mi) long, Doubtful Sound / Patea is the second longest, and with a depth of up to 421 metres (1,381 ft) the deepest of the South Island's fiords. In comparison with Milford Sound, it is more widespread, with the cliffs not as dramatically tall and near vertical. However, the U-shaped profile of the fiord is obvious, in particular on the two innermost of the main fiord's arms and the hanging side valleys along the main fiord.
Like most of Fiordland, Doubtful Sound receives a high amount of rainfall, ranging from an annual average of 3,000–6,000 millimetres (120–240 in). The vegetation on the mountainous landscape surrounding the fiord is dense native rainforest.
One of the most complex of the many fiords on this coast, it is also the largest at 40 kilometres in length and eight kilometres wide at its widest point. To the north of its mouth is the large Resolution Island, whose Five Fingers Peninsula shelters the mouth of the sound from the northwest; along the east coast of the island, Acheron Passage connects Tamatea / Dusky Sound with Te Puaitaha / Breaksea Sound, to the north.
Rakituma / Preservation Inlet is the southernmost fiord in Fiordland National Park and lies on the southwest corner of the South Island of New Zealand. With an area of 93 square kilometres (36 sq mi), it is the fourth largest fiord in New Zealand, after Tamatea / Dusky Sound, Doubtful Sound / Patea, and the neighbouring Taiari / Chalky Inlet to the north.
Rakituma was briefly the site of an attempted fishing and gold mining settlement at Cromarty during the 19th century, however this was quickly abandoned once the level of gold declined in relation to more promising fields elsewhere.