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Aerial view of Doubtful Sound


Fiordland National Park located in South West New Zealand is the largest national park in New Zealand covering encompassing nearly 1.2 million hectares (3 million acres) and is one of the world’s wettest regions. 

As one of the world’s greatest wilderness areas Fiordland National Park is characterised by steep, jumbled topography, rugged coastline, dense rainforest and a challenging climate.

The exceptional beauty of this vast landscape has long been recognised with Fiordland National Parks creation in 1952 and being declared a World Heritage Area in 1986, joining other natural phenomenons the Grand Canyon and Great Barrier Reef.  (World Heritage is a global concept where natural and cultural sites of world significance - places so special that protecting them is of concern to all people are identified.)

In 1990, Fiordland was linked with three other national parks, Mount Aspiring, Westland/Tai Poutini, and Aoraki/Mt Cook, to form an expanded World Heritage Area of South West New Zealand.  It acquired the Maori name of Te Wahipounamu (the place of greenstone).

Fiordland's Weather

Fiordland’s climate overall is cool temperate. The coldest months are May to August when the winter sun is at a low angle and frosts produce ice on sunless valley floors. The temperature here can vary depending on the season and can go from an average high of around 19C in summer (Dec - Feb) to around 9.5C in winter (Jun - Aug).

Fiordland is one of the wettest places in the world with a mean annual rainfall of 6813mm (268 in). It rains for around a 180 days of the year, with rainfall reaching 250mm (10 in) over a 24 hour period.

In the fiords’ temperatures are moderated by the influence of the ocean.  At all times of year and in all weather conditions Fiordland National Park is well worth a visit. Whatever the fiord’s mood, teeming with rain and thundering waterfalls or with sun glistening on the deep water, it will inspire you.


A fur seal basking on the rocks

Fiordland is within a temperate rainforest and home to a largely undisturbed wildlife. The rainforest is intensely green and incredibly dense with vines, perching plants, tree and ground ferns and podocarp trees.  The variety of shades of green is incredible, as are the delicate mosses and lichen you'll see in the moss gardens.  There are many native species of birds living in the forest and small native bats.

The waters of Fiordland are fascinating and home to an amazing array of sea-life because of a surface layer of dark fresh water that blocks sunlight. This layer is caused by the incredibly high annual rainfall which is darkly coloured by the tannins of the forest as it tumbles through a huge catchment area to the sea.  This dark layer allows corals and undersea life to grow in waters much shallower than they normally would. Doubtful Sound has a marine reserve which is popular with divers. Creatures of the southern oceans also visit - whales, Mollyhawks and Royal Albatross along with penguins, including the rare Fiordland Crested Penguin which breeds at Doubtful Sound.

You are quite likely to spot fur seals and little penguins.  Sometimes a pod of dolphins will come and play and other times you'll spot seagoing visitors and hear the songs of rare native birds. Helping you to tune into this magical world on all our trips is a specialist nature guide who is enthusiastic and highly knowledgeable.

Things you can do