Milford Sound & Doubtful Sound, FiordlandPeople struggle to choose which of the Fiords to visit, but the reality is that Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound offer very different experiences. A visit to both Fiords will not disappoint.
The Road to Milford Sound
This road is not simply a journey, it's a destination in itself!
The Milford Road is a stunning alpine drive, and visitors should stop along the way to take in the scenery and truly appreciate the sheer scale of the landscape here.
Heading north from Te Anau, visitors follow 199km of sealed road to the majestic Milford Sound. There are numerous short walks and scenic views along the way, taking the traveller from the lush green grass of lowland pastures and tussock country, through strands of native bush, into the rocky mountainous area surrounding Homer Tunnel. Homer Tunnel was completed in 1953, and pierces sheer rock for 1.2kms, allowing access to Milford Sound. From the west portal of the tunnel, the road drops steeply between sheer rock walls, which are a continuous curtain of waterfalls after rainfall.
It is important to note that there are no fuel stops or stations between Te Anau and Milford, and at 240km return, you need to ensure that you have enough fuel before leaving Te Anau. The road is well maintained, but challenging in areas - with narrow, winding sections. If you are concerned about driving this road, there are numerous operators who travel the road regularly, offering excellent commentary about local sites and history and short stops along the way.
In winter, the steep mountain ranges create a challenging and demanding terrain, and sometimes avalanche conditions. The road is constantly monitored however, and will be closed if deemed dangerous. Between May and November, travellers must by law carry car snow chains at all times. Chains can be hired in Te Anau at any of the service stations.
For current road conditions, please click here, or freephone 0800 444 4490800 444 449.
For information on walks and hikes along the Milford Road, please visit the Department of Conservation website.
In Maori legend, the Fiords were created not by rivers of ice, but by Tu Te Raki Whenoa, a godly figure who came wielding a magical adze and uttering incantations. Milford Sound is without doubt his finest sculpture.
With its dramatic scenery and unique wildlife, Milford Sound is the best known of the Fiords, and the only one that can be reached by road. Milford is made up of deep Fiords, with sheer glacial mountains rising directly from the sea. Here you'll meet some of New Zealand's rarely seen wildlife - the cheeky kea, native fur seals, dolphins, and rare species of fish and coral at Milford's Discovery Centre & Underwater Observatory.
The fiord is approximately 16km from the 'head' to the open sea, meaning visitors can comfortably travel via one of the cruise operators out to the Tasman sea, and return in only 1.5 to 2 hours. Cruise passengers get the opportunity to view scenic highlights such as Mitre Peak and Pembroke Glacier. Playing dolphins and fur seals basking on the rocks are a common sight.
Spectacular kayaking and diving trips are very popular in Milford Sound, along with the opportunity to visit the Milford Discovery Centre - New Zealand's only floating underwater observatory. An incredible journey into the sea where you discover the secrets of the deep, and its world of primeval creatures, exotic habitats, and the fascinating sights of the ocean depths.
For more information and to book your Milford Sound experience please click here to contact our helpful Distinction Te Anau Hotel & Villas team.
Doubtful Sound is a haven of nature with ancient rainforest, abundant wildlife, and superb physical grandeur.
Doubtful Sound is the larger of the two Fiords. The rounded hills put up a greater resistance to glaciations, so are not as dramatically carved into the abrupt cliff faces that appear in Milford Sound, but the scenery is awe inspiring. Numbers are limited at Doubtful Sound, so you are more likely to have a 'remote' experience, and a higher chance of seeing the resident pod of dolphins, penguins and seals, during your visit.
Inaccessible by road from Te Anau, the journey to Doubtful Sound begins with a boat cruise across Lake Manapouri. A bus ride then takes you over the Wilmot Pass and on to Deep Cove where the magnificent Doubtful Sound awaits you.
Physically untouched by man, this fiord has a deep stillness, a sense of solitude and serenity. This massive wilderness area of rugged peaks, rainforest, and twisting, hidden fiords, all deep in the heart of Fiordland National Park is simply breathtaking. Doubtful Sound is the deepest of the fiords (412m deep), and is long and winding with three distinct arms between Deep Cove and the open sea - a distance of over 40 kilometres. The soaring 900m cliff of Commander Peak marks an imposing entrance to Hall Arm, one of the most beautiful in all of Fiordland.
Cruise the Fiord through hidden coves and mystical waterways. New Zealand Fur Seals and Fiordland Crested Penguins can be seen on many of the small islets, while Bottlenose Dolphins can often be sighted as they swim alongside the boats. Several outstanding waterfalls adorn the rich bush clad walls.
There are many ways to experience Doubtful Sound - by kayak or cruise, as a day trip or on an overnight experience.
The team at Distinction Te Anau Hotel & Villas encourage you to organise a picnic lunch box for your cruise and these can be pre-ordered the night prior to departure with our friendly reception team.
Car parking is available on View St or next to the visitor centre at Pearl Harbour in Manapouri, all within walking distance to the boat's departure point.
For more information and to book your Doubtful Sound experience please click here to contact our helpful Distinction Te Anau Hotel & Villas team.
Manapouri is framed by the Cathedral and Hunter Mountain Ranges. The township is situated on the shores of the lake and is a popular stop on the Southern Scenic Route. Manapouri is also the gateway to the scenic wonders of Doubtful Sound and Dusky Sound.
Visitors to these areas must first cross one of the most beautiful lakes in the world - Lake Manapouri. With it's 33 islands, coming to this lake is like entering another world. Enjoy the peace and tranquility, view snow-capped mountains and breathtaking scenery. Experience 3 actual Lord of the Rings locations of the river Andiun.
The excursion includes an optional visit to the Manapouri Underground Power Station. Located deep beneath Fiordland, this power station harnesses the energy of rushing water to generate electricity. Its construction was one of New Zealand's greatest engineering achievements, and today is a major source of sustainable hydro-power. Cruise across Lake Manapouri, then travel by coach down a 2km spiral tunnel to view the immense underground machine hall.
Lake Manapouri is also home to some of NZ's best trout fishing and trolling.
For more information and to book your Manapouri experience please click here to contact our helpful Distinction Te Anau Hotel & Villas team.