Fiordland is New Zealand’s largest national park, but also one that receives the least recognition. While it has one or two tourist draws that bring in hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, it is far too often overlooked as a destination in its own right. Taking the time to get to know it better is a worthwhile experience, especially if you do so with a sense of rugged adventure. Renting a high-quality wilderness campervan and spending some quality time near the myriad lakes, sounds, mountain paths, and other draws of the region is probably the best way to do so.
Most tourists start (and finish) with Milford Sound. This beautiful fjord was ranked the world’s top travel destination by TripAdvisor in 2008, and was famously referred to by Rudyard Kipling as the “8th wonder of the world.” It’s obviously worth visiting, and up to a million people do each year. There are immense waterfalls, excellent opportunities for kayaking, high alpine trails with great views inland of the Southern Alps and out over the endless ocean. Most visitors do a boat trip of some sort, whether it be for just a few hours or overnight. There are multiple visitors centers, and even an underwater observatory that allows for the viewing of rare black coral.
But moving beyond Milford Sound, there are several other excellent destinations within Fiordland. One is Doubtful Sound, which is an even larger fjord, and so named because Captain Cook was uncertain if he could sail out if he attempted to enter it. Doubtful is famous for its population of whales, seals, penguins, and bottlenose dolphins. The area is less accessible than Milford, but can be approached from inland at Lake Manapouri or from the seaward entrance with certain boat companies.
Three of New Zealand’s “Great Walks” are found in Fiordland. They take intrepid visitors on walks of 50 km or more, staying in anything from simple trekking huts to above-average hotels, and pass by some of the best scenery in the whole country. This includes Sutherland Falls, the tallest waterfall in New Zealand and one of the tallest in the world.
Visiting this area is a delightful experience, especially if you can get away from the majority of the tourists. Exploring the forest service roads and finding small campsites by the many lakes and rivers that dot the landscape is a great adventure. The best campervan experience in the whole country is waiting for you here.