Above all of the beautiful places to see and explore in New Zealand, Fiordland National Park was at the top of my list. It was a snapshot of the iconic Mitre Peak in Milford Sound that initially captivated me. Perhaps you can see why:
Fiordland National Park is one of the largest National Parks in the world, sprawling over 1.2 million hectares (2.9 million acres). Most of the park is untouched by humans, allowing it to be home to many of New Zealand’s rarest flora and fauna. The area is so secluded, in fact, that a flightless bird found only in New Zealand called Takahe was rediscovered there in 1948 after having been believed to be extinct for many years. There are now thought to be around 160 Takahe birds protected within this great wilderness area.
There are a number of ways to explore the park, including hiking one of the three of New Zealand’s Great Walks in the park, taking day and overnight boat trips, and sea kayaking in some of the fiords. As we only had a few days, we opted to sea kayak in Milford Sound and take an overnight boat trip in the more secluded Doubtful Sound. The map below shows the size of the park compared to the small slivers we were lucky enough to see.
Milford Sound is the only fiord that can be accessed by road, making it a popular destination for visitors to Fiordland National Park. The drive down Milford Road to the start of the sound is an adventure in itself, and we found ourselves stopping around every bend to marvel at the stunning alpine scenery around us. Along the way, a couple of Kea birds, also known “alpine parrots,” came around to say hello. Keas are only found in alpine regions on New Zealand’s South Island and are known for being very intelligent and inquisitive, and also a bit mischievous. Watch out or they will find a way to get your food!
A friend in Nelson recommended we sea kayak with Rosco’s Milford Kayaks. Rosco’s is the longest serving owner-operated sea kayaking business in New Zealand, and after spending a full day paddling Milford Sound with our guide, Mark, it’s easy to see why they came highly recommended. From the start, Mark made everyone feel comfortable with his humorous banter and extensive knowledge of Milford Sound.
We decided to do the Stirling Sunriser trip, so we geared up and jumped on the water taxi which took us out past the magnificent Stirling Falls.
Once we were out past the falls, we all hopped into our tandem kayaks and started making our way. It wasn’t long before we came across some seals playing in the water and resting on the rocks.
We continued paddling to the falls, stopping along the way to see eight-legged starfish clinging to the rocks beneath the water and learning more about the glacier-carved fiord from Mark.
Eventually, we stopped on a small beach to take in our surroundings.
After a nice break, we made our way back to the port, wishing we had another eight hours of paddling time.
Before we arrived in Milford we were told that sea kayaking is the best way to explore the sound. While the cruise boats are good options for those with little time or limited fitness abilities, I would recommend a sea kayaking trip to anyone looking to get up close and personal with the wildlife of the sound. Of all the places we have been so far this year, the fiords are by far the most majestic place I have ever been.
About the author: Kaitlin
Kaitlin is one of the two backpacks currently galavanting her way around the globe with her husband Brian. She loves adventures of any kind (especially if they involve getting into the wilderness), exploring vegetarian foods in different cultures, and meeting people from around the globe. Her goal in writing for this site is to inspire people to take risks, define their own life rules, and be happy and healthy while doing it.