Planning a trip to Fiordland?
I live in Wanaka which is only three hours away from Fiordland, so I’ve been there a lot.
When people ask me where they can’t miss in New Zealand – I always say Fiordland. There’s fiords, hundreds of waterfalls, and snow-capped mountains.
Keep reading for my ultimate guide to Fiordland: the best places you should go, where you should miss, and all my top tips for travelling in Fiordland.
TOP 4 PLACES YOU SHOULDN’T MISS
When friends are visiting New Zealand, these are the top places I tell them they shouldn’t miss:
- Doubtful Sound cruise: One of the best things to do in New Zealand. Boat cruise through a fiord, surrounded by hundreds of waterfalls. It’s better and quieter than Milford.
- Milford Sound cruise: It’s fairly touristy, but it’s beautiful and worth it. You can also add a scenic flight from Queenstown for once in a lifetime views. (If you’re also planning a trip to Queenstown, read my Ultimate Queenstown Travel Guide here).
- Drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound: The drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound is almost as good as Milford Sound itself. Basically every time you see cars pulled over on the side of the road – stop. There will be a short walk to a beautiful lake or waterfall.
- Great Walks: Do one of the Great Walks in Fiordland – the Kepler Track (read my ultimate guide here), Milford Track, or Routeburn Track.
OVERRATED PLACES YOU SHOULD MISS
Normally I find it easy to think of overrated places you should miss, but it’s hard to think of anywhere in Fiordland. If I was really pressed, I would say…
- Te Anau Glow Worm Caves: I wouldn’t say this is overrated. I actually really enjoyed it. I’d just say that it’s not the best thing to do in Fiordland – Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound are much better. Also, I prefer the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves (I did the Black Water Rafting trip which was amazing). But if you’re in Fiordland and have spare time, you should still visit the Te Anau Glow Worm Caves.
BEST OF FIORDLAND
Not sure where to start? Read my curated collection of the best things to do in Fiordland.
WANT MORE SUGGESTIONS?
Feeling overwhelmed? Want more suggestions? Download my Fiordland Bucket List for free – find out where you should stop on the Milford to Te Anau drive, my other favourite walks in Fiordland (including easier options!) and my favourite places to eat and drink in Fiordland.
TOP TIPS FOR TRAVELLING IN FIORDLAND
HOW TO GET AROUND FIORDLAND?
DRIVING: The best way to get around Fiordland is driving. It’s a remote area and there’s extremely limited public transport options. It also gives you the flexibility to stop whenever you want – and you’ll want to stop a lot when you drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound.
I always book rental cars with rentalcars.com – you just enter your dates and location, and it shows you ever available car from all the rental companies in New Zealand. It’s from the same people as booking.com so it’s super reliable.
BUS: You can get a bus to Te Anau with Intercity, but there’s no buses to get around Fiordland once you get there and there’s no public transport. You can book a shuttle to get around once you’re there though.
SHUTTLE: You can get a shuttle from Queenstown to Te Anau (book here) or Te Anau to Queenstown (book here). You can also book shuttles around Fiordland, which is the best way to get around if you’re doing a one-way walk (book here).
TRAINS: There are no trains that go to Fiordland.
TOURS: There are a lot of tours in Fiordland – most of them are for a Milford Sound cruise, Doubtful Sound cruise or a scenic flight and Milford cruise combo. They pick you up in either Queenstown or Te Anau (or you self-drive to Milford Sound). The pick up from Queenstown could be a good option to get transport to Fiordland if you don’t have a car, but I’d recommend either driving yourself (more flexibility and you see more) or doing a scenic flight (amazing views).
ACCOMMODATION IN FIORDLAND
There are some beautiful Airbnbs and luxury boutique hotels in Fiordland.
I always use Airbnb or booking.com to book my accommodation. If I find an Airbnb I like, I always look it up on booking.com – they’re usually cheaper. I’m also part of the booking.com loyalty programme so I get an extra 10-20% off most hotels.
I also love Mr & Mrs Smith – it’s a curated collection of the best luxury boutique hotels in the world. They don’t have any hotels in Fiordland, but there’s a small selection of beautiful hotels in Queenstown, Wanaka and elsewhere in New Zealand, so it’s still worth checking.
Looking for the best luxury hotels in Fiordland? Add these to your bucket list:
WHEN TO GO TO FIORDLAND?
The best time to go to Fiordland depends on what you’re visiting for:
- Great Walks (Kepler Track, Milford Track or Routeburn Track) – during the Great Walks season (late October to April). Outside of this time, it’s not safe and there’s an avalanche risk.
- Milford Sound cruise and Doubtful Sound cruise – are best when it’s raining! My friends went recently – we’re currently in a drought and there were no waterfalls. I wouldn’t plan my whole trip to New Zealand around this though. Instead just go when it’s best more generally.
The best time to visit New Zealand more generally also depends on what you want to do.
- If you want to go skiing – August to mid-September is best. The snow is good and it’s outside of the July school holidays which are very busy. The best places to ski are Queenstown and Wanaka, which are only a couple of hours from Fiordland. Read my Ultimate Guide to Skiing in Wanaka and 33 Best Things to Do in Wanaka in Winter.
- If you’re not here for skiing, the best time to see New Zealand is February to April (late Summer/early Spring). The weather is nice and it avoids the busy Christmas school holidays.
HOW LONG TO SPEND IN FIORDLAND?
How long to spend in Fiordland really depends on what you want to do.
- Allow 1-2 days to do the Doubtful Sound cruise (the overnight trip is amazing but I also enjoyed the day trip)
- Allow 1-2 days to do the Milford Sound cruise (most people do a day trip, but you can also stay overnight at the Milford Sound Lodge)
- Allow longer if you want to do some long walks like the Kepler Track (3-4 days), Milford Track (4 days) or Routeburn Track (2-3 days)
Obviously add these up if you want to do multiple things. This doesn’t allow for driving time to get there.
I don’t think you need to allow a day to “see” Te Anau – it’s more of a base and there’s not much to do.
VISAS + COVID
New Zealand had very strict covid rules – the border was closed for almost two years, even to New Zealanders. (I was a New Zealander stuck overseas during covid – it was very hard trying to get back). Make sure you check the New Zealand immigration website for the latest covid and border closure rules.
People from most countries can travel to New Zealand for up to 3 months without getting a visa. You just need to get a New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority. Check the New Zealand Immigration website to work out what visa you need.Fiordland-top-tips
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