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Exploring 15 of New Zealand’s Majestic Fjords – A Journey Through Natural Wonders 2024

Exploring 15 of New Zealand’s Majestic Fjords – A Journey Through Natural Wonders 2024

New Zealand, a land of unparalleled natural beauty, is home to some of the world’s most breathtaking fjords. These dramatic sea inlets, carved by glaciers over millennia, offer stunning landscapes of towering cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and diverse wildlife. This guide takes you through New Zealand’s most picturesque fjords, each offering its unique charm and adventure. From serene cruises to exhilarating hikes, the fjords of New Zealand are a must-visit for nature enthusiasts and photographers alike.

1. Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park

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Milford Sound, a jewel in Fiordland National Park’s crown, is renowned for its awe-inspiring beauty. With its iconic Mitre Peak, this fjord is a paradise for nature lovers and photographers. A cruise on Milford Sound offers spectacular views of waterfalls, including the famous Stirling and Bowen Falls, and a chance to spot wildlife like seals, dolphins, and penguins. For the more adventurous, kayaking provides an up-close experience with the fjord’s water and wildlife. The Milford Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, offers an unforgettable hiking experience through stunning landscapes leading to the fjord. 

Insider’s Tip

Take an early morning cruise to experience the fjord in tranquil conditions.

When To Travel

Visit during the shoulder seasons (Spring and Autumn) for fewer crowds.

How To Get There

Milford Sound is accessible by road from Te Anau or via scenic flights from Queenstown.

2. Doubtful Sound, Fiordland National Park

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Steven J Taylor

Doubtful Sound, often called the ‘Sound of Silence,’ is the second-largest fjord in Fiordland National Park and less crowded than Milford Sound. Its remote location adds to its tranquil and untouched atmosphere. A cruise through Doubtful Sound provides breathtaking views of its deep waters and towering cliffs and the chance to encounter wildlife such as dolphins, seals, and rare Fiordland penguins. The fjord’s isolation makes it an ideal place for stargazing, with overnight cruises offering a unique opportunity to experience the sound under a blanket of stars. 

Insider’s Tip

Opt for an overnight cruise for a chance to see the fjord under the stars.

When To Travel

Summer offers the best weather, but the fjord is stunning year-round.

How To Get There

Doubtful Sound is typically accessed via a boat ride across Lake Manapouri, followed by a bus ride over Wilmot Pass.

3. Dusky Sound, Fiordland National Park

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Barnes Ian

Dusky Sound is one of Fiordland’s largest and most complex fjord systems, offering a true wilderness experience. It’s a place of historical significance, being one of the first areas in New Zealand visited by Captain Cook. The fjord’s intricate network of waterways, inlets, and islands can be explored by boat, providing opportunities to see an abundance of marine and bird life in their natural habitat. The remoteness of Dusky Sound makes it a perfect destination for those seeking solitude and a deep connection with nature. 

Insider’s Tip

Look out for historical landmarks from Captain Cook’s exploration.

When To Travel

The best time to visit is during the summer for favorable weather.

How To Get There

Access is primarily by boat or floatplane, as no roads lead to Dusky Sound.

4. Breaksea Sound, Fiordland National Park

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Ramunas Bruzas

Breaksea Sound is a hidden gem in Fiordland, offering breathtaking scenery and a sense of untouched wilderness. This fjord is less frequented by tourists, making it an ideal spot for those seeking a more intimate experience with nature. The steep cliffs and deep waters of Breaksea Sound are home to diverse marine life, and its surrounding rainforest is a haven for native bird species. Exploring this fjord by boat or kayak allows for a truly immersive experience in one of New Zealand’s most pristine environments. 

Insider’s Tip

Bring your camera for incredible wildlife photography opportunities.

When To Travel

Summer provides the best conditions for exploration.

How To Get There

Accessible by boat, with tours departing from Te Anau or Manapouri.

5. Preservation Inlet, Fiordland National Park

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Practika

Preservation Inlet, the southernmost fjord in Fiordland, is steeped in history and natural beauty. It’s known for its historic sites, including remnants of early European settlements and abandoned gold mines. The inlet’s calm waters and stunning landscapes make it a perfect destination for history buffs and nature enthusiasts alike. Boat tours comprehensively explore the inlet’s history and natural features, providing a unique insight into this remote part of New Zealand. 

Insider’s Tip

Visit the historic lighthouse on Puysegur Point.

When To Travel

The summer months are ideal for visiting.

How To Get There

Access is by boat, with tours available from southern Fiordland towns.

6. George Sound, Fiordland National Park

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George Sound is a remote and unspoiled fjord, perfect for adventurers seeking a rugged and authentic wilderness experience. Accessible via a challenging multi-day hike or by boat, this fjord offers stunning natural beauty and solitude. The fjord’s untouched landscapes and clear waters are ideal for kayaking, fishing, and hiking. For those willing to make the journey, George Sound rewards with its serene beauty and feeling completely disconnected from the outside world. 

Insider’s Tip

Be prepared for rugged terrain if you choose to hike.

When To Travel

Summer offers the most stable weather conditions for hiking and boating.

How To Get There

The track to George Sound starts from the Te Anau area, or you can access it by boat or helicopter.

7. Nancy Sound, Fiordland National Park

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Nancy Sound offers a tranquil escape in one of Fiordland’s lesser-known fjords. Its calm waters are perfect for kayaking, and the surrounding rainforest is rich in birdlife, making it an ideal spot for birdwatchers and nature lovers. The fjord’s isolation ensures a peaceful and unspoiled environment, perfect for those looking to escape the crowds and immerse themselves in nature. 

Insider’s Tip

Pack all necessary supplies, as there are no facilities in the area.

When To Travel

Visit in the summer for the best kayaking conditions.

How To Get There

Access is typically by boat, with limited services available.

8. Thompson Sound, Fiordland National Park

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Thompson Sound offers a serene and picturesque escape known for its dramatic landscapes and abundant wildlife. This less-visited fjord provides a more intimate experience of Fiordland’s natural beauty. Exploring the sound by boat allows for stunning views of its steep cliffs and deep waters and the chance to encounter the diverse wildlife that calls the fjord home. 

Insider’s Tip

Keep an eye out for fur seals and Fiordland crested penguins.

When To Travel

Summer is the best time for wildlife spotting and calm waters.

How To Get There

Accessible by boat, with tours typically departing from Te Anau.

9. Bradshaw Sound, Fiordland National Park

Image Credit: Shutterstock / kavram

Bradshaw Sound, a remote and pristine fjord, offers visitors a chance to experience untouched natural beauty. This fjord is ideal for those seeking solitude and a deep connection with the wilderness. Its cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and clear waters create a majestic setting for exploration by boat or kayak. The sound’s seclusion makes it a peaceful retreat for nature enthusiasts and those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. 

Insider’s Tip

Be prepared for changeable weather conditions, even in summer.

When To Travel

The warmer months offer more comfortable conditions for exploration.

How To Get There

Access is primarily by boat, with options for guided tours or independent travel.

10. Bligh Sound, Fiordland National Park

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Jon Chica

Bligh Sound is a dramatic and rugged fjord, offering a challenging but rewarding experience for experienced kayakers and adventurers. Its cliffs and deep waters create a striking landscape that is best explored by water. The fjord’s challenging terrain is matched by its breathtaking scenery and opportunities for wildlife encounters. Bligh Sound is an excellent choice for those looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure in Fiordland. 

Insider’s Tip

Experienced kayakers will find this fjord particularly rewarding, but be prepared for challenging conditions.

When To Travel

Summer offers the best conditions for kayaking and boating.

How To Get There

Accessible by boat, with options for guided tours departing from nearby towns.

11. Charles Sound, Fiordland National Park

Image Credit: Shutterstock / PTAP Aerial

Charles Sound is a hidden gem in Fiordland, offering tranquility and stunning natural beauty. This fjord is ideal for multi-day kayaking trips, allowing visitors to immerse themselves fully in its serene environment. The sound’s clear waters and lush rainforest provide a perfect backdrop for wildlife observation and photography. Charles Sound is an excellent choice for those seeking a peaceful kayaking experience away from the more popular fjords. 

Insider’s Tip

Plan a multi-day kayaking trip to fully experience the sound’s beauty.

When To Travel

Visit during the summer for the best weather and wildlife viewing opportunities.

How To Get There

Charles Sound is accessible by boat, with guided kayaking tours available.

12. Sutherland Sound, Fiordland National Park

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Piu_Piu

Sutherland Sound, one of Fiordland’s most remote fjords, offers an unparalleled wilderness experience. Its steep cliffs and cascading waterfalls create a dramatic and majestic landscape. The sound’s isolation makes it a haven for wildlife and a peaceful escape from the outside world. Exploring Sutherland Sound by boat allows for a truly immersive experience in one of New Zealand’s most pristine environments. 

Insider’s Tip

Bring binoculars for birdwatching and wildlife spotting.

When To Travel

Summer is the ideal time to visit for calmer seas and better weather.

How To Get There

Access is typically by chartered boat or helicopter, as no direct road links exist.

13. Crooked Arm, Fiordland National Park

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Milosz Maslanka

Crooked Arm in Fiordland National Park is a stunningly beautiful fjord, characterized by its serene waters and lush rainforests. This less-visited fjord offers a peaceful and unspoiled environment for kayaking and nature walks. Its secluded bays and inlets are perfect for wildlife observation and photography, making it an ideal destination for nature enthusiasts. 

Insider’s Tip

Look for hidden waterfalls and secluded beaches as you explore.

When To Travel

Visit in the summer months for the best kayaking and hiking conditions.

How To Get There

Crooked Arm is accessible by boat, with tours departing from Te Anau or Manapouri.

14. Wet Jacket Arm, Fiordland National Park

Image Credit: Shutterstock / wenjing wang1994

Wet Jacket Arm is a unique fjord with a rich history and diverse marine life. Its sheltered waters are ideal for fishing and kayaking, and the fjord’s historical sites, including old whaling stations, add an element of intrigue to its natural beauty. Exploring Wet Jacket Arm by boat provides a relaxing and enjoyable experience, with opportunities to learn about the region’s past and observe its abundant wildlife. 

Insider’s Tip

Explore the historical sites along the fjord to glimpse the region’s past.

When To Travel

The best time to visit is during the summer for favorable weather conditions.

How To Get There

Wet Jacket Arm is accessible by boat, with various tour options available.

15. Hall Arm, Fiordland National Park

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Piyavachara Nacchanandana

Hall Arm in Doubtful Sound is a tranquil retreat offering a quieter alternative to the bustling Milford Sound. Known for its dramatic cliffs and deep waters, it’s a haven for those seeking serenity in nature. Boat cruises here are a peaceful way to absorb the majestic scenery, with chances to spot local wildlife like dolphins and seals. Kayaking offers an even more intimate experience, allowing you to glide through the waters surrounded by towering cliffs. The fjord’s calm and isolation make it ideal for connecting with the outdoors.

Insider’s Tip

Take an overnight cruise to experience the fjord’s beauty in different lights.

When To Travel

Summer offers longer daylight hours and milder weather, ideal for exploring the fjord.

How To Get There

Access to Hall Arm is via a boat ride across Lake Manapouri and a bus ride over Wilmot Pass.

The Bottom Line

As you explore New Zealand’s fjords, you’ll be immersed in some of the most stunning landscapes on Earth. Each fjord offers unique beauty and adventure, from serene cruises to exhilarating kayaking. These natural wonders provide a visual feast and a deep connection with the pristine environment. Whether you’re witnessing the dramatic cliffs of Milford Sound or the secluded beauty of Dusky Sound, your journey through New Zealand’s fjords will leave you with memories of a lifetime.

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