Fiordland National Park - Queenstown
If you're feeling fit, try the 45-min hike off the main Milford Track, to the mighty Sutherland Falls, where you can get close enough to feel the thunder of the cascading water as it thrusts 580 metres from top to bottom.
New Zealand's largest national park, covering the South Island's southwestern corner. Waterfalls, fiords, ice-carved islands and mountain valleys characterise this magical monument to nature.
Fiordland National Park is known the world over for its stunning beauty and position at the 'end of the world'. Stretching from Big Bay in the north to Te Waewae Bay in the south, Fiordland was once part of the Gondwana super-continent, and still contains much of the same flora and fauna that was present at the birth of the natural world all those billions of years ago.
Fiordland is home to the famous Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound, Dusky Sound, Resolution Island and the Routeburn Tramping Track. Milford Sound lies at the end of the only main road that passes into this vast park, SH-94, the Milford Sound Highway. In the settlement, there is a good visitor centre, and the embarkation point for the popular glacier and lake cruises that explore the Sound in most weathers. You'll be gobsmacked by the sheer size of some of the cliffs that tower above the water as you sail by, as though you're on your way to some Greek underworld. The various caves and bluffs that litter the shores of the Sound are home to an incredible array of wildlife, from kakapo (the world's only flightless parrot), dolphins, seals and, further inland, the kiwi.
The main tourist centre for Fiordland National Park is the village of Te Anau, which sits on the shores of the lake of the same name, the South Island's largest lake. The settlement is located more or less in the centre of the eastern border of the park, and provides easy access to the cities of Invercargill and Queenstown. Te Anau also has ample accommodation facilities - hotels, motels, hostels and campsites - and many scenic flight operators are based nearby at the airstrip. Booking a flightseeing package or helicopter charter will be the only way for most visitors to experience the majority of what the park has to offer, including the otherwise hard-to-reach Doubtful Sound and the numerous peaks in the northern sector.
If you're feeling fit, try the 45-min hike off the main Milford Track, to the mighty Sutherland Falls, where you can get close enough to feel the thunder of the cascading water as it thrusts 580 metres from top to bottom. There are numerous other waterfalls along Milford Track, but this is the most spectacular. Other accessible highlights in the park include Lake Manapouri, with plenty of easier walks around its shores, and the Routeburn Track, which links Fiordland with Mount Aspiring National Park in the north.