A Fiordland Cruise promises to be a magical time, a vacation filled with arresting sights of rugged natural beauty, fantastic wildlife encounters, relaxation, and an abundance of active adventures to choose between. Located in the south west of New Zealand’s South Island, Fiordland is often said to be one of the most scenic places in the whole country. And, that’s no mean feat in a land that is famed for its natural wonders and picturesque views! Home to World Heritage Sites and glacial terrains, cruises to Fiordland let you appreciate nature at her finest from close quarters, really feeling an affinity with the earth and marvelling at Mother Nature’s handiwork.
Top things to do and see in Fiordland
A Fiordland cruise is filled with exciting things to see and do. With abundant treasures in both the Northern Fiordlands and the Southern Fiordlands, be inspired by these top things to enjoy on a Fiordland overnight cruise:
The Northern Fiordlands is awash with scenic sights that will leave you enraptured. Milford Sound is often a highlight, part of the stunning Fiordland National Park and Te Wahipounama World Heritage Site. Often said to be one of the best places on the planet to explore, you are sure to have an unforgettable time. The 15-km-long fiord boasts rising peaks and deep shimmering waters. Look for rocks that look remarkably like animal forms, such as a lion and elephant. There are two pristine waterfalls all throughout the year, Stirling Falls and Lady Bowen Falls, though in the rainy months there are many more smaller and temporary falls tumbling down the jagged rocks.
Nancy and Charles Sound is another splendid vision, with great shore excursions, whilst Caswell Sound is a top spot for fishing. Keep your eyes open for local deer, the population having grown from 18 deer released into the wild during scientific and breeding programs. George Sound is known for its beautiful Alice Falls and is a terrific place for adventurous hiking and sweeping views. Soak in blissful hot springs and cast your gaze skywards at night to admire the plethora of twinkling stars. The steep edges surrounding Bligh Sound are sure to make you feel tiny, and you can leave your Fiordland small ship cruise to stretch your legs and explore the wilderness.
Follow in the wake of Captain Cook on your New Zealand cruise and sail through the glorious Dusky Sound, an area that boasts a long history as well as marvellous scenery. Visit Shag Island and Luncheon Cove, previously home to a historic European settlement and seal hunters. The small Breaksea Sound makes up for its size with its awesome beauty and Dagg Sound is a top spot for seeing whales and the mighty albatross in a natural setting.
The huge Doubtful Sound is one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist destinations, with many people eager to take Fiordland boat cruises through this fairytale-like wonderland. The mountains and clouds cast their reflections on the two-level waters, bottlenose dolphins live in the area, and you may spot other diverse water and land-dwelling creatures too.
Waterfalls - There are permanent year-round waterfalls throughout both the Northern and Southern Fiordlands, each one offering something different. There’s something really soothing and magical about watching clear water flowing over rocks to meet the waters below. Some thunder, some tinkle, but all impress.
Kayaking - Explore hidden spots and feel free as you kayak through the shimmering waters. Kayaking also lets you get even closer to wildlife and land masses than may otherwise be possible onboard your adventure cruises in New Zealand’s Fiordlands.
Stargazing - Spend clear and cloud-free evenings being enchanted by the abundance of stars that shine through the dark unpolluted skies. Whether you’re a keen astronomer or a curious beginner, making out different constellations is sure to delight.
Hot Springs - Soothe your aching muscles after long and exciting hikes with a soak in some of the area’s natural hot springs. A great way to ease any stresses and strains, feel all tensions simply melting away as you relax, enjoy the warm waters, and soak up the beauty all around.
Hiking the Milford Track - The Milford Track is a favourite excursion from Fiordland boat cruises. Often given the accolade as the finest walk in the world, it is an unbeatable experience in every way. Follow in the footsteps of early explorers, be in awe of mighty waterfalls, discover ancient rainforests, and marvel at deep glacier-formed valleys. Highlights include the emerald-coloured Clinton River, the arresting views from Mackinnen Pass, and the high Sutherland Falls.
Wildlife Encounters - Fiordland boat cruises expose you to an interesting array of local creatures. Dry land, the water, and the skies are all filled with life. Some of the local wildlife is native to this part of the world and some of the creatures are threatened. Keen ornithologists can look out for wood pigeons, bellbirds, warblers, fantails, tits, and brown creepers. Three species of the native kiwi live in the area, and the cheeky weka, often mistaken for a kiwi, may steal belongings if you’re not careful! The kakapo, hawk, and mountain owl are also great spots. If you see a takahe you really are lucky! Water birds include abundant penguins, including the little blue penguin, ducks, gulls, and oystercatchers.There are plenty of insects and butterflies too.
Numerous fish and corals live below the water’s surface. Dolphins and fur seals are amongst the larger animals you may see swimming through the clear waters.
Top Tips for visiting the Fiordland on a cruise
- A telescope can really enhance your stargazing experience.
- Have dry clothes to hand after kayaking.
- Make sure your camera batteries are fully charged at all times; you definitely don’t want to miss snapping pictures of hotspots like Milford Sound or Dusky Sound.
- Pack sturdy and broken-in hiking boots / shoes plus appropriate thick socks if you plan to make the most of the area’s awesome hiking opportunities. Walking poles can be valuable on more challenging hiking stretches.
- Don’t forget your bathing suit!
Best time to cruise the Fiordland
The beautiful Fiordland in New Zealand is a magical place to visit at any time of the year. The seasons and the weather have a huge impact on the area though, so you can expect a completely different experience at varying times of the year. The dry summer months offer the optimum hiking conditions, with the landscapes covered with colourful flowers. This is the busiest time for tourism in the Fiordlands.
A Fiordland cruise in winter (May to September), however, is ideal for experiencing tranquil solitude in the wilderness. Snow caps the mountains and lies in the valleys. The best time to take a Fiordland cruise for wildlife spotting is in the autumn, with penguins, seals, and other creatures becoming more and more active, and spring is ideal for seeing the cascading waterfalls at their fullest and lambs frolicking in the fields. Plan ahead and get your cruise to the Fiordlands booked.
Where do Fiordland cruises depart from?
New Zealand adventure cruises incorporating the Fiordlands typically depart from Te Anau or Queenstown. Te Anau is served by Manapouri Airport (TEU), and Queenstown has its own airport too (ZQN), located in Frankton. The cruise departure points are easy to access from each airport.
Queenstown Airport welcomes many international flights, but you will need to transfer by air from Queenstown or another domestic airport to reach Te Anau. Regular flights also connect Queenstown and Te Anau to New Zealand’s two main airports, Auckland Airport (AKL) and Christchurch International Airport (CHC). These are the main points of entry for visitors to New Zealand.
Book your next adventure cruise to the Fiordlands, New Zealand today. Contact our reservations team.