About Fiordland

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Fiordland National Park

At over 1.2 million hectares, Fiordland National Park is not only New Zealand’s largest national park, but one of the biggest in the world. Established in 1952, the park covers vast and remote wilderness, and is home to some of the best hiking in New Zealand.

Fiordland National Park Weather

Fiordland is a World Heritage area, and is subjected to very high annual rainfall due to the prevailing westerly weather pattern, a characteristic of the west coast of the South Island. Milford Sound received an annual average of 6715 mm annually over the period 1981-2010, spread over 182 days of rain per year. Temperatures are mild, at least at low altitude: at Milford Sound, over the same period, mean maximum temperature was 14.6C, against mean minimum temperature of 6.1C in winter (July).

A solid foundation formed over thousands of years

The underlying rock of the park is mostly granite, gneiss and diorite. These igneous rocks are among the oldest in New Zealand (mostly Ordovician), and are among the hardest and most resistant to erosion, helping them remain almost unchanged since the last ice age, when an ice cap was covering the mountain areas of Fiordland.

The glacier tongues that flowed from it gouged the 14 fiords that fringe the southwest seaward edge of Fiordland National Park. Shaped like massive knife cuts into the land, these fiords were carved during successive ice ages and were 100,000 years in the making. The final details added during the most recent ice age just 10,000 years ago.

On all sides of the fiords, spectacular waterfalls tumble as the region's plentiful rainfall finds its way to the sea. The most famous of these, Milford Sound is visited by over 300,000 tourists annually.

From the top of the mountain to the bottom of the lake

Altitudes reach their highest in the park’s north at the 2746m peak of Mt Tūtoko, within the Darran Mountain range.

The glacial action also created the great lakes of Te Anau, Manapouri, Hauroko, Monowai, Poteriteri, and Hakapoua. These lakes match the fiords symmetrically on the eastern and southern margins of the park, the result being a combination of deep valleys, sheer rock faces sometimes over 1500m high, and extremely steep slopes. Both the fiords and the lakes are over 400m deep in places and the bottom of the lakes is well below sea level.

The remaining two thirds of Fiordland National Park is a primeval world of mountain peaks covered by virgin beech and podocarp forest, alpine lakes and moss-carpeted valleys, and it has remained wild and largely untouched.

Untouched for millions of years nature is allowed to thrive

The park’s rich and varied habitats have allowed a diverse range of flora and fauna to thrive, with over 700 unique plant species that can only be found here.

Fiordland is home to some of the strangest birds in of New Zealand, with the only wild population of Takahē in the world setting in the park. A large flightless bird, the Takahē was thought to be extinct, until rediscovered in 1948. Fiordland is also the only South Island habitat of the endangered Brown Teal and was also the final refuge of the world’s only flightless parrot, the nocturnal Kākāpo. A recovery project for these unique birds is now under way on a number of pest free offshore islands.

Fiordland remains a stronghold for several other endangered species such as the Brown Kiwi, South Island Kaka, Yellow Crowned Parakeet, Weka, New Zealand Falcon, Mohua or Yellowhead, and the threatened Blue Duck. More common forest birds are well represented and include Grey Warbler, Silver Eye, South Island Tomtit, South Island Rifleman, South Island Fantail, Brown Creeper, Bellbird, Tūī and native wood pigeon Kererū. Keas and Rock Wrens are found above the bush line, although flocks of young Keas are often seen in the Homer Tunnel area. Fiordland's many waterways provide habitat for many aquatic bird species, including Paradise Shelducks, New Zealand Scaup, Grey Duck, and New Zealand Shoveler.

The fiords provide habitat for a variety of seabirds, including Shags, Broad-Billed Prions and Mottled Petrels, Gulls, Oyster Catchers, and Penguins. Albatross rarely enter the fiords, but can be seen off the coast, where there is a major colony of Southern Buller's Mollymawks. Sooty Shearwaters migrate in their millions from the North Pacific to Fiordland to breed. The Fiordland Crested Penguin - one of the world's rarest species of Penguin, and the Blue Penguin - the world's smallest Penguin, are both found in Fiordland.

Marine mammals are found extensively in Fiordland with pods of Bottlenose and Dusky Dolphins found in the fiords and Common and Hector's Dolphins mostly outside the fiords. Humpback, Sperm and Southern Right Whale have been sighted off the coast, as well as Orca. New Zealand Fur Seals are by far the most common seal species in Fiordland but Southern Sea Elephants come ashore occasionally, as do Leopard Seals. Hooker's Sea Lions are re-establishing themselves on mainland New Zealand, albeit in small numbers.