Best Sounds in New Zealand
New Zealand’s sounds are one of the country’s biggest draws. The landscapes here are a photographer’s dream; think moody, dramatic and rain-drenched granite, toothy cliffs draped with fast-flowing waterfalls and a mist that rarely lifts. And that’s just Milford Sound. You’re spoilt for choice here, with four sounds that are ultra-famous. That said, take a cruise through any of them, and you’ll feel like you’ve dropped off the face of the earth. In a good way. From snow-capped mountains to vibrant forests, mirror waters and some of New Zealand’s best wildlife, you could get through numerous memory cards.
The best way to experience the full magnificence of the sounds is by cruise. Flight Centre has a range of cruises to suit every itinerary and every sound, so have a chat to your Travel Expert and we'll find the right one for you. Here we look at the best sounds in New Zealand.
A Milford Sound cruise or tramping the legendary Milford Track – known as New Zealand’s finest walk – is the highlight of a tour through the Fiordland National Park, in the South Island. Leading out to the Tasman Sea, this fiord is a place where wildlife really thrives – think penguins, fur seals and dolphins aplenty.
From the deck of your catamaran you’ll pass alongside plunging waterfalls that jet from sheer cliff faces and the turret-like peaks covered with rich green vegetation. Even the waters of Milford Sound are unique, as a layer of about 10 metres of freshwater sits on top of the salty seawater beneath. In fact, visit the Milford Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory and glimpse some of the rare black coral under the surface.
Your trip will travel through the glacier-carved Eglinton Valley, taking in the panoramic forest views, to the Mirror Lakes. On a calm day the mountains here – in particularly the iconic Mitre Peak – reflect perfectly in the calm waters, making for a great photo opportunity. The soaring peaks and dark watery lakes of the Fiordland are the result of Ice Age glaciers, which slowly sculpted the region into what Rudyard Kipling called ‘the eighth wonder of the world’.
For an extra-special experience, be sure to stop at Lake Te Anau – the gateway to Milford Sound and one of Flight Centre's favourite spots to see glow worms. Take a small-boat tour into an underground world that flows deep inside the limestone passages of the Te Anau Caves, until you reach the hidden grotto in which thousands of glittering glow worms have made their home.
Departing from Lake Manapouri, Doubtful Sound is a little trickier to access than Milford – but we guarantee the extra effort will be rewarded. Vast, remote and achingly beautiful this imposing fiord is the hidden gem of the Fiordland National Park.
On a two-day Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise you’ll take in the sheer majesty of it all. Drop anchor in a sheltered cove where you’ll have the chance to paddle the shoreline in a kayak, relax on the deck or even take a swim if you’re feeling brave. That evening you’ll dine on a delicious buffet dinner with the chance to enjoy fine wines from the bar. Then, if it’s a clear night, do a little star gazing from the upper deck and savour the serenity of the glorious surroundings.
Of course every trip is different, but due to its blissful isolation, it’s not uncommon to see dolphins, fur seals and the elusive Fiordland crested penguin amid the rugged peaks, lush rainforest and secluded inlets of this breathtaking sound.
Be sure to take a trip over Wilmot Pass – overlooking Doubtful Sound and known for being New Zealand’s most expensive road, not to mention one of its most mesmerising.
One of the largest of the 14 sounds in Fiordland National Park, Dusky Sound is full to the brim with spectacular landscapes. You can spend days on a Dusky Sound cruise, discovering dozens of islands and inlets and keeping your eyes peeled for seals, dolphins and even southern right or humpback whales. If you’re really lucky, you might even glimpse some baleen whales gliding through Dusky’s tranquil waters.
There is no land access to Dusky Sound, so the easiest way to see it and its natural beauty is on a cruising tour of New Zealand’s South Island – or even a cruise that takes in both islands. As soon as you float in, it’ll be hard to miss the uninhabited Resolution Island – so named after Captain Cook’s ship which landed here in 1773. You’ll also have the chance to spot rare birds like the tieke (saddleback) and kakapo (night parrot) off Anchor Island, and be able to admire the sound’s abundant cascading waterfalls and hidden rivers up close.
The Marlborough Sounds – located to the north of New Zealand’s South Island – are made up of four fiords which comprise a fifth of the country’s coastline. Queen Charlotte, Pelorus, Mahau and Kenepuru: each one is distinctly different, but together promise boating, fishing, wildlife watching and diving at their very best.
Marlborough Sounds cruises depart from the seaside towns of Havelock and Picton. You can float through the meandering waterways in search of dolphins, seals and orcas, stop off at one of the luxury lodges – only accessible by water or air – or sample some of the best local seafood sourced here, including New Zealand’s legendary green lipped mussels. In fact, 75% of the country’s farmed salmon is caught here, and a fresh fillet is the perfect accompaniment to a glass of award-winning Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.
And as this is one of the sunniest and driest regions in New Zealand, getting out on the water in a kayak, or pulling on your hiking boots and tramping the Queen Charlotte Track, are also great ways to make the most of the Marlborough Sounds.