One of the best ways to experience the magnificence of the fiords is on one of the various boat cruises offered through operators in the region.
It's time to don your Captain’s hat and rule the crystal-clear waters of Southland. With a coastline that stretches 3,400 kilometres, the deepest lakes in the country and some of the best scenic seascapes in New Zealand, travelling by air, land or sea to see the beautiful coastline should be on everyone's bucket lists. If cruising, canapes and a glass of bubbly is more to your taste, hop on board Fiordland Historic Cruises and sail across Lake Te Anau on a ship with real history, surrounded by New Zealand’s natural beauty. For something more adventurous, a guided Catlins ATV trip can show you everything from golden sandy beaches with sea lions and penguins to rolling farmland dotted with sheep.
Start your day off right by experiencing the most popular Fiord — Piopiotahi Milford Sound. A picturesque helicopter flight will not only take you over the spectacular Southern Alps before descending through glacier-carved valleys to settle in Milford Sound, but it will also include an epic landing of the pilot's choice along the way. Cruise through the sound to the mouth of Milford Sound and the Tasman Sea. View the wildlife while cruising and learn about the local environment by listening to the knowledgeable commentary. Once back on dry land, you will continue your journey via flying over the tops of beech forests and mountain peaks along the major divide of the Fiordland highlands. Finally, a vista of Lake Manapouri is provided as a spectacular finish as you land at Manapouri airport, enjoy the complimentary transfer from Manapouri back to Te Anau.
Wind down for the day on a cruise across Lake Te Anau with either Cruise Te Anau or Fiordland Historic Cruises aboard the Faith - a 19.7-metre-long wooden motor-sailer, which was built in 1935 in Scotland. Having sailed all over the world, she now calls Lake Te Anau and Fiordland National Park her home. Be treated to personal commentary while enjoying both canapes and refreshments as you glide across the water!
Relax for the night in your choice of Fiordland accommodation. Te Anau has everything from charming camping sites right in the heart of town to luxurious lodges that highlight New Zealand's secluded and breath-taking scenery.
Enjoy breakfast in Te Anau before taking the drive along the Southern Scenic Route past Tuatapere before stopping at McCracken’s Rest. From here you can stand at the lookout and view across Te Wae Wae Bay and see the Solander Islands. Other notable features you can spot are Sand Hill Point, the Hump Ridge Track, Pahia Point and Stewart Island. You may even spot a pod of Hector’s Dolphins! Do not forget to take a photo with the iconic signpost!
If you are up for some surf, Western Southland has some prime spots! Check out ‘Porridge’ which ranks as one of New Zealand’s top surfing spots!
Keep heading around the coast taking in the picturesque sights until you have reached Riverton. With a range of dining options, you can choose from a casual lunch of fish and chips, or pizza and dine on the beach, or head to one of the local restaurants. Try the Aparima Restaurant and Bar – their seafood chowder is a must-try! Otherwise, there is the Beachhouse Restaurant which serves a variety of delicious seafood amongst other classic favourites.
Continue along the Southern Scenic Route towards The Catlins. If you want to take a break along the route, you may stop at the Fortrose Cafe and enjoy a coffee with a sea view before continuing on your journey.
After a day full of discovering Southland and Fiordland, treat yourself to a little luxury by staying at some of the many secluded accommodation options scattered along the coast. Catlins Mohua Park Eco Accommodation offers a little luxury in each of their four eco-cottages with panoramic views of rolling farmland and native bush, it is the perfect farm stay experience. The ambience of the cottages is rustic charm and if you opt for the Bed and Breakfast option (which we highly recommend!) you will be treated to fresh produce straight from the garden. If you prefer something with a view of the ocean, pick one of the many boutique accommodations scattered along the shore of Curio Bay.
Where else can you witness thundering waterfalls, ATV through farmlands, journey among breath-taking beaches, wander through lush native forests, and visit 200m long caves – all in one day? The Catlins of course!
Starting at Mohua Park, depart for the Catlins Coastal ATV experience. See the thundering waterfalls of Pūrākaunui and Matai Falls, the beautiful golden sandy beaches and native wildlife such as sea lions and native birds. Drive from Mohua Park to a private farming property on the Catlins Coast. You'll be pass-through sheep and cattle grazing in these paddocks as you ride through gorgeous coastal farmland. Driving over the cliff tops, spectacular coastal vistas, rolling countryside, and making our way down the wide-open areas of the beach, your local guide will point out landmarks and places of interest and agricultural techniques. Finish off the tour by riding the ATV down the beach with spectacular windswept trees, sea birds, and excellent photo opportunities.