Lakes & Sounds

Lakes and Sounds in Fiordland
Adventure Walks
Lakes and Sounds in Fiordland

Fiordland’s iconic high-sided valleys, fiords, and lakes were gouged by glaciers between 75,000 and 15,000 years ago.

The region is deeply indented by 14 fiords spanning 215km of coastline. Typically called “Sounds” (even though geologically this is incorrect), from north to south the fiords are: Milford, Sutherland, Bligh, George, Caswell, Charles, Nancy, Thompson, Doubtful, Dagg, Breaksea and Dusky. Of these, Milford Sound is the most famous and the only one accessible by road. The much bigger Doubtful Sound is also a tourist destination, but requires a boat trip over Lake Manapōuri and bus transfer over Wilmot Pass. Dusky Sound, the largest, was home to the English explorer James Cook and his crew for six and a half weeks in 1773, and is accessible via the Ducky Track. George Sound is the only other fiord accessible via inland means; with a challenging tramping route from Lake Te Anau.

The large lakes in the western part of Southland are effectively freshwater fiords. Two of these, Lake Te Anau (New Zealand’s second largest lake) and Lake Manapōuri, are popular tourist attractions and natural playgrounds.