Milford Sound is New Zealand’s number one tourist attraction and has consistently ranked as one of the world’s top tourist attractions. With some of the world’s greatest scenery and completely untouched landscape, it is easy to see why. The entire state of Fiordland is a national park, meaning that for the entire drive, once leaving Southland, you will not see any towns or houses along the drive. This adds to the beauty of the entire region, how natural and untouched it all really is. The only buildings that you will come across are actually in the sound itself, which include the ferry station, underwater research center, airport and staff living quarters. As far as cruises go, I would recommend using Cruise Milford, as their tours only cost $90 and include lunch. We paid an additional cost to include the underwater research center which is definitely worth the cost. If you would like to see a rare breed of coral (called black coral, despite seeming white), that normally grows in the deep see, but is tricked into growing in Milford Sound due to sediment runoff, then definitely pay the additional fee. Make sure to stop often along the drive to the sound, as there are countless photo spots and small sights worth seeing. Watch out for Kia along the journey, they are a highly intelligent mountain parrot, only found in New Zealand and are also part of the unique experience.
The Keplar track is located just outside of Te Anau, near the border of Southland and Fiordland. The track begins in Southland and trails right into Fiordland, taking roughly four days to complete. There are three cabins located on the trail, one in the mountains, one in a secluded, forested valley and one on the Lake Manapouri waterfront. On this trail, hikers will experience a wide range of different scenery. This ranges from mountainous tundra to lush fern forests, to lakeside beaches, to mountainous hardwood forests. The track includes stunning views of the surrounding valleys and mountains. When staying in the huts, you will meet a variety of interesting people from around the world who have come to New Zealand to enjoy the country’s stunning scenery and challenging hikes. While in the huts, I encourage you to interact with the hut wardens and forest rangers as they normally have fantastic stories or very eccentric personalities. The warden we had in our first hut was a middle-aged man with an impressive beard, who wore green spandex tights and crocs and kept a taxidermied stoat in his pocket. Our ranger at the second hut had some fantastic stories regarding hikers she witnessed, including a Chinese businessman who completed the entire hike using a travel luggage suitcase. Also, two men from Italy who wore singlets/tanktops and flip flops/thongs and carried their gear in plastic shopping bags the entire hike, packing mostly beer and jerky. Another hiker apparently didn’t realise that the hut water, along with rivers in the national park were safe to drink from and so carried around 10L of water through the mountains. We had fantastic weather on our hike, apart from the second day, during which we had to traverse the mountains during a snow storm. So, if you plan to complete this hike during the winter or autumn, make sure to pack warm clothes to account for possible bad weather, even if it seems mostly sunny.