Fiordland and the Southern Alps: Natural New Zealand
New Zealand’s Southern Alps form a snow-capped spine the length of the South Island, finally meeting with the grand fiords of Fiordland National Park. There, at the island’s southwestern tip, lies a spectacular mix of snow-capped peaks, sheer granite rock-faces and crashing surf. The towering Alps loom over some of the world’s most pristine ski slopes and walking trails, while blue-black fiords are home to curious dolphins and rare black coral. Grab your walking poles, your paddle and most definitely your camera, and get back to nature.
Scenic journeys through Fiordland and the Southern Alps
Considered one of the world’s finest walks, the Milford Track snakes through Fiordland’s most dramatic scenery. Traipse beneath moss-draped trees into the cool damp of the glacier-scoured Clinton and Arthur valleys before the track finally opens out onto the shores of Milford Sound.
Not far from here you can walk the Routeburn Track,traversing the mountains from Fiordland to Mount Aspiring National Park. Or give your quads a workout and tackle the 60km Kepler Track, a circuit passing over tussock-covered alpine tops from one massive Fiordland lake to another.
Give your poor feet a break and ride the TranzAlpine, one of the world’s great train journeys.The trip departs Christchurch for a day-long stunner of an expedition through the heart of the Alps to Greymouth – and back again. Lavender-grey peaks, thick beech forests and cavernous gorges are revealed through your carriage window.
Or turn your windshield into a 3D cinema screen on the Milford Road,skirting the edge of Fiordland National Park. The scenic road twists past sprawling Lake Te Anau and towering waterfalls then through the hand-hewn Homer Tunnel, en route to Milford Sound.
Family holidays in Fiordland and the Southern Alps
Frolicking dolphins and cuddly fur seals draw families to the inky inlets of Fiordland. Board a cruise to explore the splendour of New Zealand’s most famous fiord, Milford Sound. Or cross Lake Manapouri then Wilmot Pass to reach remote Doubtful Sound.
Independent boating more your thing? Kayak with the kids for encounters with fur seals at rest on the fiords’ rocky islets. A world of exotic marine life teems underwater. See towering coral trees and other-worldly fish beneath the surface at the Milford Deep Underwater Observatory.
Placid Lake Te Anau is framed by forest-lined shores, pushing its watery fingers into narrow mountain valleys. Explore the hidden coves and snap gossamer waterfalls on cruises from Te Anau township.
Step ashore to spelunk the mysterious Te Anau Glowworm Caves. More than 200m of multi-tiered underground tunnels lie coated with sparkling, waterborne crystals. Take the underwater float trip into Glowworm Grotto, lit by thousands of tiny glowing worms.
Winter breaks in the Southern Alps
Carve up the snowy slopes of the Southern Alps, home of New Zealand’s most popular ski resorts. Near Queenstown, The Remarkables and Coronet Peak stand striped with chairlift lines, groomed ski runs and snowboard pipes.
Novice snow bunny or adrenaline junkie? No worries, you’ll find the right white stuff for you. Winter falls dump fresh powder snow over the trails, chutes, bowls and drop-offs at Treble Cone and Cardrona, near Wanaka. If you favour flatter terrain, cross-country muscle-toning at Waiorau Snow Farm will suit you down to the (snowy) ground.
To the other extreme: load your gear into a chopper for a heli-skiing adventure on the Tasman Glacier. Make your own fresh tracks over this pristine, 27km snowfield, past sparkling icefalls and cool snow caves carved by drifting snow and howling winds. Wherever you ski, indulge in après ski Kiwi-style, sipping a fruity, local pinot before a crackling open fire.