IntroductionVisit some fascinating historic sites, and go walking or kayaking.
New Zealand’s fiords are found along this southwest coast of the South Island. Fiords are not simply a water feature or a land feature but are a special combination of both, where the sea partly fills steep-sided valleys once excavated by glaciers. Fiords are a majestic reminder of the powerful forces that sculpted our land around 20,000 years ago.
Fiords are named 'sounds'
Most of the fiords in New Zealand are named as ‘sounds’, for example Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and Tamatea/Dusky Sound. ‘Sound’ is a general, non-technical term which is used in various ways in different parts of the world for more-or-less narrow branches of the sea.
Find things to do and places to stay Southern fiords area
Requirements for taking a vessel into Fiordland Marine Area
The Fiordland Marine Pathway Plan protects the area from marine pests which can be carried in on boats. It sets out rules and standards that must be met by all vessels entering within one nautical mile of the landward boundary of the Fiordland Marine Area.
If you take a vessel into Fiordland from outside the area you must:
- apply for a Clean Vessel Pass, and
- ensure that hulls are clean of marine pest species.
The plan is an Environment Southland regulation. DOC has no authority below mean high tide except in marine reserves or concerning marine mammals – we do not enforce any fishing regulations.
Download a user’s guide to the Fiordland Marine Area - including maps, anchorages and fishing regulations.
Glaciers in Fiordland flowed out to meet the sea during the ice ages. Like all ‘fast-flowing’ mountain glaciers, as they ground their way downwards they excavated the land into steep-sided U-shaped valleys.
The ice was so thick that the bases of the larger glaciers were generally below the sea level in their lower reaches. After the climate had warmed again and the glaciers had retreated inland, the glacial valleys were flooded by a combination of meltwater and the rising sea. Today the fiords in Fiordland have a water depth of up to 440 m.
This area also contains hundreds of islands ranging in size from small rock stacks up to Resolution Island (20,860 ha).
The Southern fiords area is home to some important restoration projects. See Coal Island restoration.
Iwi travelled to Tamatea/Dusky Sound since before the 15th century, the area was mainly used as a seasonal hunting and fishing ground. Tamatea, the great Māori explorer from the north travelling aboard the waka Takitimu, named the broken land ‘Te Rua-o-te-moko’. This likened the deeply gouged coast with the art of moko or tattoo. Tamatea is now the name conferred on Dusky Sound.
Captain James Cook first sighted the fiord on his first voyage to New Zealand in 1770, naming it ‘Dusky Bay’. He returned in 1773 and spent six weeks exploring the area. Some of western science’s first records of New Zealand flora and fauna came from Cook’s sojourn in Tamatea/Dusky Sound, including weka, kereru, kākā and South Island robin.
Tamatea/Dusky Sound would collect a long line of ‘firsts’ for New Zealand, including:
- observatory (1773)
- brewed beer (1773)
- European settlement and European ship built (1792)
- European shipwreck (1795)
- European woman to visit (1793) and live (1795)
- nature reserve (Resolution Island, 1891), and c
- onservation ranger (Richard Henry, 1894).
- Astonomer's Point – the site of a temporary observatory set up during Captain Cook’s second voyage in 1773.
- Richard Henry's house site – Richard Henry was the caretaker of our first island wildlife sanctuary in the 19th century.
In the late 1890s, this location was home to over 2,500 gold miners and saw millers. It was also the location of one of New Zealand's most remote lighthouse settlements and New Zealand's first Whaling Station site.
- Tarawera Silver Mine and Smelter – a failed ore extraction venture.
|Te Rua-o-te-moko / Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre|
|Phone:||+64 3 249 7924|
|Fax:||+64 4 471 1117|
Fiordland National Park
Te Anau 9600
PO Box 29
Te Anau 9640
|Full office details|