Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
After a night of pretty rough seas as we rounded the bottom of New Zealand, we came to Fiordland National Park on the morning of February 7 (Rick’s sister’s birthday . . . Happy Birthday Barbara!). Established in 1952, Fiordland National Park (yes, they spell it with an i instead of a j here) covers almost 3 million acres of southwestern New Zealand. The Maori hunted here and gathered greenstone from the rivers, but apparently didn’t actually live here. European whalers landed here & even built some small settlements, but the forbidding environment has effectively deterred human development.
Fiordland’s coast is mostly a series of what the New Zealanders call “Sounds,” but are really fjords: very deep inlets with steep walls formed by glacial activity. We spent the day cruising three of the sounds; no landings but a whole lot of stunning scenery.
Dusky Sound was the first we came to after turning the corner to go north along the west coast. of New Zealand. Because of its location, far from any towns, this sound is not visited by many. I don’t really know anything to say about it so here are some pictures. It was cloudy & gray in the early morning & we spent about an hour in Dusky Sound.
Dusky Sound has an exit through what looks to be Breaksea Sound on a map. After exiting Dusky Sound we sailed to Doubtful Sound, further up the west coast. By the time we got there the sky had cleared a lot, so the vista was much broader. We spent about an hour in this sound as well, then exited through what the map indicates is Thompson Sound. Doubtful Sound also gets relatively few visitors, but we had another cruise ship, the Norwegian Jewel, ahead of us the whole time.
Finally we came to Milford Sound. This one is more accessible & receives many more visitors than the others. It is shorter than the others & has no exit so we had to turn around to sail out again. But it is also probably the most beautiful, with higher peaks shooting up straight out of the water. You can see below that the skies were now mostly clear & the sun was out. We saw several fine waterfalls, but we were told that if it had been raining for a few days there would have been many more.
At the end of Milford Sound is a hotel, in a perfect setting on the water with a large waterfall on one side & a mountain with a glacier behind it. We saw a few planes & helicopters landing there. We were told that some folks hike to this spot, which takes several days along a well established walking track. A road has been built through the wilderness as well & we saw a bus at the hotel.
As I mentioned before, the ship had to turn around to sail back out of the Sound. When it did so, there was a huge wind on the front of the ship. Too much to take, so we made our way to the aft pool, where we could watch the Sound recede as we sailed out in relative comfort.
And so we left beautiful Milford Sound & headed out into the Tasman Sea toward Australia. This was a pretty spectacular finale to our stay in New Zealand.