Fiords are some of the most stunning natural landscapes on the planet and they are only found in a few locations around the world. Stunning fiords can be found in southern Chile, in Greenland, in New Zealand, in Alaska, and of course, in Norway. Fiords are mountain valleys that have been carved by glaciers that have since melted and flooded by the sea.

New Zealand has two accessible and developed fiords (Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound) plus the Malborough Sounds at the northern end of the island. These fiords are in Fiordland National Park - with is famous for its world-famous fiords that slice into its coastline. The entire park is mountainous and forested and it boasts three of New Zealand's 10 Great Walks.


Milford Sound is the most famous fiord in New Zealand and is often ranked as the top thing to do in New Zealand. It is in the heart of Fiordland National Park - one of the world's largest national parks and is accessible by road - the drive itself is one of the natural wonders of the world.

One can hike there on the world-famous Milford Track, but this is the only trail in New Zealand to be regulated with only a set number of people permitted to hike the track at any one time - it can be booked out many months in advance.

At Milford Sound, one can take a scenic flight as there is an aerodrome there and one can hire kayaks and go out and explore the stunning fiord.

But the main activity is the cruises (and keep one's eyes peeled for seals, penguins, and dolphins). There are a number of cruises operating here with the largest and most famous being Realjourneys.

Day Trip:

Some of their deals offer free bus trips from Te Anua or Queenstown. Most people come for the day from the gateway town Te Anau.

Duration & Cost:

  • From Te Anua: Total 7 Hours
  • Cost: From $89 NZD
  • From Queenstown: Total 12 Hours
  • Cost: From $139 NZD

Overnight Cruise:

But Milford Sound is so stunning, it really is worth staying overnight. Real journeys also over overnight cruises on Milford Sound.

"Spend the night aboard the iconic Fiordland Navigator and wake up to dawn in one of the most beautiful places on earth. The cruise style is relaxed, allowing plenty of time to view the fiord’s spectacular waterfalls, rainforest, mountains, and wildlife."

- Real Journeys

Overnight Cruises Includes:

  • Meals: 3 Course Buffet Dinner and Cooked Breakfast
  • Accommodation: Private Cabins With Ensuite Bathrooms or Quad Share Bunk-Style Compartments
  • Option: Explore The Shoreline by Kayak

Related: New Zealand Vs Norwegian Fjords: Which Is Better, And How To Visit

Doubtful Sound - The Remote Fiord

Doubtful Sound is the more remote fiord. It is less dramatic than Milford Sound but just as beautiful in another way. To get to it you need to take a cruise across the mesmerizing Lake Manapouri. Lake Manapouri is one of New Zealand's largest and most pristine lakes. The lake fills the forested mountain valleys and its many arms split off down the valleys. It's studded with islands and beaches.

Once on the other side, you hop on a bus that goes through a tunnel in the mountain and you will arrive at Doubtful Sound. There is also the option of taking an overnight cruise here.

  • Doubtful Sound: Normally A Day Trip, Can Be Overnight
  • Doubtful Sound Cruise Cost: $199 NZD - $140 USD
  • Overnight Doubtful Sound Cruise: $699 NZD - $490 USD

Real Journeys also offers cruises of Doubtful Sound is and it really is recommended to stay the night in Doubtful Sound. Go to sleep to the sound of waves gently lapping against the hull of the boat. Doubtful Sound is less touristic and offers more relaxation than the scores of Instagrammers thronging Milford Sound.

Related: Visit Fiordland: New Zealand's Largest National Park That's Home To Many Wonders

Marlborough Sounds

The Marlborough Sounds are actually sounds and not fiords, but they are also eye-watering beautiful, and very different from that of the fiords in Fiordland National Park. They are an extensive network of sea-drowned valleys created by a combination of land subsidence and rising sea levels.

The region is punctuated with many sounds, islands, and peninsulas. The main sounds are:

  • Queen Charlotte Sound: Where The Interislander Ferries Run
  • Tory Channel: A Major arm of Queen Charlotte Sound
  • Pelorus Sound
  • Kenepuru Sound

New Zealand's stunning Marlborough Sounds are in the northern extremity of the South Island. These were the explorer Captain James Cook's (whose Star Trek's Captain James T Kirk character is based on) favorite destination in the world. He repeatedly visited these sounds.

If one is planning to take the ferry from the North Island to the South Island, one will get a taste of these spectacular fiords and perhaps that will whet one's appetite to explore them thoroughly.

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