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About Fiordland

Fiordland National Park

‘A cherished corner of the world where mountains and valleys

compete with each other for room, where scale is almost

beyond comprehension, rainfall is measured in metres and

scenery encompasses the broadest width of emotions’ This is

how the author of the book “Mountains of Water - The Story

of Fiordland National Park” described this stunning National

Park. The largest National Park in New Zealand, covering over

1.2 million hectares, Fiordland National Park is administered

by the Department of Conservation (DOC). A 500 kilometre

network of walking tracks and over 60 huts allows the public

to explore the primeval world of mountain peaks, alpine

lakes and moss-carpeted valleys. DOC also runs endangered

species programmes and conservation projects in Fiordland.

Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area

The extraordinary beauty of Fiordland was recognised by the

United Nations in 1986 when it was made a World Heritage

Area. The Fiordland National Park was described as having

‘superlative natural phenomena’ and ‘outstanding examples of

the earth’s evolutionary history’. In 1990 the Te Wahipounamu

World Heritage Area was extended to include Fiordland,

Westland and Mt Cook National Parks. It now covers 10

percent of New Zealand’s land mass.

Sounds or Fiords

Fiordland’s west coast is deeply indented by 14 fiords

spanning 215 kilometres of coastline. The steep mountains

rise up from the ocean making for a spectacular sight. Early

Europeans exploring the southern coastline bestowed the

names of Sounds onto these dramatic valleys, however

a true ‘sound’ is a river valley that has been flooded due

to the land sinking below sea level. Fiords are created by

glacial action that produces u-shaped valleys with steep

cliffs. The mistake can be understood when you realise

that many of these early sailors were of English and Welsh

extraction and were not familiar with fiords. The mistake

survives in the names of the famous Sounds, but the region

was renamed Fiordland to recognise the true nature of

these rugged inlets.

Routeburn Track, Fiordland