New Zealand: Fiordland Park

Fiordland is a glimpse of the world the way it once was: pure, unspoiled and full of wonder.
By: Amy Marathe

In the southwest corner of New Zealand sits one of the last great wildernesses left on the planet. Fiordland National Park is a landscape of exceptional beauty, almost untouched by development but shaped by powerful and raw forces of nature. It is a place to escape city life and enter a land of primeval forests, rugged mountain peaks and calm blue waters. In an age of traffic jams, crowds and concrete, Fiordland is a glimpse of the world the way it once was, pure, unspoiled and full of wonder.

Fun Facts, Tips and Places to Visit in Fiordland

- Fiordland was recognized by the United Nations in 1986, when it was made a World Heritage area. The designation put Fiordland in the same company as the Great Pyramids and the Grand Canyon.

- Dusky Sound is the largest of the 14 fiords in the park, 25 miles in length and 5 miles across at its widest point. There are no roads leading here. The only way to get to it is by air or sea. Thanks to this isolation, the park is pristine and unspoiled by development. There are no houses, power lines or traffic, just mountains, forests and blue water.

- Doubtful Sound, one of the most popular fiords in the park, was named by English explorer Capt. James Cook. He sailed past the entrance in 1770, but decided it was doubtful he could get back out again if he went in, because of the rough weather. That decision was Cook's loss. If he had sailed into the fiord, he would have discovered the calm waters inside and one of the most beautiful waterways in the world.

- Close to Doubtful Sound is a hiking track called Milford Track. This four-day, 34-mile hike traverses some of Fiordland's most beautiful and rugged terrain. Over the years, it has been gained a reputation as the "Greatest Walk in the World." The Milford Track can be walked independently or with guides. Tip: If you take the guide route, you'll be treated to a hot shower, big dinner and a real bed, before setting off on the next day's hiking.

- At the end of the Milford Track is what has been called the "Eight Wonder of the World" - Milford Sound. A vast channel carved by glaciers and flooded by the ocean, this place is awe-inspiring and a must-see. The best way to get to this spot is via cruise. Thankfully, dozens of tour boats leave every day, giving visitors a close-up view of the stunning scenery.

- New Zealand is home to hundreds of glaciers, but Franz Josef Glacier is unique in many ways. It flows from high altitude to just a few hundred feet above sea level and ends among a lush rainforest. There are only a couple of places in the world where this happens, and none are as easy to get to as this. This amazing natural phenomenon is just 12 miles from the coast, and guides lead daily tours of the glacier.

- In 1948 a stunning discovery was made high in a remote and rugged mountain valley. A small colony of a creature everyone thought to be extinct still clung to life there. Called the takahe, it is one of the rarest birds in the world. Takahes can't fly; they are also shy, very elusive and incredibly difficult to locate. Adults are about the size of a chicken.

- Since there is no industry, housing or farms in Fiordland's 8,000-square-mile area, the park has some of the purest water anywhere on the planet. It is also home to one of New Zealand's most unusual creatures - the long-finned eel. These slimy skinned creatures are the largest native fish found in New Zealand. An ancient species, this eel has gone unchanged for 80 million years.

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