Fiordland National Park
Covering an area of approximately 4000 square miles, the Fiordland National Park contains glaciers, mountains, valleys, rivers, forests, lakes, and fiords (fjords). It was established in 1952 and declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986.
The Fiordland National Park is located on the southwest region of New Zealand’s South Island.
A scenic bus drive through Fiordland National Park
The main access to Foirdland National Park is though Milford Road (SH 94), a highway that starts at Te Anau and ends in Milford Sound. Many tour operators in Queenstown and Te Anau operate daily bus services to Milford Sound and back. It takes about 12 to 13 hours to complete this tour. The buses stop at key locations for the tourists to view the scenery and spectacular landscape.
Te Anau is a small touristy town located on the shores of Lake Te Anau. This is a major junction for the Milford Sound tour buses. If you are coming from Queenstown, buses stop in Te Anau for breakfast. You can also start or end the tour here.
Lake Te Anau
Lake Te Anau is located on the southwest corner of Fiordland National Park, and it is par the park. With a length of 64 kilometers and covering an area of 344 square kilometers, it is the largest lake in New Zealand by water volume and second largest by surface area. Many rivers flow into the lake, including the Eglinton River. The water flows through the Waiau River.
As seen in the image below, the lake is surrounded by beautiful peaks in many places and the scenery is stunning.
Located about 34 miles north of Te Anau on the road to Milford Sound, Mirror Lakes are a set of small lakes filled with clear water that shows beautiful reflections of the surrounding mountains and the greenery. There is a wooden walkway for visitors to walk and enjoy these amazing views.
The Eglinton River runs parallel to the Te Anau – Milford Highway in some places. It has two branches; The west branch originates in Lake Gunn, and the east branch originates in the Livingston mountains. Both the branches join somewhere south of Knobs Flat. The combined river then snakes through Eglinton Valley and joins Lake Te Anau somewhere north of Te Anau Downs.
Valley is a flat area covered with gold-colored tussock grass. All the tour buses stop here as The Te Anau – Milford Sound Highway cuts across the valley. The view of the valley with a backdrop of a spectacular mountain range is a photographer’s dream.
Lake Gunn is a small, but a beautiful lake that can be seen from the Te Anau – Milford Sound Highway. It is part of Fiordland National Park, and the western branch of Eglinton River flows into it.
Melting Ice and Waterfalls
The images below show the melting ice on the mountain tops and resulting waterfalls
Melting on mountain tops
Waterfalls resulting from melting ice
Completed in 1954, the Homer Tunnel that cuts across the Darren Mountain range is one of the major engineering feats in New Zealand. It is part of New Zealand State Highway SH 94 that provides road access to Milford Sound from Te Anau. Constructing the tunnel was a major undertaking that took 19 years to complete.
The image above shows the entrance to the Homer Tunnel as seen from the bus stop located just below the end tunnel.
The image below shows a spectacular view of Cleddau Valley as seen from a spot just below the Homer Tunnel. It is named after the Cleddau River that flows through it. The tour buses stop here for the photo opportunity.
The Cleddau River flow near Milford Sound.