Fiordland, Invercargill & Stewart Island Holidays

Escape to New Zealand’s southernmost reaches for jaw-dropping national parks, encounters with unique wildlife and a heritage-rich city with foodie appeal.

The epic scale of New Zealand’s largest national park is more than matched by the drama of its stupendous pinch-me scenery. According to legend, the Māori deity Tu-te-raki-whanoa hacked the sheer-sided inlets of Fiordland from the rock with his axe – and as you gaze in awe at your larger-than-life surroundings the myth is easy to believe. Part of a wider World Heritage Site, this south-west corner of the South Island is a geological twin of Norway’s western coast, with deep river valleys carved out by glaciers and then flooded by the rising sea, and just as glorious. Cruise through its Sounds – as the individual fjords are called here – to catch glimpses of dolphins, penguins and even migrating humpback whales in a pristine natural environment.

Off the south coast, another national park protects all but a small part of Stewart Island, whose Māori name of Rakiura means ‘land of the glowing skies’. This tranquil, far-flung speck of land is an ornithological paradise, from whose coastal paths, beaches and forest tracks you might be lucky enough to spot rare native birds such as the Tokoeka or Southern brown kiwi, endangered yellow-eyed penguins and the South Island kākā, a type of land parrot with a raucous cry. This sparsely populated island is also an International Dark Sky Sanctuary, making it an ideal place to catch the colourful rippling lights of the Aurora Australis that inspired its ancient name.

Back on the mainland, set in a fertile alluvial plain, laidback Invercargill provides a burst of urban pleasures, from leafy streets lined with elegant historic buildings to top-notch gourmet experiences. When you’ve had your fill of chocolate-making experiences, brewery tours and the local Bluff oysters, stretch your legs with bicycle rides to nearby beaches backed by dunes.

If you agree that Fiordland, Invercargill & Stewart Island are essential stops on your perfect New Zealand tour, speak to our experts today.

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Fiordland, Invercargill & Stewart Island Hotels

Our recommendations for the best places to stay in Fiordland, Invercargill & Stewart Island

Fiordland Lodge, Te Anau

This cosy hillside lodge has breathtaking views over Lake Te Anau and is the perfect base for exp...

Stewart Island Lodge

Hilltop lodge with spectacular views and a cosy, boutique vibe.

Get to know Fiordland, Invercargill & Stewart Island and those important practicalities when planning your perfect holiday.


GMT +12 (with New Zealand Daylight Time and New Zealand Standard Time applied, this largely equates to 11 hours ahead of the UK from early April to late September and 13 hours ahead from late September to late March)


New Zealand dollar


25½ hours (not including stopover time)


New Zealand has no state religion but the majority of people are Christian


Māori and English

Where are Fiordland, Invercargill & Stewart Island?
Invercargill lies on a natural harbour near the southern tip of the South Island in the heart of the Southland Plains, an area of fertile farmland surrounded by conservation areas. The most important of these is Fiordland National Park, New Zealand’s largest, which protects the South Island’s entire south-west corner. Stewart Island, also called Rakiura, is 20 miles across the Foveaux Strait to the south-west of Invercargill. There is a regular ferry service to the island from Bluff, on the coast south of Invercargill. Alternatively, you could fly in from Invercargill Airport, which also has services to Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland. From Invercargill, the Southern Scenic Route highway provides road access to Fiordland.

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The Sounds
As the name suggests, Fiordland is famous for its glacier-carved fjords, known locally as sounds. Milford Sound changes with the seasons but is always awe-inspiring, with waterfalls crashing down sheer cliffs and the majestic Mitre Peak rising above its ink-blue depths. Doubtful Sound, dubbed ‘the sound of silence’, is more remote and beautifully unspoilt, its steep slopes draped in lush greenery interspersed by tumbling cascades. The largest of all, Dusky Sound is studded with islands and, as with the other fjords, provides plenty of wildlife-spotting opportunities. Absorb the serenity and jaw-dropping vistas on a one-day or overnight cruise, see it all from above on a scenic flight or join a guided kayak adventure.

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Te Anau’s lake & caves
Considered the gateway to Fiordland National Park, the picturesque little town of Te Anau has its own appeal, not least its halcyon setting on the shores of New Zealand’s second-largest lake. Set out by boat to discover the sights around its margins, including an underground cave system that shelters a grotto lit by glowworms. Stop off to hike up to the Hidden Lakes, a moraine field studded with circular kettle lakes left by ancient retreating glaciers. You can also take to the water to kayak, fish or drink in the views from the deck of a lovingly restored vintage motor yacht, or stay on land to enjoy the footpaths and trails along the edge of the lake.

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New Zealand’s southernmost city
The city of Invercargill is bursting with old-world charm – you’ll spot Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco heritage buildings as you walk around the airy streets. It’s a great place for food and drink; take a guided tour through the Invercargill Brewery, drop in at Blue River Dairy, Southland’s Sheep Milk Café, where you can enjoy cheese tasting, or have a go at chocolate making at the Seriously Good Chocolate Company. Take the air in Invercargill’s expansive Queens Park or head a little out of town. A short drive or even pedal away – it’s a very bicycle-friendly destination – you’ll find coastal wetlands rich in birdlife and sweeping sandy beaches.

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Land of Glowing Skies
Less than 20 miles off the south coast, New Zealand’s third-largest island is home to just 400 inhabitants who revel in its wild beauty and slower pace of life. Most of Stewart Island – named Rakiura or ‘the land of glowing skies’ by the Māori because you can see the Southern Lights from here – is covered by a national park. To immerse yourself in the vibe and the views, we recommend taking the Rakiura Track, one of the New Zealand Great Walks with several beautiful coastal stretches. The 22-mile moderate hike takes about three days; if you don’t have time for the whole route, it breaks down easily into shorter sections.

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The pristine landscapes of Fiordland and Rakiura are a haven for birds and marine mammals, some of them unique to this part of New Zealand. In the Sounds, colonies of bottlenose dolphins and fur seals share the environment with rarer creatures: large alpine parrots called keas, the flightless and endangered South Island takahē and the Fiordland crested penguin with its distinctive yellow ‘eyebrows’. The largest fjords, such as Dusky Sound, are roomy enough to attract passing humpback whales, too – a spectacular sight against an equally spectacular backdrop. On Stewart Island/Rakiura, and nearby Ulva Island, keep watch for the local brown kiwis – unusual in being active during the day – along with blue penguins, yellow-eyed penguins and albatross.

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Fiordland, Invercargill & Stewart Island Weather

Dec - Mar


Fiordland, Invercargill & Stewart Island Weather by Month