5 reasons Doubtful Sound should be on your bucket list

Date: 10 October 2023

Experiencing Doubtful Sound is like entering into another ethereal universe. Towering fiords, lush native rainforest, cascading waterfalls and wildlife hidden around every corner. Visitors who come to Fiordland National Park should not miss out on an opportunity to see this magical corner of the world.

1. It’s quiet. Like really quiet.

Unlike its popular and easy to access sister Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound reserves its beauty only for those willing to put in the effort to go there and getting to the sound is an adventure in itself. You can’t just drive there so it’s a very chill and peaceful experience.

To reach Doubtful Sound, you have to first travel from Te Anau to Manapouri, take a boat across Lake Manapouri followed by a coach tour over Wilmot Pass. There is no settlement in Doubtful Sound, so the experience is like nature on steroids. You almost step back in time, experiencing a place the same way early Maori and European settlers did centuries ago. Are there dinosaurs here? Or perhaps the elusive Fiordland moose?

2. Sleep on the sound

Doubtful Sound offers the unique opportunity to take an overnight cruise all the way down the fiord and straight to the Tasman Sea. There’s truly no better way to experience Fiordland than on water and being able to cover the length of the sounds is super special. The cruise includes comfortable cabin accommodation, three-course buffet dinner prepared by an onboard chef, lots of wildlife viewing and the chance to explore the pristine shoreline on a kayak or by a smaller boat. For those with thick skin, you can even challenge yourself with an icy dip into the sounds. The overnight cruise is so unique because you see the sound change throughout every phase of the day.  You won’t regret waking up for sunrise deep in Doubtful Sound, trust me.

3. The wildlife is plentiful

Fiordland is an area marked by dense native rainforest. With an average of 7 meters of rain a year, native plants thrive and flourish in the thick vegetation, making an excellent home for native wildlife. It’s common to not only be surrounded by constant birdsong, but it’s also likely you’ll see fur seals and pods of bottlenose dolphins with occasional sightings of whales, albatross and even the rare Fiordland-crested penguin.

4. There’s an activity for everyone

Doubtful Sound caters to everyone, from the busy visitor who only has one spare day to see the sights to the adventure loving visitors who crave a multi-day kayak trip. Depending on your skill and how adventurous you are, you can get on the water and kayak for a day or if you’re really keen, up to five days! For those who want to chill out and take in the surroundings the day cruises or overnight cruises are the clear winners. For those that want it both, the overnight cruises give you a scenic boat ride plus the chance to hop in a kayak yourself.

5. Rain? Sun? It doesn’t matter!

Fiordland is a special area that while beautiful, has its own agenda when it comes to weather. With an average of 7 meters of rain a year, there’s a good chance you’ll see this beautiful location in the rain, but don’t worry. Seeing Doubtful in the rain is equally if not more so beautiful than seeing it in the sun. The steep fiords create new waterfalls and force existing waterfalls to flow even more intensely. Just try counting the number of waterfalls you see while it’s raining. I bet you lose count after 50!

Doubtful Sound is truly a place that is good year round and I’d even argue that it’s worth seeing in all weather so no matter if you get sun or rain on your trip, you’ll just have to come back to see it again!

About the author: Liz

Liz Carlson is the creator behind Young Adventuress, one of the biggest travel blogs in the world. An American based in the mountains of Wanaka and always on adventures around New Zealand, she is passionate about Instagram, strong coffee, and saving the kākāpō.

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