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How to get to Doubtful Sound

Date: 12 February 2021

There are few true wildernesses left in the world, and Doubtful Sound is one of them, and its Māori name, Patea, meaning “place of silence” is still very relevant today. This blog will answer questions about how to get to Doubtful Sound, a place known for its untouched and rugged beauty, including transport options to get there from Queenstown or Te Anau, activities to do once you’re there, and a little information about this spectacular location in Aotearoa.

Looking out over Doubtful Sound from the top of the Wilmot Pass

Looking out over Doubtful Sound from the top of the Wilmot Pass

How to Travel to Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound cannot be accessed from Queenstown or Te Anau by car alone. This guide will explain transport options to Doubtful Sound step-by-step so you can choose the best way to make the most out of your journey.

1.    Travel to Manapouri

If you are travelling from Queenstown or Te Anau to Doubtful Sound, the farthest you’ll be able to drive in your vehicle is to Manapouri. You can choose to self-drive to Manapouri, purchase a ticket on a coach, or even fly in a scenic flight to here.

2.    Enjoy a Short Cruise to West Arm

From Manapouri, book a cruise across Lake Manapouri to West Arm. Alternatively, if you have your own trailer boat, you can choose to barge this across with RealNZ before driving over the next stage of your way to Doubtful Sound- Wilmot Pass.

Girl looking out from boat on Lake Manapouri

Cruising across spectacular Lake Manapouri

3.    Wilmot Pass Road to Doubtful Sound

The next stage is driving over the Wilmot Pass - there is a charge for using the Wilmot Pass Road, however, most coach providers include this in their fee. This 21km road connecting West Arm and Deep Cove in Doubtful Sound was built in the 1960s to accommodate heavy equipment transporters needed to haul building materials used in the construction of the Manapouri Power Station. This is the only road on the New Zealand mainland not connected to the rest of the road network and when built was thought to be New Zealand’s most expensive road to construct, at approximately $80 per square meter.

4.    Arrive at Doubtful Sound

Once you’ve travelled through Wilmot Pass you will find Doubtful Sound. There are plenty of activities to do when you get there, including hiking, wilderness cruises and kayak tours.

This part of New Zealand is virtually untouched- there is no settlement or a village like you find in Milford Sound or Te Anau except an outdoor education centre located in Deep Cove. There is plenty of walking tracks and wildlife to see in the sound- our favourite way to experience this is through an overnight cruise in Doubtful Sound or on one of our amazing multi-day conservation expeditions. It has one of the southernmost populations of bottlenose dolphins and Tawaki, the Fiordland Crested Penguin, which is why this place is a must-visit in New Zealand.

Group of kayakers in Doubtful Sound with boat and mountains in the background

Explore Doubtful Sound by kayak on an overnight cruise

There are plenty of amazing places to take in on your way to Doubtful Sound. Make sure you give yourself enough time to appreciate and enjoy the beauty of the area. What are your favourite things to do in Fiordland National Park? Tag us in your social media posts with #realnz and let us know!

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