Doubtful Sound New Zealand is one of several beautiful fiords located within Fiordland National Park.
Doubtful Sound was discovered by English explorer Captain James
Cook in 1770, who named it Doubtful Harbor. It was later renamed
Doubtful Sound by whalers and seal hunters.
But those days are long gone, and the waters are now a safe haven for wildlife (and all you lucky visitors).
Cruises on the Sound are a wonderful way to experience the majesty of this special part of New Zealand.
For visitors with limited time, the question often asked is "Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound?".
Milford Sound is probably more spectacular than Doubtful, with sheer
cliffs rising thousands of feet almost vertically from the dark waters
of the sound. And the drive into Milford Sound from Te Anau is one of
the most spectacular drives in the world. Milford's popularity (it was
described by the famous English author Rudyard Kipling as the "Eighth
Wonder of the World") means that there will be more visitors than at
Although less well known than Milford Sound , Doubtful Sound has a unique feel of it's own which makes it a must see on your New Zealand adventure. Beautiful forest clad peaks, and wide meandering waterways add to the serene charm of this wonderful part of New Zealand, which is sometimes referred to as the "Sound of Silence".
At 421 metres deep, Doubtful is New Zealand's deepest fiord, and has several "arms". Waterfalls are also plentiful, particularly during times of heavy rainfall, when literally hundreds of waterfalls cascade down the steep slopes. Notable falls are Helena Falls at Deep Cove, and the 600 metre high Browne Falls!
Doubtful Sound is much larger and more isolated than Milford Sound. This isolation provides a more relaxed environment than Milford Sound and allows for more regular sightings of the region's varied wildlife.
Bottlenose Dolphin, New Zealand Fur Seals, several species of whale, and
Fiordland Crested Penguins all frequent Doubtful Sound, and it's the
perfect place to see these amazing creatures in their natural habitat.
Bottlenose dolphins delight in following cruise boats and they are amazing to watch as they "surf" the bow wave of your tour boat.
The deep, cool waters of Doubtful Sound New Zealand consist of two very clear water layers. These layers rarely mix. The top layer of fresh water extends downwards for two or three metres, and is fed by runoff from the surrounding peaks (and stained brown by tannins from vegetation). Cold saltwater from the sea sits below the fresh water, and because of the tannins above (which restrict light flow), many species usually found in much deeper water, thrive at relatively shallow depths in Doubtful Sound.
Getting to Doubtful Sound
Access to Doubtful Sound is either by sea (large cruise ships only), or via the Willmot Pass Road, near the pretty lakeside village of Manapouri (located around 20 kilometres from Te Anau).
The drive from Queenstown to Manapouri takes around 2 hours, via State Highways 6, 94 and 95 - refer to our State Highways map.
note that the Wilmot Pass road is not accessible to normal vehicular
traffic, as it is not connected to any other road. It's accessed only
after crossing Lake Manapouri.
The crossing of Lake Manapouri (from Pearl Harbour at Manapouri to the Manapouri Power Station) takes around 1 hour, and the coach trip across Wilmot Pass to Deep Cove (the departure point for cruises on Doubtful Sound) takes a further 1 hour.
Scenic flights are available over Doubtful Sound, but landings at Doubtful Sound are not possible.
Cruising on Doubtful Sound
A cruise on a tour boat is the most popular way to see Doubtful Sound.
There are several operators, and tours range from a few hours to overnight cruises.
Your journey takes you by road from Te Anau to nearby Manapouri, where you board a boat to cross Lake Manapouri.
From there you take a coach ride over the 670 meter high Wilmot Pass for stunning views of Doubtful Sound (and lots of great photo opportunities), and then on to Deep Cove, where you join your cruise boat.
Here are a couple of highly rated tours:
* Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise from Te Anau or Manapouri
* Doubtful Sound overnight cruise from Queenstown, Te Anau or Manapouri
* Doubtful Sound full day tour - fly to and from Queenstown, including Doubtful Sound cruise
Flights to Doubtful Sound
There are a number of scenic flights to Doubtful Sound. You can read reviews and see the range of flights here.
Forget the crowds and get up close and personal with nature on a guided
kayak tour of Doubtful Sound with Fiordland Adventure. Choose from full
day, overnight or two day guided tours.
Or, if you prefer, they offer a full kayak hire service on Lake Manapouri, including all the gear you need.
The serene, calm waters of Fiordland offer the perfect environment for your kayak adventure.
Accommodation for Doubtful Sound
The village of Manapouri is the closest accommodation to Doubtful Sound, and has a small range of camping, cabin, backpacker and hotel accommodation.
You can read customer reviews, search for Manapouri accommodation, and make your bookings here.
Te Anau, around 20 kilometers from Manapouri, has a wider range of accommodation, with a choice of motels at various price levels.
Te Anau also has a small shopping precinct offering a selection of restaurants, bars, and retail outlets.
If you can stretch the budget, for a true luxury experience, why not try the stunning lakeside Fiordland Lodge.
Check Out This Great Video on Doubtful Sound New Zealand
By Real Journeys, One Of The Tour Operators On Doubtful Sound.
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