Without a doubt, visit Doubtful Sound
When you are researching what to do while visiting Fiordland National Park on the South Island of New Zealand, Milford Sound always comes up as a recommendation. However, you hardly ever hear about Doubtful Sound. But after several people along our travels mentioned Doubtful Sound, we had to check it out.
Perhaps more people go to Milford Sound because it is much easier to get to…a simple boat ride from the dock. To get to Doubtful Sound you take a boat across Lake Manapouri and then a bus over Wilmot Pass, to just get to the boat to take you into Doubtful Sound.
To us, this made Doubtful Sound even more appealing. We will almost never pass up an option to be on water more.
Doubtful Sound Facts
It is technically a fiord, not a sound.
It is 40 km (25 miles) long.
It is the deepest South Island fiord – 430 m (1410 ft) at its maximum depth.
It is not possible to drive to Doubtful Sound
As a birthday gift for Pete, we decided to do the overnight trip versus the typical day trip, which turned out to be a great option. Yes, a splurge expense-wise, but the day trip seemed like it would have been way too short and rushed with all the travel involved.
Family-Owned Tour Company
The company we went with is Real Journeys (https://www.realjourneys.co.nz/), which is a family-owned business that has conducted tours since the 1950’s.
The overnight trip has a max capacity of 72 so you can imagine how elated we were when we found out there were only going to be 32 passengers on our trip. We had signed up for a quad share bunk room, but because of the low numbers we had the room to ourselves. Sweet! This, plus lucking out weather-wise, made the excursion even more pleasant.
The boat ride over Lake Manapouri to start our journey was beautiful. This leg of the trip only took about 30 minutes. The water was very calm and the views were spectacular!
Next came the bus trip over the mountain, which took about 40 minutes. A bit curvy and some pretty steep roads, but it allowed for some more amazing views, including a view of Doubtful Sound.
And lastly, we boarded the boat we would be staying on for the night, named the Fiordland Navigator.
On staff was a woman who had been working on the tours for over 20 years. She was the nature guide and had amazing knowledge of all the flora and fauna living in the Doubtful Sound. During the entire trip, she educated all of us about what we were seeing (fur seals, a suspected right whale, penguins, and dolphins), as well as things we couldn’t see that were in the forest or deep below the boat.
Along with the wildlife, we also enjoyed some amazing views. These were a bit different the first day versus the second, because the second day we woke up to much colder temperatures and rain.
Guests had the opportunity to go kayaking or on a tender boat excursion. We opted for the kayaking and also decided this would be one of our “lens-free” experiences (click here for a related blog post). Of course, there were dolphins and waterfalls, but we were able to capture them in our minds rather than our cameras!
We are so glad we decided to do the overnight trip on Doubtful Sound, which fondly reminded us of our trips to Alaska. It doesn’t get much better than cruising along on a boat looking for wildlife as you take in the beautiful surroundings.
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