Doubtful Sound is part of Fiordland National Park in South Island and while it may not be as popular as the nearby Milford Sound, the fiord is popular for its remoteness. The best way to experience and explore the fiord and its solitude is by kayak.
The official name of the fiord is Doubtful Sound / Patea, with Patea being the Maori name.
Doubtful Sound got its name from James Cook, who was too doubtful to sail the fiord at the time. Because of the huge amounts of precipitation, the fiord is covered with a layer of freshwater several metres thick.
Flora and fauna
What you definitely have to deal with are hordes of sandflies. These little beasts can truly drive you insane if you let them. There are good insect repellents that reliably protect against the pests.
- Department of Conservation
- Visit Fiordland - Regional tourism organisation
- Visit the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre in Te Anau or the West Arm Visitor Centre.
There is no direct road connection to Doubtful Sound.
The journey is by minibus to Lake Manapouri (Pearl Harbour), where you take the boat across Lake Manapouri past the hydroelectric power station and then continue again by minibus or coach over the Wilmot Pass to the fiord.
Doubtful Sound can be accessed by boat from the sea. Some international cruise ships visit the sound as part of a cruise around New Zealand.
Fees and permits
There is no general entry fee for Doubtful Sound, but permits are required for some activities.
With a lot of luck, dolphins or New Zealand fur seals can be observed in the water. It is also home to one of the world's rarest penguins, the Fiordland Crested Penguin.
- 1 Helena Falls. West of the 1598-metre high Mount George, it falls about 150 m deep into the head end of the fiord. It is named after Helene Brasch, the eldest daughter of Willi Fels, a merchant, collector and philanthropist from Halle in Lower Saxony. The waterfall is accessible via the Helena Falls Track, a 2 km return trail.
- Go Orange Kayak, ☏ , toll-free: , firstname.lastname@example.org. The organiser organises multi-day kayak tours in Doubtful Sound and rents out the necessary equipment costing approximately $400 for a three day trip.
- Fiordland Cruises, ☏ , toll-free: , email@example.com. The organiser offers an overnight trip by boat on the fiord.
- RealNZ. Offers 3 hour and overnight cruises on Doubtful Sound, with Lake Manapouri crossing and Wilmot Pass bus. Connections from Queenstown and Te Anau are available. Runs day and overnight sea kayaking trips.
- See also: Tramping in New Zealand
There are four short walks from Deep Cove.
- 1 Helena Falls Track. A 2hr (1.9km return) track to the base of Helena Falls.
- 2 Old Doubtful Sound Track. 3 hr walk in podocarp forest, following the route used before the Wilmot Pass road was built. Return on the road or retrack your steps.
- 3 Hanging Valley Track. 3hr steep walk to the Huntleigh Falls.
- 4 Brasell Point Nature Walk. 1hr (20 minutes if you don't stop) walk forest nature walk near the hostel.
Because of its remoteness, there are no shops. You have to bring everything you need with you.
Eat and drink
There are no restaurants or other places to eat. You will need to bring all food and drinks with you.
- 1 Deep Cove School Hostel, 1938 Wilmot Pass Rd, ☏ . While most of the accommodation is reserved for school groups to learn more about nature, it is the last resort on the fiord with drinking water and a proper toilet and has a couple of beds for paddlers and hikers for an overnight stay.