Southern Scenic Route: Part 3 - Fiordland

This story was originally published in April 2021.

The Southern Scenic Route is a tourist highway in New Zealand that follows the state highways and links Queenstown, Fiordland to Dunedin via The Catlins.

This is part 3  of a visual story about our 20-day journey following the Southern Scenic Route from Dunedin to Queenstown in early December 2020. This third part covers our trip through Fiordland, including Lake Hauroko, Manapouri, Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound, to Queenstown.


On day 13 of our 20-day trip, we explored the centre of Invercargill and headed off towards Fiordland via Riverton, the ‘Riviera’ of Invercargill, where we had a very nice, seaside lunch at the Beachhouse Restaurant consisting of a delicious gluten free Salmon Hash and Eggs Benedict.

After lunch, our trip in the campervan continued.  Driving along Te Waewae Bay towards the west, we briefly stopped at Gemstone Beach and McCracken’s Rest to get a glimpse of Fiordland. Beautiful and dramatic views of the Fiordland mountains as we entered it.  And beautiful beech forest all around.

  • House with a view at Gemstone Beach

    House with a view at Gemstone Beach

  • Te Waewae Bay

    Te Waewae Bay

    Dramatic cloud cover over the southern terminus of the Southern Alps and Fiordland National Park from McCracken’s Rest, Te Waewae Bay.

Lake Hauroko

We arrived at Lake Hauroko, the deepest lake in New Zealand with a depth of 462 metres, just after 5pm.  We decided to freedom camp at the park ground close to the lake, so that we wouldn't need to travel that far in the morning for sunrise photos.

Lake Hauroko Reflection

Lake Hauroko Reflection

The cloud cover gradually increased as we drove from Invergargill to Lake Hauroko in Fiordland. As soon as we had arrived at our destination in the late afternoon it started to rain heavily. Luckily the rain stopped at 7am the next morning and when we looked outside our campervan we were very surprised to see the surrounding hills covered in snow considering that it was early summer.

  • Snow-covered Mountains at Lake Hauroko

    Snow-covered Mountains at Lake Hauroko

  • Jetty at Lake Hauroko

    Jetty at Lake Hauroko

Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound / Patea is a 40 kilometres long fiord in Fiordland, and at a depth of 421 metres, it is the deepest of the South Island fiords.  Its Maori name, Patea meaning 'place of silence', is very appropriate, because apart from the sound of birds and waterfalls, the dramatic landscape is beautifully silent.

While staying in Manapouri for a few nights, we went on a cruise to experience the spectacular and pristine Doubtful Sound.  There’s no direct road access, so the only way you can to get to Doubtful Sound is a cruise across the picturesque Lake Manapouri, followed by a bus trip over Wilmot Pass,  New Zealand's most expensiveroad.  From there, we boarded another cruise boat for a 3 hour tour of Doubtful Sound.

Waterfall in Doubtful Sound

Waterfall in Doubtful Sound

A beautiful waterfall on a cloudy, but unusually dry day in the the Crooked Arm that is one of the arms off the Doubtful Sound, Fiordland, New Zealand

  • Glacier Shaped Valleys, Doubtful Sound

    Glacier Shaped Valleys, Doubtful Sound

    Crooked Arm, one of the three distinct arms off the main fiord, is surrounded by high mountains divided by glacier shaped valleys.

  • Silver Beech Trees in Mist

    Silver Beech Trees in Mist

    Silver beech trees shrouded in a moody mist. This photograph was taken in the Wilmot Pass that connects Doubtful Sound to Lake Manapouri.

Bottlenose Dolphins at Doubtful Sound

Bottlenose Dolphins at Doubtful Sound

The Doubtful Sound is home to one of the southernmost populations of bottlenose dolphins. This pod of Doubtful Sound dolphins were making their way through the cloud-covered fiord, making for a very moody and unforgettable image.

Milford Sound


Silver Beech at the Cleddau River

Silver Beech at the Cleddau River

The early morning sun lights up the trees along the Cleddau River, Milford Sound.


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