Immerse yourself in the vast and untouched wilderness of Doubtful Sound, the second largest fiord in Fiordland National Park.
With its rugged peaks, verdant rainforest and twisting, hidden inlets, Doubtful Sound will take your breath away. Home to abundant wildlife you may see bottlenose dolphins and fur seals at play, or catch a glimpse of a rare Fiordland Crested Penguin.
Getting to Doubtful Sound is an adventure in itself. With no direct road access, the only way you can to get to Doubtful Sound is by a cruise across Lake Manapouri and a coach trip over Wilmot Pass. This isolation makes the fiord a very special, private place, a place only those in the know get to see.
If you’d like to experience the pristine beauty of Doubtful Sound for yourself, join us for a Wilderness Day Cruise or better still, spend an unforgettable night on the fiord on our Fiordland Navigator Overnight Cruise. And if you prefer not to drive to Manapouri (where the trips depart), we can get you there by coach from Queenstown and Te Anau.
For a more intimate experience, join us on a kayaking adventure where you get to paddle or explore and camp overnight in Doubtful Sound.
About Doubtful Sound
There’s no settlement here and no easy access. Cruise vessels and fishing boats ply the waters only seasonally. When you visit Doubtful Sound, it’s unchanged, pristine nature is striking. You are witnessing the same spectacular scene that greeted early Maori and European visitors – the years have changed little, if anything, in this magnificent place.
The mood of the fiord is dominated by the weather – glorious and sparkling on a sunny day, tranquil and mysterious in the mist or dramatic and exciting in the wet as hundreds of waterfalls thunder into the sea.
This is an awesome place where you’ll experience the raw power of nature. The sheer scale and beauty of the fiord makes for a profound experience for any holiday itinerary.
All our Doubtful Sound experiences start in Manapouri which is around 2.5 – 3 hours from Queenstown and 30 minutes from Te Anau.
You can drive there yourself or if you’d much rather relax and let us do the driving, we offer coach connections from Queenstown and Te Anau.
Our coach drivers for your Doubtful Sound tour are extremely knowledgeable about the area, its history and local flora and fauna and will provide you with commentary and information along the way.
Fiordland is one of the wettest places in the world with a mean annual rainfall of 6813mm (268 in). It rains for around 180 days of the year, with rainfall reaching 250mm (10 in) over a 24 hour period.
The temperature here can vary depending on the season and can go from an average high of around 19C in summer (Dec - Feb) to around 9.5C in winter (Jun - Aug).
As weather shapes this landscape, it’ll also shape your experience of this pristine place. Glorious and breathtakingly beautiful on a sunny day, in the mist it’s a magical fairyland of hidden peaks and twisting arms while in the rain, the power of nature is unleashed as walls of water thunder to the sea.
All year round, whatever the weather, a visit to Doubtful Sound is profound and unforgettable.
Dolphins playing in Doubtful Sound
Located deep in the heart of Fiordland, and almost inaccessible to humans, Doubtful Sound is within a temperate rainforest and home to a largely undisturbed wildlife.
The rainforest is an extravagance of green and incredibly dense with vines, perching plants, tree and ground ferns and podocarp trees. Home to a wonderful array of native birds, you’ll hear their songs if you listen carefully.
The waters of the fiord are fascinating and home to an amazing array of sea-life because of a surface layer of dark fresh water that blocks sunlight. This layer is caused by the incredibly high annual rainfall which is darkly coloured by the tannins of the forest as it tumbles through a huge catchment area to the sea. This dark layer allows corals and undersea life to grow in waters much shallower than they normally would. Creatures of the southern oceans live here – there’s a resident pod of dolphins and lots of fur seals. Others visit and you could glimpse Mollymawks and Royal Albatross, penguins, including the rare Fiordland Crested Penguin which breeds at Doubtful Sound or even a whale.
Two million years ago the glaciers of Fiordland were grinding their way towards the sea sculpting the landscape as they retreated and advanced.
In Maori legend, Doubtful Sound and the other Fiords were created by the godly figure Tu Te Raki Whanoa who split the rock with his adze allowing the sea to pour in creating safe harbours from the restless, often stormy sea.
The first European to discover the fiord was Captain Cook during his search for a ‘great southern continent’. Visiting the mouth of Doubtful Sound in 1770 and unsure whether it navigable, he named it Doubtful Harbour. 23 years later, a visiting Spanish scientific expedition charted the entrance and lower parts of the sound.
In 1971, the Manapouri Hydro-Electric Power Station, New Zealand’s largest hydroelectric facility, was completed on the western arm of the lake. Considered one of the country’s greatest engineering feats, the power station uses the 230 metre drop between the lake and the sea (the Deep Cove arm of Doubtful Sound) to create electricity. The road over Wilmot Pass was created as part of the project and provides our access to the fiord.
PLEASE NOTE: Update as of October 2018: The Manapouri Underground Power Station is CLOSED due to ongoing maintenance work by Meridian Energy. Therefore Real Journeys has not been granted access and is unable to run tours. Re-opening date is yet to be confirmed. Next update October 2019.
Fiordland, one of the world’s wettest regions. Most of the rain falls on the seaward side of the mountains.
Manapouri village receives 1,143mm a year but over in West Arm the rainfall rises to 3,786mm. Deep Cove receives 5,290mm per year.
Did You Know?
Doubtful Sound reaches about 430m at its maximum depth. Near the entrance there are sills where the water is relatively shallow (90m).
The water temperature in the fiord averages a bracing 11 degrees Celsius.
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Our people. Our places. Doubtful Sound, New Zealand. This video showcases the hard work and dedication of the people involved in creating our amazing experiences.
Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise with Real Journeys. Your getaway starts with a short cruise across Lake Manapouri, then a coach across Wilmot Pass through dense rainforest where your crew and the Fiordland Navigator boat await.
Doubtful Sound Wilderness Cruise with Real Journeys. The vastness of this untouched world will take your breath away as you experience its spectacular beauty and scenery.
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Our ultimate guide will give you all the tips you need to plan that special holiday in the south island including Queenstown, Te Anau, Stewart Island and Milford and Doubtful Sounds.