Fiordland National Park When can you visit

Fiordland National Park: When can you visit? 

So you want to know when you can visit Fiordland National Park? Having visited Fiordland National Park many times, we can answer that question. So, sans further ado, let’s dive into all the times you can visit the park! 

When can you visit Fiordland National Park? 

Fiordland National Park does not have official operating hours, so you can visit the national park all year round. However, the park’s actual visitor centre is only open from 8 AM to 5 PM. 

Each season of the year at Fiordland National Park offers a unique and unforgettable experience, in truth. This means that the best time to visit Fiordland National Park depends on your interests and preferred activities. 

Let’s break down each season so that you know what you’re getting out of each one.

What are the pros and cons of visiting Fiordland National Park during peak season and off-season? 

People visit during peak season (December to February) because of the longer daylight hours, but the drawback is the large crowds. 

On the other hand, many enjoy visiting the park in the off season (June to August) for the peace and quiet, but it is also the rainiest season of the year. 

Want to learn more about what the peak and off seasons offer? Let’s go into a bit more detail here.

Peak Season 

Visiting Fiordland National Park during peak season has its advantages. The weather conditions are generally better, and there are more activities and events to participate in.

The lively atmosphere with many other tourists adds to the overall experience.

On the flip side, it’s important to note that there are some downsides to travelling during peak season. These can include steeper prices for lodging and transportation, bigger crowds, extended queues for popular sights, and limited availability for reservations.

Off Season 

If you’re planning a trip to Fiordland National Park, you might want to consider visiting during the off season. Not only will you avoid the crowds, but you’ll also save money on accommodations and activities. 

Plus, you’ll see a different side of the park that you might not experience during peak season.

Yet, as much as we love the winter season, some downsides exist. The chilly weather and limited daylight hours can put a damper on outdoor activities, and some popular attractions or hiking trails may be temporarily closed for maintenance or due to weather conditions.

Summer (December-February)

Summer is the season to go to Fiordland National Park if you want to maximise your time and are willing to tolerate the crowds, as this is peak season. The longer days and milder weather also allow you to try more adventurous activities in the park. 

Weather Conditions

During summer, temperatures typically range from 9°C to 18°C (48°F to 64°F), providing comfortable weather for outdoor activities. Additionally, the days are notably long, with up to 16 hours of daylight to enjoy. 

It’s also worth mentioning that rainfall is still prevalent during this period. So we recommend that tourists prepare for abrupt weather changes as Fiordland is renowned for its erratic climate. 

Crowds and Availability

The summer season attracts many visitors to the national park due to the favourable weather conditions and extended daylight hours, providing ample opportunities for outdoor recreational pursuits.

If you’re planning a trip during peak season, it’s important to keep in mind that accommodation and tour bookings tend to fill up quickly. To avoid disappointment, we suggest booking well ahead of time to ensure you get the best options that suit your needs. 

Activities Available

  • Hiking: Fiordland is home to some of New Zealand’s most iconic hiking trails, including the Milford Track, Kepler Track, and Routeburn Track. 
  • Kayaking: The calm waters of Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound during summer make it perfect for kayaking. 
  • Wildlife Watching: In the times we’ve gone, we’ve spotted seals, penguins, and dolphins. 
  • Scenic flights:  Taking a scenic flight is one of the things that is always on our summer to-do list when we come to the park. The views of the waterfalls from high in the sky are amazing! 
  • Fishing: The times we’ve gone fishing here in the summer, we’ve caught trout and salmon. 

Autumn (March-May)

Autumn is the season to go to Fiordland National Park if you want to experience the park’s changing colours, see more wildlife than during the summer, and avoid the crowds.  

Weather Conditions

During this time, the weather in Fiordland National Park is typically mild, with temperatures ranging from 8°C to 16°C (46°F to 61°F) on average. By the way, make sure to bring your raincoat because it rains a lot during autumn. 

Despite the rain, autumn is a beautiful time to visit Fiordland National Park, as the trees’ changing leaves provide a stunning display of colours. 

Also, we’ve noted that the park’s waterfalls and rivers are often at their fullest during this time of year due to the rainfall, making for an impressive sight.

Crowds and Availability

Fiordland National Park is a popular destination year-round—autumn is no exception. However, the crowds and availability of accommodations and activities during this time of year can vary.

Generally speaking, autumn is considered a shoulder season in Fiordland National Park, meaning that it is less busy than the peak summer months but still sees a fair amount of visitors. 

Regarding availability, most accommodations and activities in Fiordland National Park remain open during autumn. Still, some may have reduced hours or limited availability. 

Activities Available

  • Scenic Drives: Autumn is a great time to take a scenic drive through the park. The Milford Road is a particularly popular route, offering jaw-dropping views of mountains, valleys, and waterfalls.
  • Wildlife Watching: We’ve seen plenty of kiwis, kea parrots, and fur seals here at this time. During autumn, they’re more active and visible.
  • Water Activities: While the water may be too cold for swimming, we found that autumn is still a great time to enjoy water activities like kayaking, fishing, and boat tours. 
  • Photography: With the colourful leaves and gorgeous landscapes, autumn is an excellent time for photography in Fiordland National Park. Whether an amateur or a professional, you will surely capture some stunning shots of the park’s natural beauty.

Winter (June-August)

Winter is the season to go to Fiordland National Park if you want to go fishing, see the snow-capped mountains, and avoid the crowds, as this is the off season. 

Weather Conditions

In the winter, the weather in Fiordland can be quite cold, with temperatures ranging from 0-10°C (32-50°F) in the lowlands and dropping below freezing in the mountains. Snow is common, and the park’s high peaks and glaciers are often covered with snow and ice throughout the winter. 

Fiordland National Park can also be very wet, with frequent rain showers and high humidity. 

So if you’re coming in the winter, you should come prepared for cold and wet conditions with warm clothing, rain gear, and sturdy hiking boots. 

Crowds and Availability

Fiordland National Park is generally much less crowded in the winter than in the other months. 

In terms of availability, some hiking trails may be impassable due to snow or ice. At the same time, boat tours of the park’s fjords may operate on a reduced schedule.

Activities Available

Hiking: Despite the cold, the Kepler, Routeburn, and Milford Tracks are open year-round. However, hikers should be prepared for snow and ice on the higher sections of the trails.

Scenic Flights: The winter months offer clear skies and stunning views, making it a great time to take a scenic flight over the park’s fjords and mountains.

Fishing: The park’s rivers and lakes offer excellent fishing opportunities in the winter, with rainbow and brown trout being the most common species.

Skiing and Snowboarding: For experienced skiers, the park’s backcountry areas offer excellent ski touring and snowboarding opportunities.

Spring (September-November)

Spring is the season to go to Fiordland National Park if you want to see the park in full bloom because the park becomes full of wildflowers, the wildlife roams free, and the days are longer with generally mild temperatures. Be prepared for unpredictable weather, though.

Weather Conditions

Springtime in Fiordland National Park is known for its unpredictable weather patterns, which fluctuate significantly from day to day. Still, spring is a beautiful time of year, with temperatures ranging from 7°C to 14°C (45°F to 57°F).

As we often visit the park in the spring, we recommend that you always come prepared for wet and windy weather conditions.

Crowds and Availability

Despite the occasional hustle and bustle, the park offers serene pockets where tourists can bask in the splendour of nature.

But we highly recommend checking out some of the lesser-known tracks and viewpoints. Not only will you avoid the crowds, but you’ll also get to experience the park’s hidden gems.

Another great option is to take a guided tour with a smaller group. This way, you can get a more personalised experience and learn about the park’s history and wildlife from a knowledgeable guide.

Activities Available

  • Hiking: We can attest to the fact that there is no shortage of trails to explore, and with the mild weather conditions and fewer crowds, it’s easy to get absorbed in the park’s natural beauty.
  • Kayaking: During the spring, the water is serene and perfect for kayaking.
  • Wildlife Watching: Keep your eyes peeled for playful dolphins, adorable seals, and charming penguins. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture these unforgettable moments. 
  • Fishing: Anglers can catch plenty of trout, salmon, and other sought-after species.