Dusky Sound
Image: James Mortimer | DOC

Introduction

Visit some fascinating historic sites, and go walking or kayaking.

Highlights

New Zealand’s fiords are found along this southwest coast of the South Island. Fiords are not simply a water feature or a land feature but are a special combination of both, where the sea partly fills steep-sided valleys once excavated by glaciers. Fiords are a majestic reminder of the powerful forces that sculpted our land around 20,000 years ago.

Fiords are named 'sounds'

Most of the fiords in New Zealand are named as ‘sounds’, for example Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and Dusky Sound. ‘Sound’ is a general, non-technical term which is used in various ways in different parts of the world for more-or-less narrow branches of the sea. 

Place overview

Activities

  • Walking and tramping

In this section

Find things to do and places to stay Southern fiords area

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Historic sightseeing

  • Astonomer's Point - the site of a temporary observatory set up by William Wales, of the Board of Longitude, during Captain Cook’s second voyage in 1773. 
  • Preservation Inlet - in the late 1890s, this was home to over 2,500 gold miners and saw millers. It was also the location of one of New Zealand's most remote lighthouse settlements.
  • Richard Henry's house site - Richard Henry was the caretaker of New Zealand’s first island wildlife sanctuary in the 19th century. 
  • Tarawera Silver Mine and Smelter -  one of many failed ore extraction ventures in the Preservation area, and the only smelter site on public conservation land in Southland.

 


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    About this place

    Nature and conservation

    Glaciers in Fiordland flowed out to meet the sea during the ice ages. Like all ‘fast-flowing’ mountain glaciers, as they ground their way downwards they excavated the land into steep-sided U-shaped valleys.

    The ice was so thick that the bases of the larger glaciers were generally below the sea level in their lower reaches. After the climate had warmed again and the glaciers had retreated inland, the glacial valleys were flooded by a combination of meltwater and the rising sea. Today the fiords in Fiordland have a water depth of up to 440 m.

    This area also contains hundreds of islands ranging in size from small rock stacks up to Resolution Island (20,860 ha).

    The Southern fiords area is home to some important restoration projects. See Coal Island restoration.

    History and culture

    Tamatea/Dusky Sound

    Iwi travelled to Tamatea/Dusky Sound since before the 15th century, the area was mainly used as a seasonal hunting and fishing ground. Tamatea, the great Māori explorer from the north travelling aboard the waka Takitimu, named the broken land ‘Te Rua-o-te-moko’. This likened the deeply gouged coast with the art of moko or tattoo. Tamatea is now the name conferred on Dusky Sound.

    Captain James Cook first sighted the fiord on his first voyage to New Zealand in 1770, naming it ‘Dusky Bay’. He returned in 1773 and spent six weeks exploring the area. Some of western science’s first records of New Zealand flora and fauna came from Cook’s sojourn in Dusky Sound, including weka, kereru, kākā and South Island robin.

    Dusky Sound would collect a long line of ‘firsts’ for New Zealand, including: observatory (1773, brewed beer (1773),European settlement and European ship built (1792), European shipwreck (1795), European woman to visit (1793) and live (1795), nature reserve (Resolution Island, 1891) and conservation ranger (Richard Henry, 1894).

    • Astonomer's Point - the site of a temporary observatory set up during Captain Cook’s second voyage in 1773. 
    • Richard Henry's house site - Richard Henry was the caretaker of our first island wildlife sanctuary in the 19th century. 

    Preservation Inlet

    In the late 1890s, this location was home to over 2,500 gold miners and saw millers. It was also the location of one of New Zealand's most remote lighthouse settlements and New Zealand's first Whaling Station site.

    Know before you go

    Contacts

    Te Rua-o-te-moko / Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre
    Phone:   +64 3 249 7924
    Email:   fiordlandvc@doc.govt.nz
    Address:   Fiordland National Park
    Visitor Centre
    Lakefront Drive
    Te Anau 9600
    Full office details
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