Many people are familiar with the majesty of New Zealand's natural landscape thanks to the "Lord of the Rings" film trilogy, but a shore excursion to Fiordland National Park during a New Zealand cruise is terrific way to witness this scenery firsthand.
Fiorland National Park, located on the southwest corner of the South Island of New Zealand, is one of the largest protected reserves in the country. Its spectacular mountain landscape is juxtaposed against the churning waters of the Southern Ocean, and the park's amazing scenery has earned it a spot as part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Site as decreed by UNESCO.
What sets Fiordland apart from the other national parks of the South Pacific island nation are its breathtaking series of fjords and sounds, which were carved by the slow action of moving glaciers over the course of thousands of years in the distant past. These glaciers have even carved out two islands from the mainland, providing you with stunning views of rocky crags jutting up from the ocean's surface.
The most famous attraction in the park is Milford Sound. Considered to be New Zealand's most popular tourist attraction, this dramatic fjord has been rated as the top travel destination in the world in TripAdvisor's 2008 Travelers' Choice Destination Awards and was called the "eighth wonder of the world" by acclaimed author and poet Rudyard Kipling. Some of the best-known sights here are Mitre Peak, a soaring mountain that towers over the surface of the water, and Stirling Falls, a 500-foot cascade. You can even go to an underwater observatory to see rare black coral, which is usually only found in much deeper water.
If you love animals, Fiordland National Park is a great place to spot exotic wildlife. Some of the animals commonly seen in the reserve include dolphins, seals, and several species of birds, such as the native kakapo and kiwi.
During your shore excursion, you can see these and many other amazing sights, including the rushing Cleddau River and the serene Lake Te Anau. You can also use Fiordland National Park as a gateway to some of the South Island's other top tourist attractions, including the resort destination of Queenstown and the charming city of Dunedin.