Playfully billed as “The Sound of Silence,” the sheltered waters of Doubtful Sound were not always held in such heralded esteem. In fact, the name of the sound is actually derived from when Captain Cook opted not to enter the area given that he was “doubtful” of the chances it could be navigated safely.
Over 240 years later and with safe passage having been found years earlier, Doubtful Sound now serves as one of the most popular visitor attractions in the southwestern corner of New Zealand. A remote and undeveloped outpost which showcases the natural beauty of Fiordland National Park, Doubtful Sound is accessed by charter boat from the lakeside town of Manapouri and is only reachable by pre-arranged charter. Given the proximity to the “Roaring Forties” latitudes, winter in Doubtful Sound is a frigid affair and most visitors opt to visit during the summer months. On clear days the snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps are reflected in the cool waters of the sound, and wildlife such as bottlenose dolphins, fur seals, and the occasional whale can be seen plying the waters as they break the surface on their ever-present mission for air.
Doubtful Sounds is a massive expanse of wilderness ten times larger than that of neighboring—and more popular—Milford Sound, and given the extreme isolation and rugged nature of the area a cruise into the sound will occupy the better portion of a day. While day trips can be arranged all the way from Queenstown, a better option is to base yourself in the lakeside towns of Te Anau or Manapouri where you can access the sound via a much shorter trip. For a real treat, consider delving deep into the sound on an overnight cruise where the true isolation can properly be felt. Once the crowds of day visitors head back over the mountains, you are left with the stars, seals, and snow-capped surroundings that make Doubtful Sound one of the most sought after, refreshing, and peaceful destinations on an island already regarded as a true wilderness paradise.
Simply tap out, unplug, and enjoy the serenity of calm wrapping itself all around you.
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