Doubtful Sound / Patea
Doubtful Sound / Patea is accessed firstly via a 45 minute boat trip across Lake Manapouri and then a similar length coach ride on the Wilmot Pass Road between West Arm and Deep Cove. The only way to explore the Sound once you’re there is via boat or kayak, with the operating season being September to May. Thankfully Real Journeys seamlessly cover all these options. Much like the Milford Road the journey there is incredible, so have the camera on hand at all times.
If you thought the facilities at Milford Sound were sparse, then Doubtful Sound is a few levels down again. There’s no accommodation, no café, and no wifi: it’s just you and the wilderness. However, rest assured the rainfall and sandflies are on the same level.
Doesn’t matter if it’s rain or shine, Doubtful Sound / Patea is always a spectacular place to be.
Doubtful Sound is the quieter and more relaxed cousin of Milford. Although still very dramatic, the landscape is a little gentler, allowing the rainforest to cling onto most slopes down to the water’s edge. It’s an incredible experience listening to birdsong delivered over mirror-still waters.
I’ve been lucky enough to explore Doubtful Sound by both boat and kayak.
Via boat, Real Journeys operate day cruises on the Fiordland Navigator and Patea Explorer. The Navigator also does an overnight trip (the boat sleeps up to 70 in private cabins or quad-share accommodation), which explores the full length of the Sound (approx. 35 km) all the way out to the Tasman Sea. As with Milford, bottlenose dolphins and seals are a regular sight. During the adventure you also get the opportunity to head out on the water via tender boat or kayak. A magnificent buffet dinner and cooked breakfast is all part of the service!
Exploring the mysteries of Hall Arm, Doubtful Sound
To experience the epic Fiordland wilderness up-close a guided kayak trip is definitely the way to go. Go Orange operate a range of trips ranging from single day to 7-night epics. I’ve been on the overnighter, which spends approximately 5 hours on each of the two days exploring the area around Deep Cove and Hall Arm. The night is spent in tents under the canopy of luxuriant rainforest, and a communal shelter provides a place to cook dinner and breakfast and share a few laughs with your fellow kayakers.
A little collection of videos taken while cruising and kayaking in Doubtful Sound / Patea.
Disclaimer: The writer traveled courtesy of Real Journeys and Go Orange while in Doubtful Sound.