Fiordland National Park is one of New Zealand's most bewitching landscapes boasting New Zealand's two largest lakes, highest rainfall and some of the world's rarest birds. Besides the extreme rain, sandflies are a problem for visitors. Situated on the south-western coast of the South Island, New Zealand's largest national park was established in 1952 and designated a World Heritage Site in 1986. It consists of 12,116 sq km (4,678 sq miles) of subtropical woodland, beech forests, and alpine landscape on and around a number of fiords, headlands, lakes and mountains. Access from the sea (sometimes rough) is obtained via the stunning fiords, the most popular of which are Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and Dusky Fiord. Its natural features also include Sutherland Falls, 580 m (1,904 ft) high, and numerous other waterfalls and cascades, as well as limestone caves, containing glow-worms, which were discovered near Lake Te Anau in 1948. The park is noted for such native birds as the brown kiwi; the kea, the only alpine species of parrot; and the notornis or takahe, a swamp dwelling flightless rail now unique to the Fiordland, which was believed to be extinct until its rediscovery.
The town of Te Anau sits on the southern shore of Lake Te Anau and serves as the base for the Milford and Kepler Tracks and is a way station on the road to Milford Sound through the Homer Tunnel. Manapouri lake lies 20km south of Te Anau and gives access to the southern fiords.
Explored by Captain Cook in 1770, almost every island, point, and bay bears Cook's mark, whether in place names, or in the remains of tree stumps which show where he built an observatory from which his remarkably accurate surveys were obtained. In 1888, the discovery of Mackinnon Pass offered the first overland route to Milford Sound. The Milford Track (as it's known today) is the most renowned alpine trekking route in the world.
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