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           Home >  Regions  > Fiordland  :

Fiordland Link Experience

Dorothy -17/09/04

Richly varied experiences possible in one day
The uniquely beautiful town of Queenstown, a catamaran trip across Lake Wakatipu, following a back country road in an all-terrain vehicle, an amazing monorail journey through beech forest, arrival at Lake Te Anau, a bus trip to Milford Sound, a Red Boat trip on Milford Sound that includes the Milford Deep Underwater Observatory, and a return trip through this stunningly beautiful unspoiled country will all be possible within one unforgettable day once the Fiordland Link Experience proposed by Riverstone Holdings Ltd is completed.

One solution to time pressure for visitors
Milford Sound and Queenstown and the remote parts of the South Island are high priorities for overseas tourists visiting New Zealand. 450,000 tourists visit Milford Sound every year. However scenic attractions from Cape Reinga in the far north to Stewart Island in the far south also feature among most people's choices. Their problem is how to fit in a range of experiences in a limited time. The Fiordland Link Experience, a multi million dollar tourism proposal to link Queenstown and Lake Te Anau, will give tourists the opportunity to fit in a range of sight seeing and wilderness experiences as they travel between Queenstown and Lake Te Anau on their way to Milford.

Travel from Queenstown to Lake Te Anau a uniquely varied experience
The breathtaking trip will take people across Lake Wakatipu by catamaran to Mt Nicholas Station, then into back country New Zealand by specially designed all terrain vehicles along the existing Von Road, before an amazing monorail journey through beech forest and open countryside delivers them to Lake Te Anau.

Map showing the route of the Fiordland Link Experience
Map showing the route of the Fiordland Link Experience
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Care for the environment
The proposed trip does not travel through the Fiordland National Park, and is designed at every level to deliver maximum visitor experience for minimum environmental impact.

A three-phase trip

Cross section of the trip
Cross section of the trip
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Phase one - on the lake
The trip is to begin with a welcome at the Queenstown wharf and a 20km catamaran trip across Lake Wakatipu to Mt Nicholas Station.

Queenstown Bay where the trip begins
Queenstown Bay where the trip begins
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Mt Nicholas Station
Mt Nicholas Station
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Phase two - by all terrain vehicle in the back country
On the wharf at Mt Nicholas passengers will transfer to all terrain vehicles (ATV's) for a 45km trip to the Kiwi Burn monorail terminus. The vehicles will travel on existing back country roads.

Kiwi Burn Terminus
Kiwi Burn Terminus
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At the Kiwi Burn terminus passengers will be able to choose to take a guided walk in the bush and be introduced to the values of the forest and tussock grasslands, and to the cultural history of New Zealand.

Phase three - by monorail
At the terminus passengers will transfer to an electrically powered monorail and travel 41km through tussock land, Snowden Forest and farmland. The journey ends at Te Anau Downs. Here passengers may board buses to Milford Sound.

Te Anau Downs as it appears today.
Te Anau Downs as it appears today.
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Route for the monorail
The monorail will travel over the Kiwi Burn/Whitestone saddle, around the side of Limestone Hill and along the edge of the valley between Whitestone and the Upukerora saddle. After continuing down the right bank of a major tributary to the Upukerora, the route crosses that and travels up the north-east ridge overlooking Dunton Swamp to the Dunton Saddle. It will travel briefly in open tussock country and alongside beech forest before dropping down to the centre of the valley, then through Te Anau Downs farmland and finally crossing Highway 94 at Te Anau Downs which is between Te Anau and Milford Sound.

For most of the route the monorail will travel close to the surface of the ground, rising occasionally to cross tracks, rivers, humps and hollows. The monorail will stop between the Upukerora River and the Dunton Saddle, where there are some impressive red beech trees. Here passengers will be able to enjoy a short managed bush and canopy platform loop walk on a boardwalk, where interpretative facilities will highlight birds, insects, creatures and plants in the area.

A comfortable journey
The catamaran will take 160 to 240 passengers across Lake Wakatipu in coach-style seats. The average speed will be 24 knots (44kph). The 40 seater all terrain vehicles will include features such as large tyres, air conditioning, quality seating and good visibility. The monorail will carry 160 passengers, will run on rubber tyres to ensure a quiet and comfortable ride, and will travel at an average speed of just over 70kph.

Why a monorail?
This form of transport was chosen for several reasons:

  • strong safety features
  • low operating costs
  • excellent viewing quality
  • based on system operated by world-renowned Canadian firm Bombadier
  • powered by its own electric drive motors - a clean, renewable energy source
  • system tested overseas with accident-free record
  • capable of increased carrying capacity with passing bays
  • no access roads required
  • minimum impact on environment during construction.
How will tourists fit this trip into an itinerary?
The service will operate year round and approximately every hour in daylight as demand requires. Bookings may be for a one-way or return journey and the return may be on a different day to allow for time in the Te Anau/Milford or Queenstown area.

Concern about the overcrowding in Milford Sound around the middle of the day was one motivation for the proposed development. The new link will be able to manage more successfuly the tourist flows and reduce the pressure on parking and facilities.

Combining other experiences with the Fiordland Link Experience
While you are in the areas covered by the Fiordland Link experience if possible do allow time to visit Queenstown, Te Anau, Milford and take a Red Boat trip on Milford Sound that includes the Milford Deep Underwater Observatory.

If you have the luxury of ample time try to fit in walking the world-famous Milford Track.

Queenstown terminus to echo the wilderness element of the trip
A base will be developed in Queenstown to showcase the Fiordland Link Experience and will blend with the local surrounds, while using natural materials to echo the wilderness aspect of the trip.

Mt Nicholas wharf
This will include a wharf, covered walkways and a parking and servicing area for ATVs. Any upgrades on the existing wharf will be planned to be environmentally friendly and to look as though they are a century old.

Kiwi Burn terminus to be sensitive to its environment
The terminus has been designed to be sensitive to its local natural environment. All natural colours will be used throughout.Natural materials such a stone, hardwood and river run stones will be incorporated with native plantings. The steel roof will support a grass and tussock sod surface. The terminus will be approximately 70m long so that the 66m long monorail vehicle can pull up alongside the platform.

The facilities will include restrooms and a specially designed, environmentally sensitive, high quality sewage system.

Te Anau Downs terminus
This terminus will include an appropriately themed restaurant/cafe, visitor information and kiosks for local operators to market complementary services.

The maintenance centre for the monorail will be away from public view.

Te Anau Downs is currently commercially leased with an existing motel, backpackers, hotel and bar, and is planned to house the Te Anau terminus for the monorail.

Watch for further news on the development of the Fiordland Link Experience
The link is planned to be up and running within four to five years. This timeframe includes approximately two years of consultation and development and approximately two to three years of construction.

The proposed development will become a 'must do' experience for overseas visitors and New Zealanders.

** Photo and information source Riverstone Holdings Ltd.

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