List of fiords of New Zealand

The fiords of New Zealand are all located in the southwest of the South Island, in a mountainous area known as Fiordland. A fiord is a narrow inlet of the sea between cliffs or steep slopes, which results from marine inundation of a glaciated valley. The spelling fiord is used in New Zealand rather than fjord, although all the maritime fiords instead use the word sound in their name.

Of the twelve major fiords on Fiordland's west coast, Milford Sound is the most famous.

The Marlborough Sounds, a series of deep indentations in the coastline at the northern tip of the South Island, are in fact drowned river valleys, or rias. The deeply indented coastlines of Northland and Auckland also host many rias, such as the Hokianga and Waitematā Harbours.

New Zealand has fifteen named maritime fiords, listed here from northernmost to southernmost.[1]


Milford Sound / Piopiotahi44°38′0″S 167°53′0″E17.5 kilometres (10.9 mi)25.3 km2
Te Hāpua / Sutherland Sound44°46′22″S 167°37′14″E10 kilometres (6.2 mi)11 km2
Hāwea / Bligh Sound44°47′4″S 167°30′28″E18 kilometres (11 mi)21.1 km2
Te Houhou / George Sound44°52′36″S 167°21′48″E20.5 kilometres (12.7 mi)32.9 km2
Taitetimu / Caswell Sound45°1′6.6″S 167°10′55.56″E15 kilometres (9.3 mi)17.5 km2
Taiporoporo / Charles Sound45°5′0″S 167°6′49″E14 kilometres (8.7 mi)15.9 km2
Hinenui / Nancy Sound45°8′44.5″S 167°4′23″E15 kilometres (9.3 mi)13.9 km2
Te Awa-o-Tū / Thompson Sound45°13′27″S 166°58′16″E18 kilometres (11 mi)28.4 km2
Kaikiekie / Bradshaw Sound45°17′0″S 167°6′3″E18.5 kilometres (11.5 mi)20.9 km2
Doubtful Sound / Patea45°22′57″S 167°5′28″E40 kilometres (25 mi) (to head of Hall Arm)83.7 km2
Te Rā / Dagg Sound45°23′51″S 166°48′47″E14 kilometres (8.7 mi)14.7 km2
Te Puaitaha / Breaksea Sound45°32′52″S 166°52′22″E30.5 kilometres (19.0 mi)61.5 km2
Tamatea / Dusky Sound45°45′35″S 166°37′36″E40 kilometres (25 mi)181 km2
Taiari / Chalky Inlet46°0′54″S 166°34′50.52″E27.7 kilometres (17.2 mi)110 km2
Rakituma / Preservation Inlet46°4′46.56″S 166°41′14.28″E36.5 kilometres (22.7 mi)93 km2

Thompson Sound separates Secretary Island from the mainland and connects with Doubtful Sound and Bradshaw Sound at its inland end. The mouth of Bradshaw Sound is on Doubtful Sound approximately 12 km from the Tasman Sea.

Freshwater fiords

A number of lakes in the Fiordland and Otago regions also fill glacial valleys. Lake Te Anau has three western arms which are fiords (and are named so). Lake McKerrow to the north of Milford Sound is a fiord with a silted-up mouth. Lake Wakatipu fills a large glacial valley, as do lakes Hakapoua, Poteriteri, Monowai and Hauroko in the far south of Fiordland. Lake Manapouri has fiords as its West, North and South arms.


  1. Distance measured down centreline of fiord from coastline to head of longest arm of fiord.
  2. Stanton, B. R.; Pickard, G. L. (1981). Physical Oceanography of the New Zealand Fiords (PDF). New Zealand Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. p. 14. Retrieved 18 July 2020.