Fiordland was an important area for Maori, and although there were few permanent residents, this area was an important seasonal food gathering area. It was also rich in Pounamu (New Zealand jade) - that was highly valued by the early Maori. The northern part of Fiordland was frequented by early Maori for up to 600 years before the first Europeans arrived.
The most notable of the early explorers was Captain Cook. He visited Dusky Sound in 1773 and stayed for several weeks. Captain Cook's charts and maps encouraged early sealers and whalers to become the first residents in Fiordland.
Charles Nairn and William Stephen were the first Europeans to see Lakes Te Anau and Manapouri in 1851. They were followed by early run holders who set up stations at Te Anau, Te Anau Downs and in the land between the two lakes.
The first resident in Te Anau was Richard Henry in 1883. He dedicated his life to saving the flightless birds of Fiordland. Richard Henry was known as "The Caretaker of Resolution Island".
Quintin McKinnon was another early resident. In 1888 he discovered the overland route from the head of Lake Te Anau to Milford Sound. This is the now world famous Milford Track. Fellow explorer Donald Sutherland was the first resident in Milford Sound, and discovered the Sutherland falls. W.H.Homer first mooted the idea of connecting Te Anau to Milford by road via a tunnel through the Homer Saddle. It wasn't until 1929 the work commenced and 1954 was the official opening of the tunnel to private cars.