Archive for March, 2012

March 5, 2012

Fiordland

by Johnny

With our bellies full from an amazing lunch at Amisfield Bistro courtesy of Jay, we made the drive along Lake Wakatipu down to Te Anau…the gateway to Fiordland.  We had a day to kill before heading to Milford Sound, and the rain let up just enough for us to explore the town of Te Anau and go on a little hike at nearby Lake Manapouri.  With a handful of restaurants and shops and a nice lakeside path, Te Anau is definitely worth a night or two to break up the long drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound.

Of course, the main reason for coming to Te Anau is its proximity to Fiordland National Park, home to Milford and Doubtful Sounds.  Fun Fact: Milford and Doubtful Sounds are technically fiords, as they were created by retreating glacial activity and not running water.  These sounds are regarded as two of the most spectacular sights in New Zealand…which must make them two of the most spectacular sights on earth.  We chose to explore the more popular Milford Sound and hit the road early to make it to our 10:00am cruise.  Whoa!  The 119km drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound along the Milford Highway is an adventure in itself.  We passed the rolling farmland near Te Anau Down and the beautiful Eglinton Valley before taking in the reflections at Mirror Lakes.  Next we drove through beech forests and wetlands until we headed into the long, dark, wet, one-way Homer Tunnel.  I have panic attacks on Splash Mountain at Disneyland, so let’s just say this wasn’t my favorite part of the drive.  After the Homer Tunnel it was another white-knuckle 20km drive down impossibly windy roads and across one lane bridges until we arrived at the boat terminal with just enough time to grab a coffee and for me to change my underwear.

Our tour of Milford Sound was something I won’t soon forget.  We cruised by the imposing Mitre Peak, alongside steep cliffs, right next to waterfalls (made all the better from the heavy rainfall over the past couple of days), past seal colonies and out to the Tasman Sea before heading back again.  The vegetation was pretty incredible as well.  With over 200 days of rainfall a year, Fiordland National Park is technically a rainforest.  I’ve never seen such lush, almost tropical, trees clinging to the side of sheer cliffs.  One guy on our boat hit the nail on the head when he said, “Milford Sound must be what happens when Hawaii and Alaska have a baby.”  After our cruise, we stopped at a couple more viewpoints we missed along the drive before making a picnic and heading back to Te Anau.  What a day!