We spent the weekend in Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound.
We stayed right on the lake, which is gorgeous in itself. Te Anau Lake is the second largest lake in NZ and the largest freshwater body of water in the Southern Hemisphere.
Our main activity in Te Anau was to see the remote Milford Sound. The drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound takes about 2 hours and there are many sights to see along the way. There wasn’t always road access to Milford Sound; they had to blast through one of the mountains to build a tunnel and the road is very prone to avalanches–both rock and snow! But the scenery is majestic … the type that keeps your forehead pressed to the car window as you wipe the drool away.
There are several plane and boat guided tours to explore Milford Sound, which is a World Heritage site. We really wanted to optimize our time and get the most out of it, so we chose the 4-hour “Stirling Sunrise” kayak tour through Rosco’s Milford Kayaks. In Milford, you can’t just rent kayaks and go on your own. It has to be a guided tour.
It rains in Milford Sound about 250 days/year adding up to annual precipitation of about 8 meters (roughly 24 feet)! The abundance of rainfall contributes to the rich rainforest surroundings, but makes for tricky travel. We got really, really lucky. Our trip landed on one of the 100 clear days that occur each year. It was cold, but no rain!
The tour took us via speed boat about 12K into the 15-kilometer sound (well actually it’s a fiord because it’s formed from glaciers). The boat dropped us and our kayaks (with our guide) to make our way back. During our paddling trip, we got up close and personal with the surrounding jagged cliff walls that soar almost vertically from the water. This includes 1692-meter (nearly 6000 feet) Mitre Peak. Then, there are the dozens of waterfalls spraying from the walls, including 155-meter (500 feet) Stirling Falls. We got so close you could feel the power of Stirling Falls. We even saw some seals!!!
It was the perfect way for us to explore Milford Sound! And, by far, the best kayaking we’ve even done. Of course we know how lucky we are with the weather (even though it was pretty chilly to start at least and we needed lots of thermal layers).
We have just 5 days left in New Zealand. Our original plan was to do one last backpacking trip on the Keplar Track. However, the weather has really deteriorated, bringing rain, snow, wind and cold. Not the best conditions for backpacking when you have a choice. So we changed our plans and are now in Dunedin, the east coast of the South Island, for a few days. Our last stop will be Christchurch, where we will fly out on Friday!