Milford Sound: Via Te Anau
Milford Sound was one of the "must-see" places we did make an effort to see. And it was worth it.
The drive itself was stunning, quite literally through mountains.
We left Invercargill early in the morning to make the three and a hour drive to Milford.
However, we were told it would take far longer, given that you'll be tempted to stop every other minute to take in the scenery.
It was an uncharacteristically sunny day. Milford is notorious for the frequent rainfall, raining on average 182 days a year. We were told there's no wrong time to visit Milford, since it can feel even more dramatic with overcast, ominous weather. Regardless, we felt lucky to catch it with rare blue skies.
Milford Sound is an iconic destination in Fiorland on the South Island since it was sculpted by glaciers during the ice ages,
Located in the south-west region, it's quite out of the way. Although a well visited travel destination, Milford still feels pristine and untouched due to significant preservation efforts.
We were eager to explore the area by walking along the coastline.
And had a picnic lunch on a log with a pretty incredible view.
It was the one location where we did partake in a true tourist activity by booking a two-hour boat tour via Juicy Cruise.
We're typically not apt to take tours, but this one I would indeed recommend. Each turn had a new perspective.
We saw fur seals basking in the sun.
And several bottlenose dolphins.
We went, what felt like, directly under the Stirling Falls.
So much so, that on the top deck we were soaked by the spray, which felt super refreshing.
We cruised the length of the fiord to the Tasman Sea.
On the drive out, we stopped for a short trek to the Chasm, a crazy powerful waterfall.
Looking down at the rushing water was jarring.
Since Milford is so popular yet remote, finding accommodations nearby is a feat. We drove to Te Anau, just shy of two hours away, to stay the night. Not really knowing anything about the town, we were pleasantly surprised. It's located on the edge of a lake with an idyllic walking path.
The downtown is more sizable than we thought as well, with lots of cute cafes and shops. It felt very much like a summer vacation lake getaway. After a bit of a scare that our Airbnb didn't have our booking, we were relieved when it ultimately worked out. As we've been learning thus far, even after various tribulations, issues have tended to work out. The following morning we brought our now beloved instant Jed's Coffee down to the lake.
Our hosts treated us to a far stronger cup of Italian espresso by the fire once we got back to the house.
Our trip to Milford was stimulation overload. Of course, as expected, the scenery was breathtaking. But honestly, we really loved Te Anau. We took a lovely walk along the lake past Ivon Wilson Park through manuka groves. Perhaps we enjoyed it so much because the town surprised us. The thing about traveling in New Zealand, is that we're constantly surprised. Naturally by the sights, but more so by the people and the conversations. We're learning so much from fellow travelers' experiences and recommendations. The overarching advice is not to over plan and trust that everything generally works out in the end. It's still early in our travels, but we do feel ourselves slowly relinquishing some control.