2 Weeks in New Zealand’s South Island. Day 8 : Milford Sound
Mornings in Te Anau mean throwing open your curtains to panoramic views of a glassy lake and a strong desire to take a brief stroll or snap a few 100 photos, both perfect activities for working up an appetite.
I have a little known obsession with deer, so much so that the few times we drove by a deer farm while in New Zealand I would squeal deeeeeeer at the top of my voice, which my mum certainly appreciated. So this morning we had breakfast at Wapiti Bakery & Café which was strewn with antlers and taxidermied deer much to my delight and disgust. Fiordland’s epic natural beauty makes it a supposedly excellent area for hunting which breaks my animal loving heart, and locals will proudly regale you with tales of surprising animal cruelty all in the name of aiding their precious native bird population. (Pro tip New Zealand, your opinion on possums HORRIFIES tourists. You might want to tone it down.)
Wanting to know what makes the precious native bird population so special we visited the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary (a small, free attraction) to view the endangered Takahe of which there are only 200 left in New Zealand. We managed to briefly spot one. There’s also a tiny jetty nearby which is a prime spot for photos of the lake.
All morning I was trying to contain my excitement about the adventure ahead – an overnight cruise on Milford Sound! And I had every right to be because this trip is the stuff dreams are made of. Around midday we once again met with the Real Journeys crew where we joined our coach for the two hour journey into Milford. Our tour guide, Cameron, despite his blasé attitude, was the most informative and engaging guide I’ve ever come across and unlike most coach tours gave us plenty of opportunities to stop and check out the local attractions. Stops included Eglinton Valley, Mirror Lakes, and Monkey Creek near the entrance to the incredible engineering feat, the Homer Tunnel.
Despite being a rainy day there are no words for the immensity of the scenery on this road. Just go, just bloody go, without hesitation. And be sure to keep an eye out for the rubber eating Kea birds, so clever that they’re known to ride tour buses through the Homer Tunnel to save on flying, and Wekas, the day time version of Kiwis (see future posts for photos of both).
Once in Milford we boarded the Milford Mariner where we were to spend the night amongst the Milford Sound scenery! And because it was raining – waterfalls EVERYWHERE. After settling in we chose the option of taking a tender craft (over kayaking or swimming) to get a closer look at the resident seals and penguins who apparently went into hiding when they heard we were coming.
When dry again we gaped at the excellent views before sharing an excellent meal with excellent fellow guests and watched an excellent presentation with the excellent nature guide Blair. The Real Journeys people sure know how to do five star and then some. And just when we thought everything was already excellent enough a baby seal boarded the back of the ship for a little sleep. OH MY.
We stayed at: Real Journeys Milford Mariner Overnight Cruise
We stopped at: Te Anau Bird Sanctuary, Eglinton Valley, Mirror Lakes, Monkey Creek, Milford Sound
Distance: Te Anau to Milford Sound is approximately 2 hours but it will definitely take you longer. We chose to go by tour bus rather than drive in case of potential road conditions but I think we would have been safe driving (it was late September).