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A day out on Milford Sound
We delayed our trip to Milford as long as possible so that mum was more mobile to enjoy it and the time had now arrived for us to explore the beautiful New Zealand Fiordland. After a brief stop near Methven we began our mammoth 8 hour drive to Te Anau. The road from Methven took us through familiar towns and scenery.
We took a brief detour to the observatory above Lake Tekapo (which I recommend for both the views and the food at the cafe!) before heading past Lake Pukaki, down the Lindis Pass, past Queenstown and the gorgeous Lake Wakatipu. As we drove down the side of Lake Wakatipu, the weather began closing in and by the time we reached the road to Te Anau, my wipers were on full speed with the rain bouncing off the windscreen. The weather forecast had predicted this followed by a clear day tomorrow, so we were more than happy that the forecast appeared correct -fingers crossed that tomorrows was also spot on.
We were told that the road to Milford was very pretty so the next day we left early (ish) to give ourselves plenty of time to get there before our scheduled cruise departed at 15.45.
The views from the road are indeed very pretty, but there are few places to stop and photos of the area don’t really do it justice. Along with lots of beautiful views we also had a close encounter with a Kea.
To get to Milford you have to travel through the Homer Tunnel. Some of the scenery close to the tunnel reminded me of Iceland.
Worryingly we did spot a notice at the side of the road saying the tunnel would be closing at 18.30 for the night but we assumed the Cruise company would have told us if there were any problems. So we continued….
The Homer Tunnel is a traffic-light controlled, one-way, single-lane road tunnel 1.2km long (0.75 miles) with a slightly eerie downward gradient (when heading to Milford).
Leaving the dark tunnel we emerged into beautiful rain-forest-carpeted canyons descending to the sound. The often steep, winding mountain road, traversed through stunning scenery (again with very few places to stop), down to the parking area and visitors centre in Milford. On arrival at the Southern Discoveries desk, they informed us that the cruise was departing a bit earlier so that we’d be back in time to drive the 30 mins back to the tunnel before it closed for the night. All good then…
The cruise was lovely and the scenery stunning – although there were far more boats than the last time I was here 10 yrs ago.
Milford Sound is actually a fiord with sheer rock faces rising 1,200 metres or more from the sea and many waterfalls with the fiord eventually reaching open sea.
The fiord is relatively narrow and the cruise takes you up one side and down the other. It does get a bit samey after a while but that’s quite nice as you can put your camera down and just enjoy being within such a wonderful landscape. It was so nice to be out on a boat again… incredibly relaxing and peaceful.
Unfortunately we didn’t see any dolphins but we did see some fur seals.
On our return to shore, the staff were sadly not very helpful with mum and we had to wait until last to get off the boat. The cruise was late back and the clock was ticking until the tunnel closed thus stranding us in Milford for the night (this wouldn’t be an issue except Milford is tiny with only a couple of places to stay – which I knew, having looked before, were fully booked). So juggling all our stuff and pushing mum in her rented wheelchair, we negotiated the boardwalk to the check in bit and out into the drop off area. Our car was parked in the car park which should have been a pleasant 10 minute stroll along a wooden walkway. With no time to stroll and mum hanging on, I ran, pushing her in her wheelchair back to the almost deserted car park. Red faced and out of breath, I threw our stuff in the car and we hit the road. Thankfully all the driving I’ve done in New Zealand had given me a lot of experience negotiating hills, bends, and hairpins but we were still up against it. We arrived at the tunnel in the nick of time and waited in line behind one other car…Phew!
As we arrived back in Te Anau, the sun was setting, soon to fall behind the mountains.
Next up Manapouri and the awesome and less touristy Doubtful Sound.
Thanks for stopping by