Te Anau & Milford Sound, NZ
After a month at home we were excited to be on the road again! And we saved the best part of our adventure for last: New Zealand and Australia.
We landed in Queenstown, New Zealand on Thursday morning and grabbed a rental car to start exploring the South Island. Our first stop was Te Anau, about a 2 1/2 hour drive from the airport, and the gateway to Fiordlands National Park. It did not take long for the landscape to blow us away, as we drove along mountain lined Lake Wakatipu and the beautiful farm land of the sometimes remote southern island. Sheep, cows, and deer farms dot the green rolling hills. Within an hour I could confirm Taylor's claim: New Zealand is the most beautiful country in the world.
Te Anau was a fairly quiet vacation town with plenty of vacancies in the low season. We had a nice private room with a kitchen. Once in town we went straight for a hike so we could fight off some of our jet lag. Nearby Kepler Track is a multi-day loop, but we hiked just the first few hours into a beautiful beech tree forest along Lake Te Anau, the second largest lake in the country. The forests look like something straight from Jurassic Park.
In the morning we took off for our first big excursion, a kayak trip to the Milford Sound. Taylor had done a boat tour during her last stay in New Zealand, so we thought sea kayaks would be a fresh way to experience the landscape. The kayak company transported us two hours to the sound along the Milford Highway. The drive here has to be one of the most spectacular in the world. It winds through wide valleys surrounded by snow capped mountains, lush forests, and even Homer Tunnel which cuts through a mountain. We stopped for photos both in and out of Milford. There are hikes and camping spots all around this area that could demand an entire trip in itself. I asked Taylor if she might have made a mistake by showing me the most beautiful part of the country on our first stop! (Spoiler alert: No, the entire country is this amazing!)
Once at the Milford Sound, which is not a sound but actually a fiord cut by glaciers, we started suiting up for our kayaking trip. It was a cold morning but luckily they provided plenty of fleece and dry gear. We shared a sea kayak and set out into the calm fiord with our Kiwi guide, Ollie. He's been working as a guide for eight years so he was very knowledgeable about the landscape and New Zealand as a whole.
The Milford Sound is amazing, with huge peaks that jut up from sea level. Moss and trees somehow cling to the granite cliffs. Rainwater usually falls into the fiord from every direction, forming a dark fresh water layer above clearer seawater. We caught the fiord on a crystal clear day which is quite rare on the west side of the island. We could see all of the peaks and distant waterfalls as we kayaked for around three hours.
Back in town we stopped for a pint of beer and got acclimated to the prices here. Things are very expensive being on a remote island! Meals start around $25 and a beer can be $10-15. The strong US Dollar helps us a bit, but it's clear we aren't in Southeast Asia anymore! We stayed awake as long as possible, but soon we were feeling our jet lag so we went back to our room to rest up for our drive back to Queenstown the next morning.
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Chris & Taylor
Read our travel blog as we visit three continents in 2017.