No matter how beautiful and sweet Queenstown is (read about it here and here), we couldn’t stay there forever, so we continued our journey to Te Anau and Milford Sound. Right from the start we were amazed by the scenery this route offers. Mountains, lakes, rivers, fields – it felt like we were riding first class train provided by the Mother Nature herself. Here are some pictures we quickly took from the car:
On our way from Queenstown to Te Anau we picked up a hitchhiker (Greetings to Paulina!). Generally, I recommend giving lifts to people from time to time. Hitchhikers in New Zealand are mostly travelers, who have stories to share and offer a great company. Many of them have already been around, so they can give you great recommendations. Paulina, Argentinian girl we picked up not far from Te Anau, has been in New Zealand for a few years. She gave us few good tips about places to see around the South Island.
When we reached our first destination, we checked into our hostel and then continued to explore Te Anau. It’s little lovely town around the lake with the same name. Like most lakes in New Zealand, Te Anau offers stunning views as well as some activities (like helicopter ride or waterplane). But of course, for most people it’s a stopover on the way to Milford Sound. We, as well as other travelers, were captivated by the idea of seeing the wonderful fjord; the next morning we started to drive in our rental car to get there.
First lesson we learned from driving from Te Anau to Milford Sound:
Allow yourself more time than the map suggests.
One reason is that you never know who you meet on the road. Not everyone is driving well enough for you to keep your speed and sometimes it’s hard to overtake (check out our driving tips). But the most important reason is that there are plenty of stops and scenic views on the way. And you just don’t want to miss them! We reached Milford Sound much later than we planned, but on the way we have seen so many stunning places and had many encounters – waterfalls, creeks, fields with sheep, flying flocks of geese, (falcons and eagles snacking hare/ferret roadkills) and more. Stopping made our journey longer, but it was worth it.
Lesson number 2:
Be flexible and allow the change of plans.
After we reached Milford Sound, we were ready to be a little more active. It seemed that we have spent so much time in the car that we just had to move. However, it turned out that there’s not much hiking you can do around the fjord (or there’s lack of information). The most common ways to explore the area are either by helicopter, plane, cruise or kayaking. While kayaking is probably the best option, we decided not to do it, because it was simply too expensive. Besides, kayaking around Milford Sound is better to be done in the morning rather than afternoon.
We walked around the area, took some pictures, went up the hill and then decided to go back and follow Paulina’s suggestion – visit Lake Marian. And wow, we were happy we did it! This was simply gorgeous. We had a great hike up the hill and the most beautiful view to the lake. And the best part? The amount of people we met there was very different from what you see in Milford Sound.
Of course, we met hikers on our way up and down; but while we were at the lake, there was not more than 10 people sitting around; it was both quiet and enjoyable. The lake is located on the hill, and you get a wonderful view to the surrounding mountains; the area is peaceful and calm, so we would recommend to take your time, pack some lunch and enjoy it up there.
On the way to Lake Marian we made some more stops, one of them being the beautiful Chiasm. Besides the walk to the waterfall, you can also swim in the crystal blue waters, if you turn to the right on your way up.
Lesson number 3:
If possible, pack your drinks and snacks/lunch in advance.
There are not many stops on the road where you can buy some descent food; coffee and tea prices on the way are also quite high. How great it is, however, to bring a thermos of hot water, some tea bags and enjoy a cup of tea on your stop at some beautiful viewing point. By the way, I don’t think we ever had so many scenic views during out lunches as we did in NZ. Also, don’t forget to bring enough water.
We got back to Te Anau in the evening, tired and happy. The hostel we were staying at is located next to the lake, so during our stay there we enjoyed it quite a bit – had lunch at the lake, a morning run, a walk and even tried to go swimming, but the water was simply too cold. Our day didn’t go as we first planned – not at all – but it turned out to be even more interesting and picturesque than we imagined.
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