One of the most amazing trips, that I arranged for our little family and we were lucky enough to experience during our New Zealand visit, was a self drive tour to Milford Sound.
My first desire to visit and live in New Zealand showed itself to me properly when I was 25 but I do think it was on reading the Kon Tiki Expedition, one of my mums books, when I was in my youth, that helped me to fall in love with Oceania and the South Pacific.
However you choose to access this trip, one thing worth remembering is that, depending on what time of year it is, the road can be open or closed. If you stay somewhere like the Top 10 Holiday Park in Te Anau, ask in reception and they will let you know the status on the road before you leave.
The fantastic thing about taking a trip here, is the jaw dropping scenery and stopping points along the way.
These are simply icing on the Milford Sound cake. Winter time is definitely my favourite time of year to wander in Fjordland and New Zealand. The season seems to sit starkly with the natural landscape, providing it with a dusting of snow along the Milford Road, which engages your senses and prompts you to take many stops along the way.
The journey from Te Anau to the Milford Sound is a 240 km return journey. We found it best to leave early, so that we could make the most of the day and catch the last cruise out, this is what suited our needs. I recommend spending the whole day here and when the weather is warmer, it is very tempting to camp at one of the 10 DOC campsites along the way. There are different spots beside lakes, rivers and bush and also a spot of trout fishing can be found nearby, Lake Lochie freezes over, which makes it a magical walk along its shoreline and most have toilets and fire places. I love the fact that the NZ DOC is up for a spot of freedom camping – but keep an eye out for the prohibition signs, so you don’t get into trouble.
The Mirror Lakes were my most favourite stopping point along the way. The reflection of Earl Mountain in the glassy water, combined with a short ten minute stroll, made this a great way to break up the journey and allow kids a chance to stretch their legs.
The Chasm, holds a special memory in my heart, as this was the place my little girl pointed out her love for me, using nature as her canvas.
The Kea, New Zealand’s very own alpine parrot made us laugh with its antics, as it picked up discarded sandwich leftovers and even took a liking to a few cigarette buts in the car park (which can’t be good for its health.) – It definitely left us feeling entertained.
Booking our tickets and as it was winter, we were fortunate to be on the cruise ship with only a handful of other tourists and these seemed more interested in the buffet provided for them inside, than the actual cruise of the ship inside this antipodean natural wonder.
- The Milford Sound has a layer of fresh water which sits on top of the sea water. This is produced by the heavy rainfall which happens each year. The tannins from the leaves washed down into this top layer of water, create a phenomenon called deep water emergence. Light cannot penetrate the top layer thus creating conditions only normally seen in the deep ocean. The Underwater Observatory is one way visitors can take a peek into this underwater world and one unusual organism they will be lucky enough to see is Black Coral(which is white) and can only be normally seen at depths of 500 metres or more!