Bucket List – Number 4
“Cruise Milford Sound”
After a lovely few days in Queenstown, and having managed to avoid every adrenalin rush on offer, it was time to tick ” Cruise Milford Sound” off my bucket list.
It’s about a 4 hour drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound and accomodation is limited so unless you want to spend 8 hours in a car and only 5 minutes at Milford Sound your best bet is to stay at Te Anua over night.
Te Anua is about half way and is considered to be the gateway to the Fiordland National Park so it is teeming with tour buses and tourists. The town itself is situated on Lake Te Anua which is very pretty. I did feel like I had gone back in time to the 1970’s, the hotel had wood panelled walls, geometrical lino and shag carpet and served cask wine at the bar. The buffet dinner offered in the dining room looked less than appealing and so we left the plastic flowers in tupperware vases and plastic tablecloths to the bus loads of Chinese tourists and headed into town.
We found the “in pub ” which could also have been used as a set on “Muriels Wedding” more 1970’s decor , cask wine and “surf and turf” a house special, shame the prices have moved with the times.
A lovely walk back to hotel along the lake and early to bed.
There was no need for an alarm the next morning, everyone in the hotel was up early , obviously soundproofing wasn’t a thing in 1970.
It was a grey and rainy day, this apparently is a good thing when visiting Milford Sound, there are more waterfalls, mm not so sure about that. I didn’t find the drive there particularly spectacular, fairly flat and boring to be honest. I think its probably better other times of year, the grass and paddocks were still brown as the snow had only recently melted and had not had enough time to “green ” up. Not much wildlife either and unfortunately two birds less because they flew into my car, ( not at the same time)
There was still snow around higher up, I had planned on building a snowman but it was a bit of a hike up to the snow and it was raining so kept on driving. We had to stop at the entrance of Homer Tunnel and wait our turn to drive thru the mountain, it felt like ages, but it did give me the chance to get out of the car, stretch my legs and take some photos of a very strange looking bird. Driving thru a mountain isn’t as exciting as it sounds and the video I took even less exciting, I won’t subject you to watching it.
The scenery on the other side looked much more spectacular, clearly Milford Sound was not far away. Heading down the Mountain we came across a carpark with about 6 tour buses parked, it didn’t appear to be a toilet stop but with no internet access we couldn’t google , we decided to follow the masses. Was well worth the stop and 20 minute walk , seems we had stumbled across “The Chasm “.
We didn’t want to get stuck driving behind 6 tour buses so ran back to the car and drove on to Milford Sound. We hadn’t booked ahead so went into the information centre and had our cruise sorted in no time, we bought some lunch to take on board and walked down to jetty to board our boat.
The whole cruise took about 2 hours, we saw rain, waterfalls, fur seals, more rain and lots of rain forrest. We ate our picnic lunch, had a few wines, chatted to some American tourists and had a “glacial facial” the time zoomed by and before we knew it we were back in our car heading back to Te Anua.
I should probably write more about Milford Sound, it was after all on my bucketlist. I did enjoy it and Im glad and grateful I was able to go, I was however underwhelmed, maybe it would be more impressive on a sunny day, or if there was snow but I think Ill just let my photos do the talking.
Ill leave you with some travel tips for Milford Sound
Probably the most important ( unless you are Chinese)
The first week in October is “Golden week”, according to google 6 million Chinese go on holidays, I think 5.5 million of those go to Milford Sound.
Do not listen to the young girls in Queenstown Information Centres . They arent actually information centres but booking centres and will try and flog you seats on things that are apparently almost fully booked when in actual fact they are half empty.
The information centre at Milford Sound is the place to do your booking. When we asked what cruise was best she was very PC , she asked if we preferred an ” Eastern buffet” or Western. We chose Western but took our own lunch and joined an half empty cruise boat with english speaking people . The ferry next to us was not unlike the Star Ferry in Hong Kong.
You can buy wine on board ( and it wasnt cask wine)
Cruise staff enthusiastically encourage you to do the ” glacial facial” whereby you stand at bow of boat and get sprayed by a waterfall.
Im in two minds about recommending this,
On one hand it was fun for 30 seconds, but I was wet and cold for the following 4 hours.
Additionally the sunblock I had on ( because despite raining , NZ has a hole in the ozone layer) ran into my eyes and a day later my eyes are still watering and Im typing this with one eye.
Ill leave it up to you whether you think its worth it or not.
Staying at Te Anua is a good idea, mostly because there is nowhere to stay Milford Sound.
We stayed at the Kingsgate Hotel, if you loved the seventies, this is the place for you..if you dont mind noisy bar fridges ( I turned mine off) and waking extra early to noisy plumbing as everyone has showers to get on tour bus ( refer tip 1)
You will have slowest wifi at Te Anua and none at Milford Sound . Ive waited two days for my photos on my iphone to sync with my ipad , now theyve synced I cant actually see them thru my watering eyes ( refer tip 5)
There are a lot of dead possums and rabbits on the road, this is apparently a good thing as they are considered pests ( maybe consider buying the possum nipple warmers afterall?)
If you get chatting to two charter pilots and two gay flight attendants at the 70’s hotel do go to the Moose Bar in Te Anua because you will have fun , even if you feel a bit rough the next day .
So I hope you find that helpful, we did have a great time, but it is nice to be back in Queenstown.
Unfortunately due to Golden week I have no “Nu Zeelund”