We started the day early – after a super quick snack, we boarded the tour bus at 7.00am. It was going to be a long day and a very long drive to Milford Sound, with a short break at Te Anau, mid-way between Queenstown and Milford Sound.
The drive from Queenstown to Te Anau was through narrow and windy roads skirting the Wakatipu Lake and passing by The Remarkable Mountain Range, which turns into a popular skiing destination in winter. The views of the Wakatipu Lake were gorgeous, shimmering in the sunlight. Looking behind we saw the beautiful Queenstown fading away at a distance.
After passing the end of Wakatipu Lake, the scenery opens us to the rolling green lands, a familiar sight in most of New Zealand, stretching as far as the eye can see. With patches of agricultural farmlands to patches of wild vegetation, the views are fantabulous. Every now and then you see sheep and deer farms. Almost the entire herd is keenly bending down busy eating the grass, whereas a few curious ones look up to the occasional passing vehicles.
Sprinkles of yellow flowers on the valley add a much needed contrast to the abiding shades of green. However these yellow flowers are weeds that were brought into the country by the first Europeans who came here in search of gold. These weeds were used to protect the cattle against the strong winds, but eventually the pollens spread, causing these flowers to massively spread across this island.
After a two hour journey, we reached Te Anau, a popular mid-point between Queenstown and Mildford Sound. There is no dearth of tour buses that stop here for a break. If you are driving by yourself, it’s a good idea to fill up the gas tank here because there are no gas stations between Te Anau and Milford Sound.
The drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound turned out to a striking contrast to the first half of the journey. While the first half of the drive was full of lake views and agricultural farmlands, the second half of the drive was full of breathtaking views of tall, soaring mountains, waterfalls falling down from every nook and corner, pure white glaciers on the peaks, rivers flowing by and lovely lakes. Just one of those drives where you need to stop every five minutes to admire the beauty of these unique landscapes.
Just a few minutes before reaching Milford Sound, we passed through a one-way tunnel that opened up to The Valley of thousand Waterfalls. Granted the weather wasn’t the best that day and the clouds were hanging heavily covering up the mountains and making the views hazy, but the rains opened up all the waterfalls that would have otherwise been locked up on a sunny day. At least that’s what we repeatedly told ourselves so that the bad weather wouldn’t throw a damper on our mood.
I was hankering to become that little girl who wants to step outside and dance, singing “rain rain go away, come again another day”. Well, I kinda did secretly in my head, but I think a real dance might have helped.
Anyways, when we reached Milford Sound, we were greeted with fog and grey color water, which was a complete contrast to the blue water, brown mountains I had seen in other perfect pictures.
We boarded our cruise and started the journey through the Milford Sound. The very first view was the Lady Bowen Falls waterfalls; water was gushing down the tall, snow covered mountains. As we maneuvered through the Milford Sound, we saw tall mountains, waterfalls flowing everywhere. Literally everywhere.
Though it was raining and cold and windy, we climbed up to the top of the cruise to enjoy the breathtaking views. I only wished my eyesight was powerful enough to pierce through the fog and see what’s behind them.
The Milford Sound opens up to the Tasman Sea, from where it’s almost impossible to see the Milford Sound, the very reason Cook and several others missed the Milford Sound when they sailed by.
The boat took a U-turn as soon as we reached the end of the Milford Sound, and steered towards a rock where adolescent male seals were fighting amongst themselves to find space on the rocks. These seals were active, a lot more active than the seals I’ve seen in the California Pacific Coast. It was hilarious how they were flapping their wings to move from one rock to another and driving away the seals that were already basking on the rocks.
Just after that, we encountered a pod of bottlenose dolphins that decided to compete with the speed of boat and they succeeded. From the big dolphins to the little ones, they relentlessly swam by our boat, gracefully jumping in and out of the water and flipping underwater. One of the dolphins decided to put on a show for us by jumping above the water, flipping itself and doing a nose dive into the water. What a wonderful sight!
Then our boat cruised towards the Stirling Falls, one of the two permanent waterfalls in Milford Sound. It went so close to the waterfalls, that the spray from the falls got us completely wet. Loved it!
So that was Milford Sound for us. Though we were happy that the rain revealed the plethora of waterfalls, we were also upset that it threw a damper on clear, uninterrupted views of Milfordsound and the cobalt color water.
While our way back to Queenstown, the whole time my husband and I were saying to each other “We need to come back again. We absolutely need to”. Milford Sound alone will be one of the primary reasons to visit NZ again on a sunny day!