Arriving in Queenstown was an adventure in itself. Never have I ever flown SO close to the mountains before. It felt as though one wrong move in either direction would send us crashing right into them! A little scary to say the least, but absolutely breathtaking at the same time! When we landed in Queenstown we had to go straight to the rental car place so that we could carry on for the next 2 hours to reach our final destination in Te Anau. Thankfully, I (Ashley) had gotten a lot of practice in driving over the last week, which prepared me for the most stressful drive yet! For about 10 minutes, maybe longer, we had to drive around a mountain, with curve after curve, and huge drops off the side. The crazy locals would pass tourists like us on this road because apparently driving cautiously is not in their DNA. Even though I was comfortable driving on the left, even if this road was back home it would have been a nightmare there as well! The scenery on the way to our final stop was beautiful. Everywhere you looked there were mountains and lakes.
We arrived at our temporary home, which I had found for us on AIRBNB. For those of you not familiar, this is a service that connects home owners with travellers who are looking for a (cheaper) alternative to staying in a hotel. Some homes offer breakfast, laundry, internet, etc., so it is quite nicer (we think) than staying in a hotel. The home we chose was run by a great guy our age who used to be a guide up in the Milford Sound area, so he was great to talk to about our trip up there. When we arrived, he had some friends over for dinner, so it was a very social welcome! Believe it or not, we actually ran into another traveller from Canada (Toronto), which is always fun! We had a few drinks, socialized, and went to bed.
In the morning, we started out drive up to Milford Sound. This was the road I had been dreading driving for over a month since I had started seeing reports on Facebook about the multiple crashes on this highway. Most of the crashes are caused by tourists driving on the wrong side of the road, while others are caused by stupid drivers trying to pass on a curve, etc. Regardless, I was stressed before it began. The trip would take 2-2.5 hours through more curvy roads. The worst part of the trip was when we had to go through the tunnel that took us to the other side of the mountain. This tunnel was complete darkness other than a few small lights, and it was slowly leaking. When you come out the other side you have a very slow descent into the valley through sharp curves following a line of cars. By the time we got there we were already emotionally exhausted, but the beauty quickly took over, and we forgot about the drive.
Milford Sound is probably the biggest tourist destination of the south island, and it is easy to see why. The grandeur of this place is amazing, we had never seen anything like it. The closest place to this for me was Iceland, and I have to say that Milford Sound wins over Iceland. We decided to take a cruise on the waters of the fjord to get the full experience, and we were so glad we did. On our cruise, we got to see both dolphins and seals in their natural habitat, which was so much fun. See the video of the dolphins here. We saw multiple waterfalls, one of which was so large that when we went into it with the boat, anyone outside got soaked. I tried to take some photos and video but the power of the water was crazy, so Trevor did it instead! See the video here. The pictures don’t do anything here justice, and I wish there was a way to share it with you all. This was the highlight of our trip so far, and I can’t see anything beating it. There are too many videos to share also, so click here for one that I think best shows off the beauty of Milford Sound. The only downside was having to drive the 2.5 hours back on that crazy road, but at the end of the day it was worth it!
We have a lot of photos from this day, so I have added them all below this post – enjoy!