Milford Sound and a scenic drive back

Some call it the eighth wonder of the World, and I can see why.

Not that it’s official, but there’s a magnificent beauty of Milford Sound on New Zealand’s South Island, and it really is captivating.

As part of my trip to Dunedin, we took the weekend to visit the Fiordland National Park, which is home to this fantastic site. The drive there was nothing short of breath-taking itself, and we stopped at plenty of spots along the way to indulge in the sights.

Accepting the weather

One thing to note about the area is how wet it can be. Not only is it one of the wettest inhabited areas of New Zealand, but it ranks up there across the world. If you look for pictures and videos, you’ll see plenty of dry, sunny and “picture-perfect” shots, but be aware it’s usually not like that.

While it would be something to see, I’m glad I got to see it at its most natural and normal. Going in winter proved to be a great choice, as this seemed to add to the atmosphere of Milford Sound and the journey there.

While there are locations you can go to to relive the magic of The Lord of the Rings and Middle Earth, much of the country can fool you into believing you have entered that, or a different, world and the Fiordland National Park is one of the best examples I’ve seen of that.

I mean, just see for yourself (although pictures don’t do it justice, I admit).

A cruise of waterfalls

One of the perks of coming this way during winter and with so much moisture in the air is the abundance of waterfalls. While the scenery was magnificent as is, with the clouds hovering around the mountains, and the mystery heightened thanks to fog and mist, seeing water streaming down added more.

Some of these are permanent waterfalls but most are just the water returning to the ground and rivers, their paths erratic. The chaos and unpredictability of it all brought balance to the atmosphere, and there were some truly impressive falls.

The two-hour cruise we took through Milford Sound was no exception to this, and the captain of the ship told us there are only three permanent waterfalls that existed on the route we took. The rest all depend on the season and weather. I can’t imagine them not being there, white veins from top to bottom on the rocks.

While I like to think I’m good with words, I’m not sure I can convey just how amazing this place is, so take a look at some moody photos to get more of an idea.

The scenic route back

Returning to Dunedin gave us another opportunity to see a few more places. Rather than take the direct road back, I was treated to a couple of diversions so that I could see more of what the South Island has to offer – and I wasn’t disappointed.

Queenstown, Wanaka and various vistas along the way showed just how different the two islands of the country can be. While the North Island is certainly stunning, it doesn’t hold a candle to the south.

On the Crown Range Road between Wanaka and Queenstown is Cardrona, and you’ll find one of the country’s oldest hotels here, The Cardrona Hotel. If you can stop in for a drink and take in the views around it. If you plan on exploring this area a bit more, it’s the perfect place to stay, too!

While a long day and journey, I wouldn’t change a thing. It was only a taste, but enough to let me know I need to see these places again and find out just what else they have to offer.

Queenstown

One of the most expensive places to live in New Zealand is Queenstown, and there’s a lot to do here just from what I could see. Sitting on a lake, and surrounded by mountains, ski and snow sports are a popular pastime here, as well as country trails and water activities.

A boat ready to speed people around the lake in Queenstown
A boat ready to speed people around the lake in Queenstown

While many of the backpackers that would normally be in the area returned home, there was a good bustle offering atmosphere and winter proves to be a popular time of year for the ski slopes, but don’t think that summer would be empty, either.

From what I understand, there are always things to do here.

Wanaka

Wanaka also sits on a lake and the mountains create a stunning contrast. One of the most photographed trees can be found on the edge of the lake, or in it during parts of the year (like winter).

While it seems much smaller and quieter than Queenstown, there’s a tranquillity here that stretches into the countryside. That’s enough to tell me I’d really enjoy spending time here, and the inspiration that would come would be something else.

The famous Wanaka Tree
The famous Wanaka Tree

All in all, this trip was amazing and a real reminder as to why I’m on this adventure. I hope to see more sights like this along the way, although they may have to wait a bit longer after I leave New Zealand. We’ll see.

Until next time.

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