Time to get back to posting about our NZ trip from May/June 2023. My last NZ Trip post was published on 15 November 2023. We’d had a day trip to Glenorchy and it was our last night in Queenstown. This post picks up the next morning on Day 11.
DAY 11 (23 May)
It was an early start today, with us leaving Queenstown around 6:55am for the 2 hr drive to Te Anau.
Thankfully our accommodation at Te Anau was happy for us to check in early so all our belongings could be stored away safely while we were out for the day. We were booked for a trip to Milford Sound – 2 hours on a bus then on the cruise in Milford Sound for 2 hrs then 2 hrs on the bus back to Te Anau. We were very excited!
We stayed at Te Anau Lodge, or more specifically the Mararoa Homestead, a cottage built in 1921 that sleeps 6, which we were upgraded to at no extra cost! It was a large space for the two of us to be rattling around in but we certainly didn’t complain! It used to be the residence of the Mararoa Station. It was shifted in 2010 to the garden of Te Anau Lodge with a glorious view of the Luxmore and Murchison Mountain Ranges and stunning Lake Te Anau. Te Anau Lodge itself was built in 1936, and relocated to Te Anau from nearby Nightcaps. The former Sisters of Mercy Convent is positioned at the northern end of Te Anau Township, surrounded by breathtaking lake and mountain views. The location of the lodge is quiet and tranquil, yet only 15 minutes walk to the centre of Te Anau township.
Some pics are below. I neglected to take a photo of the front of the cottage but I’ve done a sketch of the front of the house which will be in an upcoming Art Chat post. There were a lot of rooms in the cottage/house that I thought I took photos of (3 bedrooms, a bathroom, laundry etc) but scrolling through my phone I can’t find them so maybe I didn’t after all!
Te Anau is a small town with a population of around 2,760. It’s sits alongside Lake Te Anau which is known for its abundant trout! The town itself, apart from its beautiful lake and views of the mountains, hasn’t really got a lot there. There’s not a lot to see in the township apart from some general shops & cafe’s and souvenir shops. There may be more to see and do that we weren’t aware of though. It’s the epicentre for all things bus trips and cruises to the sounds. It’s the gateway to the Fiordland! We did hear of the Te Anau Caves featuring a limestone grotto of glowworms and an underground waterfall but we didn’t have time to visit that.
Fiordland National Park
The Fiordland National Park is one of New Zealand’s treasured natural icons. It is home to glaciers, alpine ranges and unique flora and fauna that has been in existence since New Zealand was part of the supercontinent Gondwanaland. Fiordland National Park itself covers 1.2 million hectares of mountain, lake, fiord and rainforest environments. Human activity within Fiordland has been limited because of its challenging and wild landscapes.
To experience the Fiordland National park as we drove to the sound was amazing. The beauty you see all around you is breathtaking! I enjoyed the bus driver’s commentary explaining that all the mountains we saw around us were granite rock and have no soil at all as all soil has been washed away over the various ice ages. The average rainfall in the area is around 10 metres per year! As a result, moss & lichen grow on the granite (and everywhere really!) and provide an anchor for the various fern and tree seedlings that grow there too. He explained the tree avalanches as a result of snow build up & avalanches taking everything in their path leaving scars on the mountainsides. Then begins the revegetation process which can take around 20 to 150 years! We saw all stages – from bare rock to fully vegetated – particularly when in Milford Sound itself.
What surprised me a lot was the huge amount of tree ferns everywhere throughout the fiordland national park. All my life I have associated tree ferns with the tropics so this was a surprise. They seem to be thriving here though. For anyone interested, I did a Google search and found that there are three Dicksonia species native to New Zealand. The most frequently seen species of tree fern in New Zealand are ‘Cyathea dealbata‘ (silver fern), ‘C. medullaris’ (mamaku), ‘C. smithii’ (katote), and ‘Dicksonia squarrosa‘ (wheki). Tree ferns are colloquially known in New Zealand as “pungas”. As a comparison the most common tree fern in Brisbane, Australia is the ‘Cyathea Cooperi‘. Others that grow in Australia are ‘Cyathea australis‘ and ‘Dicksonia antarctica‘ (a species of evergreen tree fern).
What can I say except WOW what an experience!
Milford Sound is actually a fiord, not a sound. Sounds are formed by overflows from river valleys whereas Milford was formed by the erosion of glaciers over time, making it a fiord. New Zealand is one of only a few places on the planet where you can see the spectacular sight of glacial-carved fiords.
Milford Sound tops the rainfall meter of New Zealand. The annual rainfall averages 6,813mm falling about 182 days of the year. The highest recorded rainfall on a single day is at 250mm. September, October, November and December are the wettest months in Milford Sound, with an average of 16 to 18 days of rainfall in a month. But that is a good thing! Milford Sound is even more magical when the rains come. It amplifies the already powerful waterfalls and creates hundreds of temporary ones which cascade down the cliff faces in a fury of power and beauty.
The fiord is hundreds of meters deep, but that’s not the only thing giving it the dark appearance. It’s a combination of darkened freshwater and seawater. During one of the many rainfalls that happen in the area, the water drains from the lush forests that surround Milford Sound and washes a tannin which stains the water the colour of strong tea. There are approximately 6 meters of freshwater that sit on top of the ocean water, which blocks out the light making it uniquely ideal for deep-sea life to thrive even in shallow waters.
Stirling Falls which you see in some of the videos below has a legend that says if you get sprayed by it you will wake up looking 10 years younger in the morning. It’s known as the fountain of youth! I made sure I got sprayed by it but I’m not sure that I looked 10 years younger the next morning!
Note that I barely took any photos here. I mostly did short videos. I found that there was too much to try and capture in a single photo.
Dinner tonight was at Redcliff Restaurant & Bar. It had a beautiful ambience in there and I enjoyed the most delicious smoked salmon dinner I have ever experienced!
Another big day tomorrow as we head off to explore Doubtful Sound.
Ciao for now,