NZ Trip: Te Anau and Milford Sound

January 24, 2024
Fiordland NZ
Fiordland NZ

A beautiful scene at the beginning of the Fiordland National Park. The bus stopped so we could take photos.

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!

Driving to Te Anau


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!

Back of our accommodation at Te Anau Lodge (Mararoa Homestead)

View from our carport

Dining through to kitchen

Part of the lounge room

Te Anau

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.


Lake Te Anau


Lake Te Anau

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).

Fiordland NZ

Milford Sound

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.

Milford Sound


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,

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  • Reply Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid January 24, 2024 at 5:10 am

    Loved the photography and especially the video clips – I’ve had a real armchair adventure! What a score with your accommodation upgrade, I especially loved that TV unit in the lounge room!

    • Reply Min January 25, 2024 at 6:32 am

      Hi Sammie, glad you enjoyed! That TV unit in the lounge room was an interesting mix of old and new LOL. The older unit reminded me of my grandmother! xo

  • Reply Sue from Women Living Well After 50 January 24, 2024 at 6:05 am

    We loved our trip to Milford Sound, firstly by land as you did then years later on a cruise ship through Fiordland. Stunning views at every turn and you’ve captured the scenery beautifully, Min. I loved where you stayed in Te Anau and the quaint decor plus an upgrade is always a win. Thanks for sharing your trip with us and also hosting #WWWhimsy. Have a lovely week, Min and hope you are taking care of yourself. xx

    • Reply Min January 25, 2024 at 6:36 am

      Hi Sue, maybe we’ll do it again by cruise ship next time! The scenery was so beautiful I would happily revisit the sounds (Milford and others) again. Where we stayed was a real surprise (especially the upgrade) and a nice change after 4 nights in a hotel room! xo

  • Reply Lydia C. Lee January 24, 2024 at 6:41 am

    That photo with the pink cloud framing the snow topped mountain is so beautiful. I really want to go to Milford Sound. We went to the fjord in Norway and they said the only ones in the world vaguely comparable are in NZ, so I’m guessing that’s Milford Sound? It’s quite awe inspiring (in the proper sense of the word). Lovely stuff. Your holiday looks so beautiful. I hope revisiting it in the posts is giving you some joy and helping you to destress for awhile.

    • Reply Min January 25, 2024 at 6:38 am

      Hi Lydia, glad you like the pink cloud photo. I remember as we were driving along it looked so beautiful I just had to capture it! It was actually far more stunning in reality than in the photograph. Oh I would love to go to the fjord in Norway. The fiordlands we explored in NZ were just such a magical experience. Revisiting by doing these posts is a nice distraction for me at the moment (when I can find some time – which is hard)! xo

  • Reply Debbie Harris January 24, 2024 at 7:55 am

    Hi Min, this all looks like a wonderful adventure. When we visited NZ a few years back we didn’t get into this area so it’s lovely to see it through your eyes and phots/videos. Even with the cloudy wet days the beauty is astounding. Hope all is well in your world – as much as an be expected anyway! Take care and thanks for having us for the linkup.

    • Reply Min January 25, 2024 at 6:42 am

      Hi Deb, it’s a shame you didn’t get to see the fiordland when in NZ. Maybe you will if you visit NZ again one day. The cloudy, wet weather was actually a blessing as it ensures we get to see the best of all the waterfalls etc in the Sound and apparently it’s almost always raining in the fiordland! My world is hectic and challenging at the moment but I’m just trying to take it day by day and do my best in each of those days. Thanks Deb! xo

  • Reply Denyse J Whelan January 24, 2024 at 9:11 am

    I think I too would be “wowing” a lot with those spectacular views come at you for all your senses. You’ve given me a wonderful taste of what it would be in another country…just across the ditch…and yet so very different to ours. I am hoping your week goes well and that you can find lots of distract and calm you during moments of respite. Thanks for the link up. Denyse.

    • Reply Min January 25, 2024 at 6:44 am

      Hi Denyse, I’m glad you enjoyed the virtual visit to Te Anau and Milford Sound. It’s truly so stunningly beautiful! It’s been a busy week this week and will be every week for a while but I try and find some moments for rest and time out … cos I simply can’t function without them! xo

  • Reply Jennifer Jones January 24, 2024 at 10:08 am

    Your trip looks wonderful Min. A few years ago, I went on a cruise around NZ and we went up the Milford Sound. I agree with you, Wow is the only word for it, your photos are gorgeous and I loved the videos

    • Reply Min January 25, 2024 at 6:45 am

      Hi Jennifer, I think it would be so nice to visit from a cruise ship. We might do that too one day. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. I hope it brought back some happy memories for you! xo

  • Reply Thistles and Kiwis January 24, 2024 at 2:27 pm

    Have to confess we have never made it all the way down there even though we have been in NZ for 11 years. Nice to see the photos from your trip.

    • Reply Min January 25, 2024 at 6:53 am

      Hello and wow – to be so close and to not have yet visited! Is it on your ‘to do’ list? You won’t regret it. It’s so beautiful. I adored Doubtful Sound too … but that’s for another post! xo

  • Reply sherry January 24, 2024 at 5:16 pm

    the food in the last photo looks wonderful. How glorious is NZ?! I just hope we get back there some day. It’s hard when i hate flying so much! thanks for all the great photos and vids.

    • Reply Min January 25, 2024 at 6:47 am

      Hi Sherry, the food we had at that restaurant was incredibly delicious! I remember that I found it a bit too hot in there though – it was too overheated for my liking – so we didn’t linger after we ate. Out we went back into the cold! lol The South Island of NZ certainly disappoint. I was in awe of the natural beauty at every turn. I’m so sorry you hate to fly. I must admit I’m more anxious flying then I used to be. It’s mostly the landings that I don’t like, and any turbulence! xo

  • Reply Natasha Mairs January 25, 2024 at 12:14 am

    Stirling Falls looks incredible. I would love to visit this.

    • Reply Min January 25, 2024 at 6:48 am

      Hi Natasha, it’s a beautiful part of the world. A real privilege to see and experience! xo

  • Reply Joanne January 25, 2024 at 4:34 am

    This is such a beautiful area to explore! Those waterfalls are amazing.

    • Reply Min January 25, 2024 at 6:49 am

      Hi Joanne, it’s gorgeous and magical with all the low lying mists and fogs and just incredibly beautiful! xo

  • Reply Cathy January 25, 2024 at 11:41 am

    A fabulous way to have permanent reminders of a wonderful trip – each instalment seems to get better- this one is top notch!
    Thanks for hosting the Wednesday link up Min. It’s fun seeing what others have got up to as well

    ps – I forgot to comment last week, hope I’m forgiven😎

    • Reply Min January 26, 2024 at 9:33 am

      Hi Cathy, thanks so much. I love to have these posts to keep the memories alive. Great to refer back to and hopefully enjoyable for viewers too and might even help inform trip planning for someone else who maybe planning on visiting NZ. No problem about forgetting to comment last week. It happens! xo

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