We drove from Arrowtown to Te Anau and stayed the night at Rosie's Backpackers as we wanted to get an early start. Te Anau is the gateway to the world famous Milford Sound - a magnificent fjord in the Kiwi Southlands - which is one of the highlights of the region and we wanted to avoid the bus loads of day trippers.
We set off from Te Anau at 8am along one of the most jaw droppingly amazing drives I have ever been on. Every corner opened out onto the most stunning vistas - it was like driving through several countries in one day. From the Scottish heather-filled Highlands to the rolling green fields of Ireland full of sheep and cows, from the Norwegian chasmic fjords to the pine fringed lakes of Sweden, from the alpine, snow-topped mountains of Switzerland to the grassy plains of the United States - New Zealand has it all and more!
We stopped for a photo break at a place called Mirror Lakes and were soon swamped by buses carrying tour-loads of Chinese tourists, so we sped off to get to Milford Sound before them. We finally arrived there after just over 2 hours of windy roads and got on the next available boat trip at 11am.
We stood on the top deck to get the best views. Luckily, the clouds started to dissipate and we got to see the tips of the mountain peaks which would, otherwise, have been hidden. The first thing you notice is Mitre Peak - probably the most iconic (and most photographed) part of Milford Sound - towering above the surrounding peaks and reflected in the deep, dark, still waters below.
The boat moved slowly, following the cliff contours of the fjord - even getting within spraying distance if one of the dozens of waterfalls. We got a glimpse of the Tasman Sea before the boat headed back towards the port.
The drive back to Te Anau was far more relaxing - I stopped quite regularly to take photos of the beautiful scenery. There were hardly any cars or buses on the road and we were able to enjoy the landscape without being stuck behind a slow-moving tourist vehicle (which, I'm sure, local drivers think about me as u meander round the sharp curves at snail pace).
We visited a bird sanctuary in Te Anau where we saw many flightless birds as well as the famous Kea parrot (a cheeky bird that is notorious for eating rubber - like vehicle windscreen wipers and soles of shoes). This really was a sanctuary as the animals end up there only if they have been injured as cannot be rehabilitate and sent back to the wild.
As we had a few hours till nightfall, we decided to drive back to Arrowtown to say the night - as we'd liked it so much. We stayed at the same place - the New Orleans Hotel. I ate the lamb shanks for dinner - power food for the long drive to the west coast the next day.