Te Anu makes a great jumping off point for exploring New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park. Located on the South Western tip of the South Island, it is the largest national park in New Zealand and a World Heritage Area. It rains there on over 200 days of the year – so not that much for an Irish chick! The waterfalls are spectacular here.
By heading here first, I wanted to ensure 2 things – 1) that My husband got to see it and 2) we’d have better weather than waiting until we were three weeks later into the New Zealand autumn.
We stayed for two nights in a self contained cottage. The standard was high for the price we paid. We had a one bed-roomed cottage with a Jacuzzi spa tub! A fabulous way for us to gather our strength after jet lag and sickness.
The town is adorable, situated the Lake Te Anu, with a medley of places to buy all sorts of tours – Milford Sound being the big, most affordable draw. I’d been to Milford sound before and had fully intended to take My Husband, but then things kind of got out of hand. The weather forecasted for a clear sunny day – like, no clouds at all – sunny. We began to explore the prices of helicopter flights to Milford sound and then Doubtful Sound caught our eye – more remote, harder to get to and less people (the Holy Grail on the tourist trail!)
But the prices were way too high to fly.
As we chatted to the helpful staff in the i-SITE visitor center, (the best place to buy your tours other than directly online – there’s one in every town) we kept coming back to the Doubtful Sound option. Tours to Milford Sound were very full as there’d been a road closure the day before, but Doubtful Sound was pricey – NZ$250 per person for the day trip leaving from Te Anu. Or we could drive ourselves out to Milford Sound and get a cruise there for NZ$85 along with the throngs of other tourists. With all the back and forth trying to decide should we drop so much cash on one day, I began to wonder if this was how Doubtful Sound got its name!
It was a hard place to access. You had to cross a lake, then take a road over a pass in the mountains that was not connected to any other road. Then a boat would take you through the fjord.
All things considered – we concluded that it was value for money. Mind you, I’m the type that can spin that sort of rationale – My friend and I once went camping and ended up staying in a nice hotel because we reasoned it would save us cash!
We started out before sunup at silly o’clock, shivering at the side of the road waiting for our bus to pick us up and wondering if we’d been insane to spend all that money. The half hour bus ride to the lakeside thawed us out and as we crossed Lake Manapouri the sun rose.
The boat was very comfortable, with free coffee and spectacular views. We began to wake up and appreciate just where we were and how amazing it was.
A bus picked us up after we docked at the other side of the lake. There was a power station here. A random place to put it I thought, and for me, it was still to early to read all the info and educate myself about it. The old brain was still too foggy!
The bus ride over the Wilmot Pass to Deep Cove only took about a half hour and it stopped at the top for a view of the sound. Note the clear blue sky. We were told that happens about five times a year. How lucky were we?
The cruise through Doubtful Sound was a feast for the eyes (and camera!)
We journeyed out to were the sound (technically it’s a Fjord) met the Tasman Sea. The huge breakers in the distance telling the story of how big the waves are out there and just how sheltered the Sound is. The sound got its name because in 1770 Captain Cook was not sure if it was navigable under sail.
As if we’d hadn’t already had an amazing day, on our return journey – the cherry on the top – a visit from a pod of dolphins!
It felt like this guy wanted to speak to us!
A wonderful end to a trip I’m so glad we decided to go on.
Travel is such a precious part of my life. I do not take it for granted. I know I’m lucky to have these experiences. I’d like to dedicate this post to a friend of mine who I know has dreamed of visiting Doubtful Sound for a very long time. Her life has taken her in different directions and she has weathered the storms with valor. She recently decided to embark upon a career in nursing. She’s the same age as me and I have so much respect for anyone going into nursing but especially those who go in later in life – She is my hero! This post is in your honor. May all your dreams come true.