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Milford Sound, New Zealand

We set out for another 5ish hour drive to one of the prime destinations on our list, Milford Sound. The southwest if New Zealand's South Island is known as Fiordland, as it is filled with numerous glacial valleys that extend to the sea. Perhaps the most impressive is Milford (also the most accessible). From Queenstown we headed south along more mountain lakes until reaching the sleepy lakeside town of Te Anau. We ate lunch there, and then continued down what is regarded as one of the most spectacular drives in the world, the Te Anau-Milford Highway.

At first winding through mountain farmland and plains, the road enters the Fiord and you are surrounded by progressively more dramatic and deep cliff faces. Through the center of the magnificent Fiord runs a river, laced with mountain wildflowers of purples, pinks, and white. As you venture deeper into the gorge waterfalls begin to appear all around the cliff walls - spilling from glacial beds atop the cliff peaks.

The road then literal goes into a mountain - a one way alpine tunnel controlled by a set of traffic lights complete with cave walls and water streams around you - - spits you out into one of the most staggering scenes I've ever seen. The hundreds of waterfalls dotting the huge cliff faces with lush forest in the middle only split by the river and the road alongside it. I was waiting for the teradactyls to start flying above or some other prehistoric creature to appear. Breathtaking stuff...

We stopped midway to hike part of the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand's "Great Walks" to Key Summit.

We continued along until we hit the "town" of Milford at the point where the sound opens up to a one mile wide deep blue water channel that leads to the Tasman Sea. We stayed in a lodge here for the night in what seemed like paradise - except for the unyielding swarms of sand flies that pounce the second you step outside. These pesky sand flies may actually be the saving grace of Milford, as the locals believe they keep the hordes of day-tourists from setting-up shop for too long, and maintain the unspoiled ecosystem of the Fiord.

The next morning we joined up with a guide for a sea kayaking trip of the sound. It was great! Being in the midst of the staggering cliffs was very cool, and our trip involved kayaking into a waterfall, Stirling Falls.

We also spotted some seals on the shore and some interesting bird species (but no dolphins this time). The wind picked up in the afternoon and the sea got very choppy - on of the pairs we were with capsized (they were fine). By the end we were riding the waves back into the port. We did a short nature walk around the sound and then started tye drive back across the stunning Te Anau-Milford highway in reverse.

permalink written by  bhkann on December 16, 2012 from Milford Sound, New Zealand
from the travel blog: New Zealand, 2012
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