Stop #18: Te Anau

Number of nights: 1
Distance: 212 KM (4,313 KM Total)

We left Queenstown with a high level of excitement, knowing that some of New Zealand’s most beautiful countryside lay ahead of us. We were on our way to Milford Sound, and although the destination itself was renowned for its beauty, the actual journey there was just as jaw-dropping.

Due to its popularity and lack of accommodations, we could only book a single night at Milford Sound’s only campground. However, due to a scheduling error on my part, I got the dates mixed up and we booked the wrong night. It all ended up okay because they managed to squeeze us in for a second night, but at the time we were anxious and had to come up with a plan B just in case they couldn’t keep us. Suffice to say, in order to maximize (what we thought was) our short time at Milford, we decided to split the journey into two parts, and stay a night in Te Anau, which is the last main town before Milford Sound.

We stayed at the Te Anau Lakeview Kiwi Holiday Park, which was located right across the road from the impressive Lake Te Anau. We went for a walk that night as the sun was setting and it was as peaceful and beautiful as it could get.

A pier on Lake Te Anau, just a few minutes walk from our campsite.
Yes, these are Canada Geese, which where introduced as a game bird into New Zealand in 1905.
Sunset on Lake Te Anau. Within steps of where this photo was taken was the very informative Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre. This is partly due to the fact that Te Anau is a starting point of one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, the Kepler Track.
Here’s our campsite. Lots of space to camp, and we must’ve drove around in circles for 5 minutes looking for the best plot of land to sleep on. Turns out they’re pretty much all the same, you just have to make sure that you park on level ground.
The following morning we headed to Milford Sound on the appropriately named Tw Anau-Milford Highway, which had stunning scenery. You basically drove along a very flat glacial valley with snow-covered peaks on either side of you.

Along the way we stopped at The Divide, which is a drop-off and pick-up spot for the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. It was also the start of several smaller trails, one of which is the Key Summit Track, which we decided to hike. It was a spectacular alpine hike that offered incredible views of Fiordland National Park.

On the way up the Key Summit Track.
Looking north-east is the Ailsa mountain range. It’s hard to believe that just 20 km away on the other side is the quiet town of Glenorchy, where we were a few days earlier. To get there by car it’s a bit longer: you would have to drive 300 km!
Tucked away in a hanging valley is Lake Marian, with Mount Christina on the left, Mount Crosscut behind, and Mount Gunn on the right.
Hiking the Key Summit Track. It looks like we’re in the Himalayas, but it was actually a relatively short and easy-going hike. Along the way we passed many serious hikers with huge backpacks, who were nearing the end of their 3 day Routeburn hike.
Fiordland National Park is amazing!
The 3 day Routeburn Track, one of the Great Walks, actually passes through the mountains you see in the background, and lead to Glenorchy on the other side.
Just when you thought that the view could not look more picturesque, up comes a tranquil alpine lake right at the end of the hike. Absolutely stunning!
Looking north is the Hollyford Valley, which is pure New Zealand wild country: no roads, no towns, nothing but forest, mountains and rivers that lead all the way to the ocean. You can hike your way there by taking 3 day trek along the Hollyford track.
To get to Milford Sound you have to climb, climb and climb. Throughout the ascent, the mountains seem to creep closer and closer to you, almost to the point where you feel claustrophobic.
Near the top you pass through a tunnel, and it’s at this point that you are completely surrounded by mountains, so high and close to you that there’s very little sky left.
Right in front of the tunnel is a parking lot, home to the Kea Alpine parrot. These fellas are a cheeky bunch, and are quite comfortable with hanging out on (and eating the rubber insulation of) your vehicle.
These guys had a lot of personality. I was verycareful not to drive over our little friends when backing out of the parking lot. We’ll miss you!