Simply The Best Weekend Ever
For months (it seems like years) I wanted to get back to Fiordland to walk, explore and revel in the delights that this pristine part of New Zealand delivers – ok, yes I had great weather, but either way if you follow these suggestions you will have THE BEST TIME!
Arriving into Queenstown on a direct Air NZ flight from Auckland pick up an inexpensive rental car and drive to Te Anau – perhaps stopping only to buy fresh raspberries enroute at a road side stand.
The two-hour drive in the early evening was spectacular– the views were dangerously distracting and
helpful advice here – if your flight gets you in late in the afternoon go into Queenstown to eat before you leave as many eating spots /garages are closed on the way – I recommend King Made Noodles (5 Athol St) in Queenstown for a cheap and delicious bowl of noodles.
Arriving in Te Anau I was so lucky to have a lake view room at The Kingsgate Hotel GM Justin Ludlow and his team there make you very welcome and help you settle in. Te Anau is a delight – not as intensely busy as Queenstown and full of friendly people and a perfect means to enjoy plenty of outdoor activities.
A quiet, undisturbed sleep with a view over-looking NZ deepest lake and the largest in the South Island - the water looked inviting. Next day the RealNZ tour of the Glow Worms and trip over the Lake leaving ten am is a great idea and on your return head to the Sandfly Café – do try their cheese rolls and their chicken
and avocado mini roll (one piece of bread if you are carb sensitive) for a few dollars. Then a chance to jump off the yacht club wharf into the water – sensational. Imagine swimming in chilled Champagne that is what it was like – pure, pristine, almost therapeutic.
Dinner that night at The Ranch Bar and Grill - a super roast lamb dinner with local lamb that tasted like lamb and did not disappoint. Next morning breakfast at 7am in the hotel and collect lunch and takeaway coffee at Sandfly Café and leave Te Anau at 8.15 am. Buy petrol before you leave town if needed. Drive to Milford Sound and after 1 hour (85k) you will see signs for “The Divide” on your right. Park your car in the carpark and with light pack with lunch and water bottle head up to the Key Summit Track. This is the beginning of the famous Routeburn Track.
At 10.15 am after a sedate uphill walk for one hour you will see signs up to the Key Summit track on your right – it will take you another 20 mins to get to the top and then eat you lunch and spend a good 40-
minutes up there at the top enjoying the spectacular views including the Hollyford River, Lake Marian and panoramic views over the Humboldt and Darran Mountains. It has a self-guided alpine nature walk that passes a range of native vegetation: beech forest, sub-alpine shrublands, alpine tarns and bogs. Birdlife is prolific and tomtits, robins, New Zealand pigeons and bellbirds are commonly seen.
From the car park and back this 3 hour walk offers spectacular views of Fiordland National Park. If you only have time for one walk on your drive to Milford Sound, and the weather is fine, this track is well worth the effort. Best part of all there is no one on this popular walk at that time, as you are about 2 hours ahead of most of the walkers who come in from Queenstown.
Returning back down hill to your car you will meet them coming up, but you will get to your car at the carpark at 1.15 pm taking it leisurely.
*Use the toilet facilities and don’t use the water there to fill your bottle – you can actually safely fill up your bottle from the running streams on the track – guides will tell you “if the water is moving, its ok “
*Head down into Milford Sound leisurely (driving straight there would be a 60-min drive) take your time and stop off – the views are spectacular and the scenic and dramatic road should be enjoyed.
*Arriving at Milford Sound – head over to the ferry dock area (not the Visitors Centre) and park your car after 3.30pm in the 29-34 parking spaces allocated for the overnight Real NZ Milford Experience and
book ahead and go out on the water for the night. You board the boat at 4.15 pm and experience – afternoon tea, magical sights, a well informed and pleasant guide, a super team on board, terrific food and a chance to swim in the Sound, kayak and explore in a tender with the guide. Your cabins with comfy beds and en-suite make the stay perfect. It is seasonal so check RealNZ web site for sailings.
Next morning breakfast and departure about 9.am after the most amazing relaxing, magical Milford Sound experience. We had up close and personal encounters with waterfalls, dolphins and seals. Unforgettable.
Next morning at 9.15 opt for the Milford Plus experience – where you walk the last day of the Milford Track with your guide who will point out any features you need to see and help you identify the bird calls – an easy walk for 3 hours capturing the beauty of this trail and you are transported back and forth by a water taxi and lunch provided before your morning is complete at 1.15 pm.
Heading back to Te Anau – check out the Bao Now food truck
(6 Milford Cres) selling great fresh sashimi bowls for great prices in the centre of town. Try the $15 Spicy Tuna Sushi bowl with avocado, carrot, cucumber, seaweed salad, wakame, kimchi, pickled ginger, tempura nori, aioli, sesame, miso, wasabi salt.
My final adventure was back in Queenstown with the Walter Peak Gourmet BBQ dinner which includes a return trip on the historic steamship TSS Earnslaw on Lake Whakatipu, a farm demonstration and a chance to enjoy the magnificent Victorian garden surrounding the old homestead.
The buffet was incredibly good and the staff warm, friendly and very helpful.
It’s hard to fault this experience, except to say I wish I had more time there and seriously any family member or overseas visitor would simply love it – proud to be a Kiwi moment - I’m planning my return trip!
Huge thanks to NZReal for organising this amazing adventure