Earlier in the week I outlined the first four days of my recommended road trip around the South Island of New Zealand. Today, I’ll write about days 5 and 6, carrying on from Te Anau…
Day 5 – Te Anau to Milford Sound to Te Anau
Today completely revolves around the trip to Milford Sound. To experience Milford Sound at it’s fullest you’ll need to book a cruise. I’d highly recommend Real Journeys. How early you start the day depends on what time you’ve booked your cruise for (my cruise was at 1.15pm).
The drive to Milford Sound from Te Anau takes at least 2.5 hours. But don’t be put off by this. I’m willing to go out on a limb here and say this stretch of road was the most beautiful drive I experienced in New Zealand. You’ll be stopping off constantly to take photos. The region is so spectacular that many choose to hike the Milford Track from Lake Te Anau to Milford Sound: a four-day, 53.5km hike that I hear often described as the most spectacular in the world. The Milford Track is extremely popular though, so if you have heart sent on hiking it then book well in advance.
Milford Sound itself is one of the most stunning things you’ll see in New Zealand. Grey, rocky (sometimes snow-capped) peaks petrude out of dark waters, coloured by green forest and raging waterfalls. Wildlife is common and you’ll likely to see seal colonies and possibly even dolphins. But be prepared for the weather. Milford Sound receives, on average, 7m of rain a year and, when I was there, the winds required me to wrap up warm.
It will depend on what cruise you take but you can expect the cruise to take around 1hr and 45 minutes. When you’re back on shore, enjoy your drive back to Te Anau and look forward to a nice, chilled out evening to reflect on the spectacular things you’ve seen and look back at your awesome photos.
Day 6 – Te Anau to Wanaka
Plan to set off around 10am so you arrive into Arrowtown around midday. Arrowtown is a very pretty town, that attracted settlement when gold was discovered in the Arrow river in 1860. Many of the original wooden and stone buildings still stand today and they ooze charm amidst it’s woodland setting. But the real reason you’ve stopped in Arrowtown is lunch. In Arrowtown you’ll find the famous Arrowtown Bakery. You HAVE to try one of their gourmet pies. I have to admit that I ate a lot of pies across Australia and New Zealand but the pies here are simply amazing!
Following lunch, make the trip to Wanaka and spend the afternoon taking one of the easy strolls along the lake. Or, if you fancy putting in the effort to see a little more, arrive in Wanaka a little earlier in the day and hike either the Rob Roy Valley track (3 to 4 hours return) or the West Matukituki Valley track (4 to 5 hours return).
In the evening you’re in for a bit of a treat. Wanaka’s attractions are not just limited to the outdoors. In fact I would argue that Wanaka’s star attraction is the Cinema Paradiso. Cinema Paradiso is an art-house movie theatre showing a mix of mainstream and independent movies. The cinema dispenses with the traditional seating and replaces them with an ecletic choice of old lounge chairs, armchairs and sofas, sometimes seemingly patched together. All movies have an intermission (how cool is that?) giving you the opportunity to collect your pre-ordered dinner that can be enjoyed through the remainder of the movie (by eating off your lap of course!). I’m even told that during tearful moments, the owner will come around handing tissues to those who need them. I promise you’ll have a great evening unlike anything you’ve experienced before. Oh and you have to try the cookies!!