As my adventure on the North Island has finished it’s time to discover the South Island. It is very different, colder, more remote and rough – but probably more beautiful. I’m saying probably, as we all have different tastes, but majority of people I spoke with share the same perception of the two islands. Both beautiful in their own way, but the South Island is somewhat wilder and more grandiose. It’s funny but you can see it right when you fly over the island and approach the Queenstown’s airport. Jaw dropping scenery right off the bat! But first lets wave a goodbye to the North Island as we departure Auckland airport.
And say hello to the Southern Alps. This mountain range runs along much of the length of New Zealand’s South Island with the top peak 3724 meters (Mt Cook). A few shots below from above the clouds. It gets even more exciting as we descend towards the airport.
I love how the snowy peaks turn into lush hills as they drop down towards crystal clear rivers…
As we lower the flight height we get disturbingly close to the mountains. Queenstown airport is one of the most scenic in the world and so is the landing. Pictures don’t do it any justice…
Fast-forward – car rented by the airport and we can go exploring what is on offer this trip.
As we have no time to lose, the early morning flight allowed for a quick car rental. Let’s make our way towards Milford Sound. Don’t be fooled by it’s close proximity on the map. As you have to go around the mountains – this is a nearly 300km drive each way! (or almost 4h timewise as there are no highways). Add to this the mountainous amount of beautiful views along the way which will make you stop to take a few photos and you are almost destined to miss the boat cruises at the Fjordland! My first stop was actually a bit offroad, at the Remarkables peak to have a panoramic view of the airport and the city. What do you think? I think the name Remarkables fits this place well.
Have a close look at the green fields. I will be back in the exact same place in a weeks time and oh how different it will be…
View of the Remarkables from the bottom.
Driving down to Milford Sound will take you along lake Wakatipu which, on a good weather day, is breathtaking on it’s own! A must stop point.
The views get a bit plainer for a brief moment…
Only to get jaw dropping soon after again! This must be a postcard view – Lupines against snowy peaks of the Southern Alps! Shame it got a bit cloudy.
My first close encounter of the clear glacier waters. The resonating emerald colour of this slow flowing river is so inviting! Luckily it was too cold to jump in, so I made my way over it across the road.
Eglinton Valley. This open plain must have been used in a movie for sure – isn’t it a perfect location for a grand battle of good against evil. Misty Mountains in the Lord of the Rings anyone?
We are getting close to the mountains again.
And suddenly this? Monkey Creek. The camera cannot capture the beauty of this place. The mixture of granite mountains hiding behind clouds, clear skies peeking through and crystal mountain river flowing through the valley. Spectacular…
Driving through the valley I often wondered how common rock falls are in this place. There are a few signs asking drivers not to stop as it’s dangerous, so I guess it is fairly common indeed.
Now this is terrifying and exciting at once – dozens of tiny waterfalls created after the recent rainfall right on the road edge. Is this a dead end? Can’t be – luckily a tunnel was carved to let us through.
The scenery is very rough. You do feel like being at the end of the world (which to be frankly it almost is!)
We have made it to the other side! The weather looks a bit better luckily.
Welcome to Milford Sound! The 8th wonder of the World as called by Rudyard Kipling.
I do not think photos give any justice to this place. The mountains / fjords are monstrous. The highest peak on the below photo, Mitre Peak, is 1683 meters high – and the water here is at sea level, meaning what you see is the full height of the peak. It’s neck wrecking!
Now this is late afternoon and I almost missed the last boat cruise! I would be very disappointed if I missed to see what beauty this fjord has to offer just because I had made too many stops along the way (took about 6h to get here from Queenstown). Fortunately I got to see it in the end. A-ma-zing! A million photos to follow.
We start off with Lady Bowen Falls, the tallest (162m) and one of the only two permanent waterfalls in Milford Sound.
Let’s turn around and face the fjord. Mitre Peak on the left. You can see another “tiny” waterfall to the middle left – it’s Sterling Falls. The 2nd tallest (155m) permanent waterfall in Milford Sound. Now you can judge the scale of this place if that tiny waterfall is much taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York (93 meters).
Let’s have a closer look.
Let’s look the other way as we pass through the fjord. The wall are so tall you do have to look up well to see the peak’s. Luckily the sun has peeked through the clouds making this look like a fairytale!
Look who we have got here! A cute Fiordland Crested Penguin. This little guy is endemic to New Zealand waters.
And so is this New Zealand Fur Seal.
Let’s take a look back at the Fjord entrance as we are getting close to the open sea.
And the exit. Apparently if you swam right across from here to the west there is no land until you hit the bottom of South America!
And let’s get back. Another look at this magnificent U-shaped valley.
Another crescent penguin.
Back to Sterling Waterfall. 155 meters tall. You don’t want to be sprayed!
Let’s have a look at a temporary waterfall.
There is something very exotic about these fern trees!
Goodbye Sterling falls!
A few looks at Mount Pembroke hiding behind the clouds.
We were not alone! If you have extra days there is an option to stay overnight at Milford Sound on a small cruise ship. It is not a cheap excursion, but waking up in this place must be quite a thing!
You can see the Mount Pembroke peak here.
Some of the Fjord walls are so steep and some even curve out! Now you cannot see it unless you lean backwards and look up. Mesmerizing!
The last selfie in this magical place.
Back to the Bowen Falls.
Luckily not that many people make it to the Fjords and so I could park up easily!
Let’s make our way back before it get’s dark. We have a long way back to Queenstown ahead of us.
Hello Kea! (signs all over the place not to feed them). I did not.
Let’s get through the wall.
I had to make a few stops on the way back, as missed some earlier.
This is one of my favourite photos. Where else on Earth can you find places like that?
Mirror Lakes… mirror the mountains behind.
That was a long, long day but how beautiful was the place we have just seen?
Thank you for popping by!