Lake Wanaka & Milford Sound

10 Mar

Lake Wanaka

From Franz Josef, Wade steered us down the west coast and through more stunningly beautiful mountains to the lovely town of Wanaka, a sort of resort town on the southern tip of a lake with the same name. The drizzling rain didn’t stop us from wandering out in search of lunch, beers, and lake views. We sampled a few local brews, and the kids enjoyed a “kid fluffy” or two (foamed milk, with or without chocolate). Eventually, the rain and the chill drove us back to our hostel. We took advantage of the private kitchen our room had, and Orestes grilled up some tasty lamb for dinner. When in New Zealand…

The early evening brought an end to the rain, so we took a post-dinner stroll along the lake front. The kids entertained the local duck population, and all six of us had some fun frolicking on the nearby playground. After several busy days, it was great to have a low-key afternoon. Our itinerary had us departing Wanaka early the next morning. We all agreed it would have been great to spend a few more days there. Next time!

 

Milford Sound

The early morning drive from Lake Wanaka to Milford Sound was one of the most gorgeous, most dramatic drives of our trip. Leaving Wanaka, we crested a mountain pass to the most amazing combination of brilliant morning sunlight, snowcapped peaks, and artfully drifting clouds. It was my turn at the wheel, and I had a grand old time driving on the insanely winding roads, out of the mountains and heading towards the coast. Another set of mountains greeted us as we neared the sound; this range we didn’t got over, we went through! The wide open mouth of the tunnel entrance leading into a massive cliff face was crazy to see. The Homer Tunnel is over a kilometer long, and qualifies as the longest tunnel I’ve ever driven through. Adventure! Being the driver was great because I got to pull over for a few impromptu stops. The need to photograph got the best of me. I’m inserting some of the photos “big size” into this post because honestly, the thumbnails simply don’t do them justice.

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Crown Range

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Ridiculous scenery

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Colorful lupins – they’re invasive but gorgeous

Despite my snap-happy ways, we made it to Milford Sound in time for a picnic lunch, followed by an afternoon boat cruise. Milford Sound isn’t actually a sound; it is a spectacular fjord along the southwestern coast. It runs about fifteen kilometers from its start in the mountains out to the Tasman Sea. We joined a tour with Mitre Peak Cruises, one of the smaller boat lines named after a prominent mountain along the fjord. The sea breeze, the sunshine, the towering cliffs – all of it was amazing. At one point, a pod of dolphins joined our tour and cruised along next to the boat. Wade took some awesome video of the dolphins riding the wake. The boat took us out to the mouth of the fjord where it joins the Tasman Sea, pulled a wide u-turn, and headed back to port. Along the way we paused to admire some basking fur seals, and get a close up of a snazzy waterfall. All in all, well worth the long drive!

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