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A moment in the Fiordland National Park.

Milady A - Friday, April 22, 2016

'A cherished corner of the world where mountains and valleys compete with each other for room, where scale is almost beyond comprehension, rainfall is measured in metres and scenery encompasses the broadest width of emotions'.

This is how the author of the book "Mountains of Water - The Story of Fiordland National Park" described this stunning National Park.

Established in 1952, Fiordland National Park is now over 1.2 million hectares in size and encompasses mountains, lakes, fiords and rainforest.

Fiordland’s West Coast is deeply indented by 14 fiords spanning 215 km of coastline.
Fiordland has achieved World Heritage Status and of the fourteen fiords in the Fiordland National Park, Milford Sound is the most famous and accessible. The Milford Road is a spectacular alpine journey and is one of the world’s finest drives, at least that is what most travel books and travel websites describe and what convinced us to visit that area on our journey through New Zealand.

We did drive the Milford Road from Te Anau to Mildford Sound, and although these kilometers offered beautiful nature scenery, I honestly must say that there are other roads in the world that deserve much more to be called world’s finest drives. One example is of course the Icefield Parkway through West-Canada.

We stayed for 3 days in Fiordland National Park and selected the Fiordland Lodge, belonging to the Luxury Lodges of New Zealand, as our home basis for 3 nights.

Fiordland Lodge is set on a superb site with a spectacular view across Lake Te Anau in the midst of a rural setting with green grasslands surrounding this lodge.

The architecture of the lodge reflects the raw beauty of the National Park, where echoes of the forest are found in the natural timber construction. The lodge gave us a remarkable feeling of being in the middle of nature because of its full trunk pillars and its massive riverstone fireplace, which gives the place a warm and very cosy flair.

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This lodge is the perfect, and most exclusive place in Te Anau, to explore the area.
Te Anau is the closest base to Milford Sound and is known as the “walking capital of the world” due to its proximity to great walking tracks, such as the Great Walks of the Milford Track, Kepler Track and Routeburn Track.

However, all these tracks need upfront training, real upfront training, and need to be booked in advance. The trips take mostly 3 to 4 days per walk. As you can guess … I wanted to explore the region in a more Milady-kind of way instead of living as a backpacker. Can be fun for the backpacker lovers, but hey … I prefer a different kind of lifestyle!

The first day, we drove up the Milford Road, which is 121 km long between Te Anau and Milford and achieved its World Heritage Status because of the beauty and variety of its landscape, with rough mountains, forests along the lake, rivers, waterfalls, and fairytale walking tracks. Up in Milford you can take a boat to discover Milford Sound, a 16 km long fiord.

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However, we decided to go for a boat trip on Doubtful Sound, because this one is more difficult to get to and is therefore less touristic.

At least, that’s what we thought … but the trip was still way too touristic for us!

We should have taken a helicopter and should have discovered the Sounds by scenic flight, however at that time, we did not feel that to be an option either as the helicopter flights were in large groups and we really did not feel like doing that.
A helicopter flight for the two of us … that was on our bucket list as of then!

The trip to get to the more remote Doubtful Sound does offer a great wilderness experience but takes all day.

First you take a boat of about an hour, then there is a bus of about an hour and only then you step on the boat that will get you into Doubtful Sound. The boat trip itself takes another 3 hours. And at the end, you need to do it all over again to arrive at the parking lot.
Gosh!

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I guess some people may like such type of boat trips as these touristic trips still seem to gather so many visitors, but for me, being stuffed between plenty of other people and having to look for 3 hours at the same kind of scenery … well, not for us! I would not recommend this tour to anyone. If you want to see the Sounds, do take a scenic flight or hike through nature, but don’t waste a full day on such a long tour.

The weather wasn’t all that splendid either on the day of our tour, and therefore we felt disappointed about our photo-shooting.
Gosh, we were annoyed. However as soon as we arrived at the starting point and took our car back to the Fiordland Lodge, we realized how lucky we were seeing all that beautiful scenery along the road – much better than on the water! – and enjoyed another delicious meal that evening.

All’s well that ends well!

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