And just like that, after 10 unbelievable days driving across New Zealand, we were entering the final leg of our trip: Queenstown and Milford Sound. For this part, we were going to meet up with an old Spanish friend of mine and her kiwi husband, making it extra special!
We picked them up at the airport and continued driving south west into the Fiordland National Park, to the DOC campsite Cascade Creek (which is first come first serve, so don’t get there too late). The 3.5 hour drive was quite scenic and went by quickly, since we had a lot of life to catch up on. As soon as we arrived, we all got down to work setting up the tent – camping is so much fun with friends, and when you don’t do it often 😉
The campsite was basic, but spotless and convenient. We walked around to stretch our legs, and took some shoots of the picture-perfect river, with its banks covered in colorful lupines, and the mountains in the background. Dehydrated meals served us well one more time, and we even made a little fire to warm up, and because there is just something magical about campfires.
Early in the morning, we drove the final 1 hour to the Milford Sound ferry terminal. We checked in with the operator we had booked with, Mitre Peak Cruises, which had the best reviews online. By 9am, we were cruising as the sun rose and the temperature became more bearable. The water was calm and the cliffs, majestic. We learnt that sounds are different from fjords in that the latter are created by retreating glaciers, whereas the former are created by rivers. And we also learnt that Milford Sound is actually a fiord.
The boat got close to some of the waterfalls, and then pushed on to the mouth, to the Tasman Sea. On the way back, we enjoyed even better views, as the skies cleared to a perfectly sunny day, which is quite rare in this area. The iconic Mitre Peak, with its pyramidal shape emerging directly from the dark waters, got the most pictures. We also stopped to observe a seal colony, and, right when we were thinking the tour was over, we got a final surprise: a pod of about a dozen dolphins was swimming and jumping right in front of us. We got closer and for a good ten minutes, we enjoyed the animals like little kids.
Back in firm land, we walked over to the information center, to rest and eat, and from there took a short walk to appreciate the views one last time. It was still quite early – unless you plan on kayaking or spending the night, most cruises take just 2 hours. So we have plenty of time for a chilled road trip.
We stopped at most of the points of interest marked in the DOC map: The Chasm, Homer Tunnel, Pop’s View, Mirror Lakes and Eglington Valley, before setting up camp at the Henry Creek campsite. The whole area was really beautiful, and I wished I had time to do some of the great hikes around.