4 days 3 nights in Te Anau, Fiordland, New Zealand Pictures and top travel tips
We arrive in Te Anau as the sun begins to fall in the sky and casts a shimmering glitter over Lake Te Anau. Checking into our motel we are less than impressed (Parkland Motel), but having left it late to book this is virtually all that is left as it is high season with virtually everywhere fully booked. On that count I guess we are lucky to have found accommodation, but this place, although clean and well located, is seriously dated and overpriced and on reflection would count as the worst value of the entire trip.
Top Tip For accommodation, Te Anau for Fiordland, book as far in advance as you can.
Ok, so putting that aside, Te Anau itself is a nice small town with a good range of amenities, including some good cafes, bars, restaurants and a good supermarket. For my recommendations see links to bottom of this post.
After checking in we head into the small town in search of information and tickets for Doubtful and Milford Sounds. Arriving at the i-Site (You will find these centers in most tourist destinations in New Zealand, a great place to get both information and book tickets for trips and attractions.
With the aid of the very friendly and helpful advisor Laura Needs we settle on a dual package deal covering Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound and receive a discount for the double booking. If you are using this i-Site to book and purchase tickets see if Laura Needs is around as she is a fantastic advisor, with great patience and care in the way she deals with all visitors. Following Laura’s advice, we booked the Real Journeys tour for Doubtful Sound and Southern Discoveries for the Milford Sound trip and I can highly recommend both, although the Doubtful sound trip was definitely the better of the two, but hardly surprising as it cost a lot more money. The main difference between the packages and tours, Doubtful Sound is virtually an all-day experience on the water, whilst Milford Sound is about one and three quarter hours on the water. If I had to book again personally I would probably just book Doubtful Sound and give Milford boat trip a miss, but still do a road trip from Te Anau to the Milford Sound terminal as it involves some of the most breath-taking scenery in New Zealand.
Trip 1 Doubtful Sound
We are up at the crack of dawn and on the road by 7am. The itinerary starts at the pickup point at Lake Manapouri. Even though the boat does not leave until 830am and the distance from Te Anau to Manapouri is a mere 22 kilometres we are keen not to take any chances, given that we are unfamiliar with the route, or road. We needn’t have worried as the road is easy and straight, although heavy with early morning misty fog. There is also a good café on site serving decent coffee and sandwiches. We also managed to snatch an hour of the Paul Henry show as we readied ourselves for the day.
The Doubtful Sound tour consists of two parts, with the first boat taking us out onto Lake Manapouri as the sun began to rise and clouds gently broke and cleared. This is followed by a trip across New Zealand’s most expensive road leading up and over Wilmot Pass, it also stopped along the way providing the perfect opportunity to view and gasp at the first sight of Doubtful Sound glistening far below. It has to be said that all staff on this trip were first rate, extremely helpful, knowledgeable and in parts funny, in particular our bus driver who took us on the Wilmot Pass stretch of the journey and kept everyone amused and laughing with his repartee. Equally, the compere/local expert, on the Doubtful Sound cruise gave a knowledgeable and enthusiastic commentary throughout the trip.
I would have to say the highlight of this trip for me, and one of the most memorable of my many travels, was when the captain announced a request for 5 minutes of silence, when the boats engines were cut and all passengers and crew just sat, or stood, still and quiet. Rarely have I ever experienced such, sheer calm, uninterrupted and beautiful silence.