At the bottom of the South Island on the West Coast is one of the world’s most wonderful unspoiled natural wonders. Two and a half hours road travel from Te Anau, itself two hours from Queenstown, is the magnificent Milford Sound with near vertical cliffs rising from a deep water fjord creating an awesome spectacle of rugged nature at its best.
The gateway to Milford Sound is the pretty township of Te Anau nestled on the edge of beautiful Lake Te Anau. The lake is the largest in the South Island and is bordered by lush native forests, the Murchison Mountains and Mt Luxmore.
Te Anau has a wide range of accommodation and an extensive selection of restaurants and cafés. Te Anau itself is reputed to be the walking capital of New Zealand, if not the world, and is the base for a good number of nature walks and hikes.
The Te Anau Glow Worm Caves are a major attraction accessible by regular launch services with a 35 minute trip across the lake. Four-wheel farm bikes, horse trekking or just plain walking will ensure outstanding views of the lake, mountains and farmland.
Cruises are available on the lake while jet boating is available on the beautiful Waiau or Wairarahiri Rivers, while for the more leisurely minded trout fishing is available.
Scenic flights by airplane, floatplane and helicopters provide magnificent views of the lake, the nearby mountain ranges and the remote wilderness of the Fiordland National Park. But Te Anau is most recognised as the gateway to the Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park.
The drive to Milford Sound is a return trip of approximately 240 kilometres each way. The road provides a spectacular journey from Te Anau, through the Southern Alps and Fiordland National Park and is one of the highest and most scenic road trips in New Zealand.
Milford Sound is 19 kilometres long from the head of the fiord to Saint Anne Point at the fiord's entrance. The scenic icon, Mitre Peak, dominates the fiord though it is surrounded by sheer rock walls up to 1700 metres above the dark waters of the fiord.
Boat cruises provide the opportunity to enjoy the spectacular fiord, with highlights including Bowen Falls, Anita Bay, The Elephant and Stirling Falls. Cruises go to the entrance of the sound where dolphins, fur seals and crested penguins can be seen.
An underwater observatory at Harrison Cove has views of aquatic life on the reef, while scenic flights take in the other main sounds down the coast, and the highest waterfall in New Zealand, the Sutherland Falls.