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In this part 4 of our trip we visited Bluff, Te Anau and Milford Sound on the South Island of New Zealand.
No Hotels in Invercargill
We pick up on our New Zealand trip on our drive to Invercargill – where we had booked a hotel for the night. When we arrived in town we were famished and began searching for something to eat. We settled on a pizza chain called, Hell (unsettling atmosphere but excellent pizza). While we were waiting on our pie, I received an email saying that our hotel was overbooked and our reservation was cancelled. Great! I quickly got on booking.com to find that there were no hotels in Invercargill that had available rooms. We asked around and no one in town knew why all the rooms were booked. But they said that for some reason, the town was really busy.
This was really the first time that our method of traveling New Zealand hit a snag. Because of the strange lack of rooms, I started looking in towns nearby and found a room in a small bed and breakfast in the town of Bluff about 30 km away. The room was more expensive than the one we had booked in Invercargill. But, because of Booking.com‘s guarantee, we received a refund on the price difference. Bluff had not been on our list of places to visit, but now, we were going to see it.
Su and I continued driving South. We found ourselves in a charming little fishing village on the far south side of the South Island. Bluff is the farthest south you can go on the main islands of New Zealand. It started to rain once more as we checked into our hotel. We had one of only four or five rooms and the only room with an ensuite.
The next morning we went down stairs to the main floor where a buffet-style breakfast with toast, juice, and cereal was being served in the dining room. We spent our breakfast chatting with the owner of the Bed and Breakfast, a lovely American woman who had been living in New Zealand for over 40 years. We discovered that Su and Sharon shared a maiden name and that their ancestors came from the same area of Kentucky! Had we discovered a distant relative here at the edge of the world? Needless to say, pictures were taken and emails exchanged. After breakfast we packed up and went out to explore Bluff before heading north.
We started heading back north towards Invercargill. One thing on our list to see was the Queen’s Park. After seeing the Botanical Gardens in Dunedin, we figured we should definitely stop to see this one.
The gardens were lovely and green. We spent several hours wandering through all the pathways and flowers.
There are ponds and bridges and statues all over the gardens.
We had fun exploring little pathways through different parts of the trees and gardens.
Tulips were in big, bright patches along the paths.
We drove on in search of Mountains. It took a few hours for the clouds to break and the sun to come out, but once that happened, we got some great views.
We stopped on the side of the road to take a look out over the pasture land at the mountains that were now visible for the first time.
The drive to Te Anau took most of the day – we took a few breaks along the way to stretch our legs and dip our feet in a lake.
Our lodging for the night was a top-notch hostel situated on the shore of the lake. It had a substantial communal kitchen area and lake side picnic tables for dining. It was the perfect place for an early dinner.
The Kiwi fruit is the best we’ve ever had. You can’t find it like that in the states. So we ate them whenever we got the chance. Just cut them in half and scoop the flesh out with a spoon! No dish required.
After dinner, we ventured out and cut down a gravel road to see what we could see for sunset. It was always amazing finding these stunning spots without another person around.
Te Anau to Milford Sound
The next morning we woke to the remnants of the overnight rain. The sun was starting to come out and the clouds were breaking – rainbows were popping up everywhere. The next leg of our journey was from Te Anau to Milford Sound.
Milford Sound is mid-way up the western side of New Zealand’s South Island. We stopped several times on our way as the sky and weather made for some great views.
As we wound our way through the mountains, we came across some spots where Peter Jackson filmed battle sequences for The Lord of the Rings movies. You can see why. The scenery is epic.
We continued winding our way through the mountains until we came to the top of the pass. There is a single lane tunnel that cuts through the mountain and signs are posted all around warning of avalanche dangers. The clouds were hugging the top of the mountains as we drove up.
On the other side of the tunnel, there were more winding roads and several single lane sections, which could be treacherous with the tour buses. But when we finally arrived, it was worth it. You may recognize some of these views from the opening scene of Mission Impossible: Fallout.
In our research online, Su and I had found a cruise company that offers overnight cruises on Milford Sound. It sounded like fun, so we booked a cabin. Our cruise left in the early evening hours and took a quick cruise out to our overnight mooring.
From our mooring we took kayaks out for sunset and saw some penguins floating in our little cove. We went back to the ship for dinner – a lavish buffet – and with our bellies stuffed in a manner that would make a Hobbit proud, we headed to our bunk for some sleep. In the morning, we would cruise out to the mouth of Milford Sound to the Tasman Sea.