Milford Sound and the Fiordlands

Well I put Queenstown behind me for a few days and stayed in the lakeside town of Te Anau for a few days (pronounced tee-AH-now, hard to get it right). On my first day there I went on a spontaneous glow worm cave trip (no pictures, as the little creatures are sensitive to light) and spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around my hostel—the Te Anau Lakefront Backpackers.

On my second and only full day in the fiordlands, I took a sea kayaking trip with Rosco’s Milford Kayaks out at Milford Sound. Now, Milford Sound is not actually a sound, it’s a fiord. The difference: sounds are formed by the eroding power of rivers, while fiords are carved out by glaciers. In the Southwestern corner of the South Island, and a part of the Southern Alps, this is probably the most beautiful place I have ever seen in my entire life. The pictures really do not do it justice.

Ready to kayak!
Ready to kayak! With very attractive, striped thermals on. 

Milford Sound has two permanent waterfalls—Stirling Falls and Lady Bowen Falls. Both of these are fed by rivers in hanging valleys. We started our kayak trip with a dunk underneath the Stirling and got super-soaked. Thankfully Rosco’s provides you with thermals and fleeces to wear under your waterproof gear, so I never felt cold the entire 3-hour kayak tour. (Queue Gilligan’s Island theme.)

Stirling Falls. For scale, that cruise boat is 3 stories high!
Stirling Falls. For scale, that cruise boat is 3 stories high!

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In the fiord we saw a young fur seal and a few Fiordland crested penguins! Wildlife!

When it rains, like it did on our trip, hundreds of smaller, temporary waterfalls scatter the cliff faces. Seriously a magical sight to see!


Because we were getting pretty tossed around out on the water I didn’t get many pictures of the kayaking. Our bus driver and one of our guides, Ollie, was really knowledgable about the local area and stopped at many sights along the way back to Te Anau.

View of a hanging valley.
View of a hanging valley. Also perfectly demonstrates the iconic U-shape of a glacially carved valley.

hanging valley is a valley carved by a small glacier, that intersects with a larger, deeper valley carved by a larger glacier. Glaciers erode valleys into U-shapes, with very steep sides and more or less flat bottoms.

A cool, cascading waterfall with the most beautiful water color.
A cool, cascading waterfall with the most beautiful water color.
The Mirror Lakes
The Mirror Lakes, on a rainy, not-so-mirrory afternoon.

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