Te Anau feels like a place I could come and spend considerably longer, as it seems like outdoor heaven. We were however blessed with very nice weather, which always helps.
There is a lovely track that was nice for short outings, which goes through Te Anau bird garden and along the head of the lake, good for walks, runs and gentle biking. It leads to the Kepler track with the cycle path continuing down the river bank for a while.
The Kepler Track
Starting from Te Anau, we only wandered down the Kepler Track for an hour. But within minutes you feel very deep into the Fjordland forest, enough to give you a feel of the forest. At this early stage there are pretty pebble beaches that you can drop down to, for a swim in the lake.
Lake Te Anau
Again we hit this place in the summer holidays in hot weather, but there were many people bringing their boats down to the jetty for some fun on the lake. The jetty at the head of the lake was deep enough to jump in from. So we big kids joined the local kids splashing around!
We boated across it on our glow worm cave trip and it is a place where you would definitely own a boat to go and explore all the little beaches and inlets.
An early start for the drive to Milford, which takes about 1hr 45mins. We allowed good time incase of queues at the Homer Tunnel and so that we could feed and change Evie at Milford before getting on the boat. What we didn’t account for was the rain in Milford, the kind that doesn’t look that heavy but absolutely soaks you. Staying dry was not 100% achievable without waterproof trousers.
With rain we missed out on seeing the classic Milford view. However the rain did provide impressive waterfalls, and lots of them. And once we had resigned ourselves to being wet then getting more wet became part of the fun! Most importantly was that we had the right kit for Evie so she stayed warm and dry (on the inside!).
We had some food at the visitors centre, which I’d recommend the pizza! Then headed back, seeing Kea once again at the Homer Tunnel.
Out the other side and back to sunny Te Anau, where they had the sprinklers on to keep the grass green – what a contrast!! So down to the lake for a sunny evening stroll!
The glow worm caves
Wear insect repellent and cover up!!
A gorgeous boat trip from Te Anau over to the caves but the moment we stepped ashore we got bitten by sandflies and regretted our clothing choice!
You can’t take babies into the caves, but their trips work so that you can tag team and one sit or do the nature walk with the baby whilst the other goes into the caves and swap, so long as you do 1st and last groups between you.
Once in the caves, which are in themselves nicely done and impressive, the boat trip inside the cave and seeing the glow worms is like nothing else you will ever do. Imagine the best nights sky, the stars within your reach, but you can only enjoy looking…. it is amazing. Too amazing to explain really, best to experience.
Unlike Milford, this was a trip where you were taken care of from beginning to end.
We set off on the 8am trip, with a beautiful cruise across Lake Manapouri. It was nice as we got on board to be told where the nappy change facilities were without even asking. Evie and me had our breakfast on this first boat and we still had time to enjoy the view.
From the first boat to a coach, our driver was full of interesting information on our way over Wilmot Pass, which passed through gorgeous mossy ancient beech forest.
The pass peaked at 671m and cost and amazing $2/cm2 to build!!
Less planned was Evie’s ‘singing’ through his whole talk with it being very difficult to keep her voice down in an excited 9month old! And then the urgent nappy change required, which had to wait till we got onto the next boat.
We were very lucky with the weather and got stunning views down into Doubtful Sound.
On to the second boat and just as we set off there was a pod of dolphins that joined us and rode the bow of the boat for a while – magical.
Cruising the 40km we went along the length of the sound and had the good fortune of weather that allowed us to watch a fur seal colony just where the sound became the sea, and then venture out for a period into the Tasman Sea and look down the untouched coastline.
Time to turn around, via a bit of engine off quiet time in one of the arms of the sound. Another magical moment when no one on board spoke for a few minutes and a single dolphin played in the water nearby.
In all this time Evie had a good sleep and then a good romp around the boat. The nice thing is there is lots of safe crawling space!
Time to return back to Manapouri via the coach and boat return and then drive on to Dunedin for tonight in hope of seeing the penguins.