So what did you do on Christmas Day?
Me? I spent it travelling, first taking a flight from Nelson to Christchurch for a quick transit, before flying from Christchurch to Queenstown, adrenaline capital of New Zealand! Queenstown was definitely one of my most anticipated destinations in New Zealand and I was super excited to finally arrive in this city I had heard so much about.
An introduction to Queenstown
On the one side, Queenstown is just stunning. Flying into the city, I flew through the mountains, saw the lakes and then caught sight of the town itself. Just to get this bird’s eye view of Queenstown was worth paying the price for the flight. There’s no doubt that the landscape and setting is very much fit for a queen (Queen Victoria in fact, which is how the town got its name).
On the flip side however, it is very much a tourist town. It is also a very expensive place and quite different from any of the other larger cities I have so far visited throughout New Zealand – personally speaking, it reminds me of a ski resort rather than an actual, real town. Also as expected, there are A LOT of other tourists in town, especially ones looking for a good party, so it can get quite noisy at night (not in a good way!).
But put this aside and let me say again, Queenstown is just stunning! I arrived in the evening on Christmas Day when it was pretty cold and cloudy, so I didn’t get the best welcome. I was still in awe however, at seeing the broody, cool sight of Lake Wakatipu (the third largest lake in New Zealand), Walter Peak and Cecil Peak covered in clouds by the Queenstown Bay.
Day trip to Milford Sound
But back to the main topic…my trip to Milford Sound was very much a last minute addition to my itinerary based on speaking to too many travellers who had said this was unmissable. I opted for the full day bus ride from Queenstown and back, with the scenic cruise of Milford Sound (part of the World Heritage Fiordland National Park. As it takes about 5 hours to get from Queenstown to Milford Sound, with rest and photo stops along the way at Te Anau (and the Te Anau lake, the second largest lake in New Zealand), Mirror Lakes, The Chasm and Monkey Creek, and the cruise itself take 2-ish hours, the entire trip takes about 12 hours in total.
It is therefore one very long day trip, but definitely worth it for all the natural, beautiful landscapes that you get to see. We also passed through the Southern Alps and the very picturesque Eglinton Valley along the way (with great sights of the glacial mountains).
The day for us started pretty cloudy as you can see from the photos below.
The clouds however started to clear as we entered The Chasm and the sun came out to play! The Chasm is a short walk over paths and bridges, passing by a series of powerful, swirling waterfalls and rapids.
All of these sights just served as foreplay however, as we were all really here to see Milford Sound.
So I didn’t know this, but the difference between a “sound” and a “fjord” is that a sound is a drowned area created by a river, whereas a fjord is a drowned area created by a glacier. Milford Sound is actually incorrectly named as it was formed through the movement of glaciers and is therefore classified as a fjord!
But that’s all just technicalities. Who cares when you’re treated to amazing sights such as these! By the by, this cruise very much brought to mind my recent trip to Bergen to see the Norwegian fjords. I daresay the weather and temperature in New Zealand was a hell lot better than what I had in Norway though! 🙂
Am I glad I spent one full day out of only two days I have in Queenstown to visit Milford Sound? Was it really worth it? You bet! This was definitely one of the most beautiful sights I have seen in New Zealand so far, and as everything here is just so wonderful, you know that’s saying something!