If you think the South Island is beautiful, then you have to drive from Wanaka to Queenstown and to Milford Sound! My first activity was a day trip to Milford on the Kiwi bus and a cruise down to the Tasman Sea.
On the drive further south, our driver told us about the history and folk legends around Milford Sound. Milford is actually not a sound but a fiord, which by definition requires a glacier to carve out the edges into a sea or other large body of water. Also, Milford was the last of fourteen fiords to be discovered d/t the entrance being well-hidden by the overlapping cliffs from out at sea.
The drive started early in the morning with a few routine stops, and once the sun had come out, we made some photo stops on our way down. The first stop was to view the magnificent Misty Mountains from LOTR. After all the nerds finished taking our pictures, our new driver, took us to the Mirror Lakes since the weather was good enough to see the reflective surface.
Like Lake Matheson, the water at the Mirror Lakes reflects the mountains perfectly when there is no rain or wind disturbing the surface. We were lucky with our forecast since it normally rains at Milford 50% of the time.
After the lake, we drove through a tunnel, which opened up into a beautiful valley. It felt like we were entering a new world inside the national park. Our last stop was at The Chasm, which is part of the Cleddau River that comes down from the Darran Mountains. The current swirls the river against the huge stones and carves out a unique pattern. It reminded me of the soft edges of Antelope Canyon but with a river.
We arrived at the pier around 1pm, just in time to catch our cruise into Milford Sound. We had lunch on the catamaran and sailed down towards the Tasman Sea. From the boat you are just surrounded by steep cliff sides on both sides of you.
There were some waterfalls that the boat took us up beside before turning around and returning to port. Milford was the perfect combination of crystal blue water, dramatic cliffs, and waterfalls. Needless to say, I was a very happy camper.