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Thread: Fiordlands, South Island, NZ

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Nov 2008
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    Auckland
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    76

    Fiordlands, South Island, NZ

    Hi

    Iím heading across the Tasman for a wedding next month, and I thought Iíd take a few extra days to explore some of the South Island along the way as Iíve never ventured down there before.

    The Fiordlands really interest me Ė they look spectacular and I should make a visit a priority. Milford Sound in particular looks superb, but from what I can tell listening to other peopleís experiences, it seems like most people go there to get on a boat and cruise up the sound.

    Boats and large format cameras donít seem like theyíll mix Ė no matter how still the water is Iím not going to manage any great stability for any exposures longer than a 1/30th of a sec am I, so how much solid ground is there for exploring in Milford Sound from which one can photograph with a tripod?

    I know the whole area is a tourist trap and the coaches all leave Queenstown and head straight there, so ideally should I be looking to stay in Te Anau so I can be up early and drive the 2+hrs down the Milford Road, aiming to arrive before the masses? I always try to avoid the tourist traps with my photography, but as much as Milford Sound is photographed, I really do want to pay it a visit.

    Doubtful Sound perhaps looks even more spectacular, but from reading previous posts here it seems there isnít a road out to it, you get there via a boat across Lake Manapouri and then a coach across the Wilmot Pass, so perhaps this trip is best saved for another day when I have more time?

    I fly into Queenstown on a Saturday afternoon, pick up a car, am due at the Picton ferry by the Thursday lunchtime, and my wife wants to take in the Franz Josef glacier on the way.

    Any suggestions or Fiordland tips and places to photograph on the way would be a great help.

    Thanks

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Sydney, Oz
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    153

    Re: Fiordlands, South Island, NZ

    Hi Tom,

    I was born and grew up in the lower half of the SI of NZ and know the area pretty well. Your biggest problem is going to be a lack of time.

    Milford Sound is everything its cracked up to be - and the drive in from Te Anau is the perfect introduction. You could easily spend weeks photographing between Te Anau and Milford. If you have time to do some walking, Key Summit and Lake Marion (both about 3hrs return) are well worth the effort - and some effort is required... If you are pressed for time then the Eglinton Valley, Lake Gunn, the area around the Homer tunnel portals and The Chasm are must-sees.

    There is enough solid ground at Milford itself to justify taking a tripod. If you can possibly arrange it, I'd organise to spend a night there (I think there is still accommodation at the Milford Lodge). That way you get the place to yourself* for the evening after all the tourist buses have cleared out and before they arrive the following morning.

    Be aware that:

    1. Milford has an annual rainfall of just under 7m pa - one of the wettest places in NZ. While it is still incredibly beautiful in the rain, it doesn't do your camera gear much good.

    2. the sandflies at Milford have been selectively bred to feed only on Australians and Americans, although that science is not yet fully mature. Be warned.

    You are correct about road access to Doubtful Sound.

    As you are driving then other potential spots to look at would include:

    Day trip from Queenstown up to Glenorchy / Paradise at the head of Lake Wakatipu.
    Day trip from Queenstwn into Skippers Canyon.
    Crown Range road between Queenstown and Lake Wanaka.
    Diversion into the Mavora Lakes while driving between Queenstown and Te Anau.

    If you are heading up the West Coast (to see the glaciers) then a diversion into Okarito is also well worthwhile.

    * and the sandflies

    Hope this gives you some ideas.

    Regards

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Southland, New Zealand
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    Re: Fiordlands, South Island, NZ

    If you are going by coach to Milford, Trips n Tramps are good. Small coaches with personal attention and a little colour. They stop at halfway so you can walk up to key summit. They leave from Te Anau. Milford Sound is best in the pouring rain.

    Doubtful sound is also very interesting. Trip across lake Manapouri, bus into the centre of the earth to see the power station, over a pass, cruise on the sound.

    Mavora is fantastic little excursion on the way to Te Anau, a little local secret.

    Take a walk along Manapouri (sunset) and up the Iris Burn for lake views and fantastic beech forest. Or up to luxmore hut for elevated views of lake te anau at sunrise.

    If you go to Wanaka, go up the Matukituki valley. Rob Roy, and if you have the time and inclination, up the cascade saddle for excelent views of Mt Aspiring and the Dart glacier on the other side. A wander up the meadows of the lower east Matukituki is good, and glacier burn is spectacular. This involves crossing the Matukituki which may not be a good idea if the water level is high.

    Queenstown is very missable, leave it to the a listers, but if you are there on a saturday the farmers market at the primary school was good last time I was there. I have never done it myself, but I think a hot air baloon is a nice way to see the district on a sunny calm morning. Could go to Arrowtown for galleries and a very nice delicatessan and flash resturants. Taste some cheese and wine at Gibbston valley, not free. Drive to Glenorchy. Gorge on pip fruit from roadside stalls near Cromwell, apricots, necatarines, peaches, plums.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Southland, New Zealand
    Posts
    2,038

    Re: Fiordlands, South Island, NZ

    Wow, you are tight. I would fly to Milford, take a small camera. The Haast Pass area and the coast after it are good for cameras. A walk on the Glacier is fun but feels slightly herded, helicopter flight here is spectacular. Lots of stunning coastal scenes on the way up. Some stunning mountain views. Lake Matheson in the early morning. NZ roads are slow going, so you are going to spend a lot of time in the car. It is a long time since I was in the North of the SI, but you are going to miss most of it anyway.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Central North Island, New Zealand
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    178

    Re: Fiordlands, South Island, NZ

    You are going to be flat out, its a long slog back up the west coast to Picton but some lovely scenery.

    For me Milford sound itself was a bit of a let down, tourists everywhere, planes buzzing around overhead, and the water full of boats. Im sure a cruise is a different story tho.

    The drive to Milford from Te Anau, well, theres another story, thats probably my favorite piece of country in the world. If you do one short walk on the road to Milford, the Beech forest at the southern end of Lake Gunn, called Cascade Creek, is just lovely.

    Try and stay in Barrytown if it suits your schedule, a great bunch of locals there.

    The drive over to Nelson/Picton from the west coast, through the Buller gorge is also quite spectacular, with some nice photo ops right on the side of the road.

    You can plot your course via maps.google.co.nz, Queenstown to Milford to Picton via the West Coast is 1459km

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Auckland
    Posts
    76

    Re: Fiordlands, South Island, NZ

    Thanks everyone for the input. It does indeed sound like I'm going to be a bit rushed. I'll do the best I can in the time I have and perhaps consider the trip as a recce for a future visit when I can allow longer...

    Wishful thinking!

    Cheers

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