New Zealand is so green and mountainous compared to Australia, to say its natural beauty was stunning is an understatement.
I thought I was overpacking but somehow ended up going through all the clothes I brought. For 3 days of activities (and 2 days on each end for travel) I brought 5 outfits of activewear with layers and it was perfect. These days I’m still coveting my Arc’teryx shell, which kept me completely dry when we were walking around Milford Sound getting ready for kayaking. The only thing I didn’t end up using was my headlamp. I was too keen to be hiking again – but it’s always better to be safe than sorry and end up stumbling around in the dark.
New Zealand security and customs
Declare your things: hiking boots, tents, fruits, nuts, what have you. They’re super strict about it all and I was almost going to go through without declaring my boots. I chickened out and blurted out last minute that I actually had boots with me. They rolled their eyes and told me to wait in the other line, then the inspector went through my hiking shoes. She asked where I last used them, and said they mainly do this to check for grass seeds. Luckily I had none in my shoes and they finally waived me past security.
Sir Cedric’s Tahuna Pod Hostel
This was a busy hostel! We had booked 2 months in advance and even then couldn’t get 4 nights in a row. On the non-vacant evening we ended up staying in Te Anau, which worked out as that was halfway to Milford Sound for our kayaking tour.
The pods were a comfortable enough size, I had no complaints about my roommates as everyone kept to themselves and were respectfully quiet. The facilities were clean and they had free breakfast and soup. Wifi was spotty/nonexistent in some rooms but I had my data pass from Telstra so I was connected when I needed to be.
On the first night we were hoping to eat dinner at Joe’s Garage, but by the time I arrived they stopped serving food. (Ended up at Joe’s Garage for lunch later, it was good but not memorable).
We asked the friendly server for a recommendation, and walked accordingly further down the cute little food alley over to Medic Tacos. The tacos were tasty and reasonably priced ($7 each, which, I suppose is reasonable for Australian/New Zealand prices), great for a quick bite.
Because we needed a good portion of the day to drive to Te Anau, there wasn’t much time for a full day hike – we ended up walking the Frankton Track in the morning for a gorgeous view of the surrounding mountains. Quite a few cyclists passed us – looked like heaps of fun if you have the time to ride all around the lake.
Saw a lot of tourists wearing open toe shoes / thongs / flip flops which always makes me cringe. I’ve done that once and paid for it with a bung toe while on holidays. Please please please cycle with close toed shoes in case you misstep or fall!
Te Anau Bird Sanctuary
On our way to our Airbnb in Te Anau, we had time to stop at a bird sanctuary. I was so glad to see it because they have 2 Takahē, which are very much endangered and there are only 300 or so alive today. They were adorable squashy little flightless things, like the majority of New Zealand’s birds.
Apparently in New Zealand’s history, English settlers brought hares with them for leisure hunting – and when the hare population grew out of control they brought in stouts – which ended up feasting more on all the flightless birds than the hares. A lot of the birds are now extinct or endangered because of this. Shaking my head at the awful and dumb things humans do.
Our Te Anau Airbnb
Junko and Neil’s Airbnb was such a wholesome experience. We got a tour of their farm, learned about the surrounding nature, were introduced to their cows, and even got to milk their goats!
They have 8 lovely kids, 7 of whom we met, and learned that they all help out around the home. Our dinner was lovingly prepared by the family, topped off with homemade ice cream made with milk from Patience, their dairy cow. Junko even woke up early to pack us a multi-course breakfast for the road.
With the goat’s milk Junko makes soap and moisturising bars – I made sure to buy some before leaving as it was all natural and fragrance-free. Head over to Shy Sheep if you’re interested!
Kayaking in Milford Sound
I was chatting with one of my room mates in the hostel, and he remarked that the kayaking tours are expensive at around $200 NZD. Yes, it might sound pricey, but once you’re on the water it was totally worthwhile. In the interest of everybody’s safety it is best to be guided in the fiord, we did see lots of boats and our Go Orange guide made sure to coordinate our crossings with the guards.
Pro tip: slather yourself in insect repellant. We did, and still had a few sandfly bites (which, by the way, are still itching like mad).
With the weather – you win either way. If it’s sunny it’s a great day to spend on a kayak, if it’s rainy you only see about a million waterfalls. Even though we got sopping wet from the rain, I was ecstatic. It was humbling to be surrounded and feel protected by the mountains – mother nature never fails to blow me away.
What has lots of exposure, amazing views and about a billion switchbacks? Roy’s Peak Track!
The trail itself was technically easy, pretty much all wide flat gravel. The gradient isn’t easy but it’s not too bad if you’re relatively fit. We didn’t feel the need to go up the last stretch, after the viewpoint where everyone takes photos because it was just more switchbacks for a similar view.
Fergburger, Red Star Burger
Ah… Is it worth waiting for? Short answer is no. Luckily Trevor went to wait in line at 5:30pm and only waited 7 minutes to order and received our burgers 7 minutes later.
The people who wait 3 hours in line were probably so hungry and delirious after the wait, that they end up thinking it’s the best thing ever?
I also had a recommendation for Red Star Burger in Wanaka. Unfortunately it wasn’t an equal option to Fergburger, but was fine. We got one as a takeaway snack, something to munch on while we viewed the lone tree of Wanaka.
The Lone Tree of Wanaka
I saw a gorgeous photo of this tree on instagram from a tattoo artist I follow, showed it to my friend Tiff , and we thought we might as well see it passing through the town. It was cute, maybe a little bit sad, but a good little stop nevertheless.
Now that I’ve visited New Zealand once I have a feeling I will definitely be back again. Especially to do the multi-day hikes from hut to hut – I can’t wait!