Kia Ora – First Visit to New Zealand Nov. 2023

Old Dec 6th, 2023, 07:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Eardsteppan
Gutted I didn't go to Hamilton on my visit, was hoping to snatch at least a day there to chalk it off on Worldbagger but time constraints got in my way. Ah well, next time.
Eardsteppan I haven't heard of Worldbagger. Hope you go get to go back. There are plenty of fun things to do within driving distance of Hamilton.
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Old Dec 7th, 2023, 06:29 AM
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magsrose, Wow!!! Your narrative and photos are spectacular! Milford Sound is more beautiful than I imagined. I notice you said that people were encouraged to participate in the water activities even though the weather wasn't ideal, including swimming! Or did I misunderstand something? Wouldn't the water be dangerously cold for swimming? And dangerously rough?
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Old Dec 7th, 2023, 02:01 PM
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Wow, amazing photos from your boat trip. So glad you woke up to the good weather. We did the Milford Track walk, so we hiked to Milford Sound and then took the boat ride on the sound the next morning. Our hike in was fine, but the weather for our boat ride on the sound was like your first day. Most people stayed indoors. I remember the guy with multiple cameras and big lenses - he must have been pretty disappointed.

It makes me wonder if I don't even need to go to Norway or Alaska anymore, since I've seen the amazing Milford Sound.
Yes, plan to do those, too. They are all very different, and all spectacular.
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Old Dec 8th, 2023, 04:52 AM
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I’ll be honest—the weather was awful.

If I had a nickel for every time I've said that while in NZ!

I'm glad the sun made an appearance - sunny trumps rain in Milford (and NZ in general) every single time.
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Old Dec 9th, 2023, 08:05 PM
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KarenWoo Yes, the water activities still went on, even though it was raining and windy. And yep, they did invite us to jump in and swim. So I don't think there was anything dangerous about it. The water activities began once we were anchored in the bay, so the water was stiller in that area. But the whole combination of conditions was still not appealing enough for me to join in.
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Old Dec 9th, 2023, 10:15 PM
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Drive out on Milford Road and end of trip

Once the Milford Mariner was docked, we disembarked and walked back through the welcome center and to the parking area where our bus and guide, Brandon, picked us back up. There is also an option to upgrade your experience and fly back to Queenstown. I didn't enquire of the price, because I knew it wasn't in the cards for me. It may be of interest to others, plus you get back in 45 minutes instead of 4 hours. The views would be spectacular. While boarding the bus, we saw a New Zealand native bird, Weka, hanging out around the buses. It's a large brown flightless bird about the size of a hen. There was much less narrative on the return bus ride and we mostly just enjoyed the scenery. We still got out at several points. The views were majestic and once again preferable to the white-out conditions of the day before.




At this stop there was a group of Keas, the cheeky alpine parrot that loves man-made things, picking at some crisps (or chips as we Americans call them) that someone had thrown on the ground. Our guide was MAD about this, and I think it's of interest to share here. He got down on his hands and knees and picked up every last crumb, because it's terrible for the birds to eat this. There are signs that say don't feed the Keas. And then he went around to other parked vehicles and knocked on windows and asked them if they had left this food out. I was impressed at his reaction and it drove home to me the importance of respecting our surroundings.


Same waterfall as the day before, but less full since it was a clear day.








I really appreciated the views we got this day. I learned that this part of the South Island is situated on the latitude line similar to that of Idaho in the Northern Hemisphere. I live in Utah and the Intermountain West is "home" and "in my blood," so I felt like I resonated with what I was experiencing. The Remarkable Mountain range runs true north and south and the only other mountain range with that orientation in the world is the Rocky Mountain Range, which I live on the western edge. I also learned that the Pacific Ocean acts as insulation, keeping New Zealand temperate throughout the winter and summer, which allows tropical plants to thrive year-round.

For lunch we stopped in Te Anau again, and I went back to Miles Better Pies and tried a chicken, brie, and cranberry pie. Tasty again. I mailed more postcards and went back to the post office and bought a few more letter stamps. I went into the little shop called Kiwi Country and found some beautiful note cards with images of the Huia bird on them. Bought them and spent the next several hours writing thank you cards to some of my colleagues in New Zealand.

Also here in Te Anau, we picked up the couple who spent the evening on the Doubtful Sound tour. Brandon asked them which they liked better: Doubtful Sound or Milford Sound. Everyone prefaces a comparison of the two by saying they are just different and both spectacular in their own way. Doubtful Sound is 10 times bigger than Milford, so it's easier to have space to yourself and peace and quiet. Milford Sound gets full and busy with boats during the day, but its sea cliffs are taller. So, the couple thought about it for a few seconds and said they preferred their Doubtful Sound experience. They said it was just so big and peaceful and quiet. BUT, they can only compare it to their day-trip to Milford. I wonder if they had the whole Milford Sound to themselves, like we had that morning if their answer would be the same. To each their own! And maybe this will be motivation to experience both.

Continuing on our way, we had another stop in Garston, and I found the sweetest little shed selling bouquets of fresh cut peonies, which was a feast for my November eyes.


This was our final stop on the road, so Brandon asked each party where would be a preferable drop-off area in Queenstown. I asked for the airport, which was no problem at all. We would be passing it anyway. This was a welcome surprise as I was expecting to be dropped off in town with all my heavy bags and have to catch the bus back to the airport. So he saved me that trouble. As we neared Queenstown, Brandon shared many suggestions of good things to do and places to eat. I began building my mental list of things I want to do if I ever come back to Queenstown: Dinner at Botswana Butchery, Skyline gondola and Kiwi Park, probably some hiking and/or river adventuring, and day trips to Arrowtown and Wanaka. And maybe the Doubtful Sound?

At my drop-off, I said thank you and goodbye and headed right in to the domestic terminal. I was five hours early for my flight to Auckland, but I wasn't feeling adventurous enough to do anything else accompanied by my 50 pound check-in suitcase and two heavy carry-on bags. I spent some time rearranging my bags for check-in versus carry-on. I had the idea to ask the Air New Zealand desk if I could board an earlier flight. Since I didn't buy a flexible ticket, I would have to pay quite a bit extra. I reminded myself of that expensive package I mailed myself from Te Anau the day before, so I said no to the ticket change. But interestingly they said I could check my bags now and I could even leave the airport and come back. I thought about it. I could catch the bus and go into town one last time. But my level head got the better of me, and I decided I didn't want to risk anything. So I stayed and filled the hours. I wrote cards and dropped them in a mail slot. By the time I was done doing that, I was excited to shop in a couple of the stores they have there and order something delicious at the Patagonia in the airport. But like a comedy of errors, the shops were closing up right as I was ready to go explore them. I sat and worked for a couple hours and ordered a bowl of ramen. And eventually I was on my way and saying goodbye to Queenstown.





I landed in Auckland at around 10:30 pm and loaded my bags onto a trolley and wheeled everything over to the airport Novotel hotel. This was the best decision for me. At this point in the trip I couldn't fathom traveling into the city and staying somewhere else just to save some money. So I stayed one night there, asked for a noon check-out, and spent my last hours in New Zealand sleeping, packing my bags, and preparing for my return flight home. The next day I gave myself plenty of time to get through the airport and security and to my gate, and man did it take some time and energy. My complaint for my first time catching an international flight here is I wish I understood better where to buy food and how long it takes to get from one area to the next. With the craziness of this day, it was 3:00pm before I found my first meal of the day, a wrap sandwich and some Pringles, right before I boarded my flight to San Francisco.


The best part about my return flight was most everyone got a whole row to themselves. So we got to stretch out. I watched a movie which I almost never do, The Hobbit, to commemorate my time in New Zealand. Once I landed in San Francisco, I was in survival-mode getting through customs and boarding my flight to Salt Lake, on which I was completely delirious. Then it was home sweet home. It took me a week to get my jet lag under control, so that was quite disruptive. Those brutal return flights are so worth the life-changing experience of traveling to a new part of the world. You feel the fabric of your being expand. New words, foods, objects, and places are now part of you. Some of my colleagues there said to me, "You may be returning home, but you're leaving paradise." And I couldn't agree more! Thank you for following along on my trip report! It's great to connect with people who share similar interests.
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Old Dec 10th, 2023, 01:13 AM
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Thanks for sharing your wonderful trip report. I'm glad you got your sunny and blue skies over Milford Sound and Milford Road!
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Old Dec 10th, 2023, 05:11 AM
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magsrose, thank you so much for taking the time to write your report and post your awesome photos! I really enjoyed your report from start to finish! Do you mind sharing the cost of your overnight cruise to Milford Sound? Right now we are planning on the day cruise but I am curious as to the cost of the overnight cruise. Obviously, the advantage with the overnight cruise is that we increase our chances of having better weather. And being there in the early morning when it is quieter.

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Old Dec 10th, 2023, 10:40 AM
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Originally Posted by KarenWoo
magsrose, thank you so much for taking the time to write your report and post your awesome photos! I really enjoyed your report from start to finish! Do you mind sharing the cost of your overnight cruise to Milford Sound? Right now we are planning on the day cruise but I am curious as to the cost of the overnight cruise. Obviously, the advantage with the overnight cruise is that we increase our chances of having better weather. And being there in the early morning when it is quieter.
I booked through RealNZ.com and booked the Single Occupancy rate that includes a private cabin with double bed and ensuite. My ticket was the Coach and Cruise from Queenstown and came to $1,409.01 NZD (approximately $862.50 USD). This was a huge splurge for me. I live off of a single average income. If I had paid for my flights to and from New Zealand, I wouldn't have made this purchase. My work paid for those international flights. I felt like I was taking advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

I noticed on their website that overnight cruises to the Doubtful Sound are 30% off right now. I also wanted to mention that your ticket price would vary if you purchase the Te Anau coach ticket or just the cruise ticket itself (drive yourself to into Milford). I think it's worth continuing to check the website and watch for promotions or choose an option that makes the most sense for you.
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