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Milford Sound day trip sounds like too long a day!

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I have a question about visiting Milford Sound, but first I'll set the stage: couple from California, mid-60s, first trip to NZ, no driving, arriving and departing Auckland. Have been creating and rejecting itineraries like crazy.

This would probably be Nov/Dec time frame, possibly March.
Arrive Auckland, immediately fly on to Queenstown- 5 nights.
Fly to Wellington- 3 nights.
Fly to Rotorua- 3 nights.
Bus to Auckland- 4/5 nights.

So here's the question- we're already at 4 locations, really don't want to add more. But when I see that doing a day trip to Milford Sound is a 12 hr trip- long ride there on the coach, a fairly short visit- time for the cruise and I guess a look around, then get back on for the ride back.

I thought spending a night would be preferable, but the two places to stay at Milford don't sound enticing. What about staying a night or two at Te Anau? Is that a nice place to arrive from QT, enjoy the area, go to Milford the next morning, then back to QT later in the day. Oh heck, what would we do with our stuff? Just trying to figure out a way to avoid that long day on the bus, and also not be so rushed at Milford. Thoughts?
(also posted this on that other forum)

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