After five days of exploring the North Island, we hopped on Jetstar for a quick flight down to the South Island. Or so we thought. Jetstar, while economical, is notorious for delays. We didn’t get lucky on our flight down: we were delayed nearly 3 hours and had to figure out how to pass the time with two kids in Auckland Airport. Thank goodness for free wifi (30 minutes a person), iPads, and a good selection of restaurants.
We arrived in Queenstown and immediately drove to Te Anau, where we stayed in an amazing three bedroom home right on the lake (owned by Fiordland Lakeview Motel and Apartments). It was dark when we arrived so we missed out on some of the beautiful scenery, but we were able to catch it on the return.
South Island Highlights & Activities (Te Anau)
Milford Sound Day Trip w/ Picnic Lunch by Southern Discoveries: So Milford Sound is nothing short of breath taking. It’s one of the most beautiful and dramatic places I’ve ever been. We were picked up from Te Anau by the Southern Discoveries bus, made a few stops on the drive up to the sound (including Mirror Lakes and the Chasm), and then dropped off at the welcome center. We boarded the boat and headed out on a two hour tour around the sound. It was cold – and seating felt limited. Viewing from inside the boat wasn’t great – you had to go outside to really see and appreciate the views. There wasn’t much by way of guide. The boat was nice enough, but felt a little small. Picnic lunch was average. The kids got pretty antsy – they liked the discovery center where you have the chance to see ocean wildlife for the first 50 meters under the water. You have to see Milford Sound when in Fiordland National park – but there are many different tour operators out there to see it with – I’m not sure I’d pick this one again. They weren’t bad, just not great – and few activities for smaller children. Child Rating: B
Milford Sound 1 hour Sea Kayaking Trip by Southern Discoveries: Hands down, this was one of the most memorable experiences in New Zealand. And while supposedly a child as young as four years old could go in the kayak, unless your child had done it before or is particularly adventurous, I wouldn’t recommend it. But there is nothing like being out in the sound in a little kayak, paddling your way close to the cliffs and haze, and looking into that dark, black water – only to see a dolphin and calf pop out. Yes, I looked a wild dolphin in it’s eye. Child Rating: F but get a sitter because this is not to miss!
Doubtful Sound Wilderness Tour by Real Journeyz: Almost everyone makes it out to Milford Sound, but not everyone gets out to Doubtful – and they are truly missing out. It’s quite a trek to get out there (bus from Te Anau, boat across a lake to Manapouri power station, bus to Doubtful Sound touring boat), but absolutely worth it. The isolation and untouched beauty of Doubtful Sound is unbelievable, and I found myself entranced during the entire trip. Real Journeyz has a wonderful boat for this tour, with floor to ceiling windows (although you have to pay for or pack your own lunch – but we didn’t mind as we could pack what we wanted) and a full bar with hot coffee drinks. And, they know what to do with kids! They had an area with toys on board, plus one of the guides gave us crayons and coloring sheets with information about the sound. The audio tour was great too – it was informative without being intrusive so you can enjoy the solitude and beauty of the trip. Child Rating: A+
The next day we left Te Anau and headed out to beautiful Queenstown. More on that in the next post…
Have Kids, Will Work