I was looking forward to my trip to New Zealand. A friend told me that I had to visit Milford Sound. I went on-line to see what tours were available. I typed in ‘Milford
Sound Bus tours’. The BBQ Bus caught my eye.
Iclicked on it and went to their web page. This tour sounded appealing; small groups, barbeque lunch, and a scenic cruise. However, I decided to check comments on ‘TripAdvisor’. There were glowing reports, so I made the booking.
I arrived in Queenstown and was looking forward to my trip to Milford Sound. It was a 6.50am pick-up from my hotel so I had an early night. I woke at 6am, had breakfast and waited in the foyer for my pick-up.
I was picked up by a friendly driver who introduced himself as Martin, (he preferred being called Marty). The bus was small and there were 6 other people travelling with me that day. I settled into my seat and we set off.
We had our first stop at a place called the ‘Devils Staircase’ lookout. The view was amazing of lake Wakatipu surrounded by high mountains.
We arrived in Te Anau at 9.15 where we had a 30 minute break. We got out at a place called ‘Kiwi Country’, a souvenir shop and café. I wandered down to the ‘Miles Better Pies’ shop recommended by Marty to try one of their ‘famous’ venison pies. The pie was as good as he said.
Soon we were on our way along the Milford Road. You could see the Fiordland Mountains clearly. Our next stop was at ‘Te Anau downs’ where the boats depart for the world famous Milford Track. Lake Te Anau was calm and beautiful. On we went, into the Fiordland National Park, the largest in New Zealand.
We stopped in the ‘Eglington Valley’ and Marty pointed to the mountains ahead where we were heading. The next stop was Mirror Lakes. We all got out of the bus and walked along a boardwalk around the side of the lakes. You could see the reflection of the Mountains in the water. Just before lunch, we had a rest room stop at a small Visitor Centre where there were interesting displays on the Fiordland National Park.
It was lunch time. Marty explained that there were several different places they stop depending on the weather. Today we stopped at ‘Cascade Creek’. While Marty prepared the barbeque lunch, some of us went for a short exploratory walk. Soon the smell of barbequed meat was in the air and Marty whistled for everyone to return. There were picnic chairs for everyone and plenty of great food. It was a time to get to know one another and Marty was the perfect host.
One hour later we were back on the road. I thought I had seen the best scenery, but it got even better. Someone commented that they were worried their camera would run out of power and we weren’t at Milford Sound yet. We saw waterfalls, hanging glaciers, and endless mountains. We arrived at the Homer Tunnel. This was the highest point in our journey. We entered the tunnel, and immediately began descending down to Milford Sound. As we came out the bottom of the tunnel, OMG, what an amazing view, this huge amphitheatre of a valley with the road winding down in front of us. Someone spotted a ‘Kea’. Marty informed us that it was the worlds’ only true Mountain Parrot and they only live in the mountains of the South Island.
We stopped to take photographs. There were several kea around us, all within arms-reach. I was surprised at how big and bold they were.
Our last stop on the Milford Road was at a place called the Chasm. This was a 15 minute stop and Marty accompanied us along the walkway to where the river had worn its way through rocks over thousands of years, making them look like Swiss cheese.
Then it was on to the boat. We arrived at 1.15 for the 1.30 scenic cruise. Because we had already had our lunch, we didn’t have to waste time queueing for food. Marty showed us to our reserved seating and pointed out the complimentary tea and coffee. We were then free to wander around the boat. We passed the towering Mitre Peak, one of the tallest mountains in the world to rise directly from the sea floor. We sailed on to the open Tasman Sea. There were NZ fur seals. The boat was able to get quite close for photographs. The highlight for me was the chance to see Dolphins. A pod of Bottlenose Dolphins appeared, speeding alongside the boat. Some of them swam on their sides, looking up at me. They were with us for some time, then they suddenly disappeared, almost as if on cue. Marty said that the dolphins are not there every day. During the trip, the skipper pointed the front of the boat under ‘Sterling Falls’, warning passengers that they
would get wet if standing outside. There were squeals of excitement among a group of people intent on having their photograph taken. We returned to the wharf at just after 3pm. It was time to get back on the bus and make the journey back to Queenstown.
Travelling back was time to reflect on the wonderful day I had. We had a brief stop in Te Anau before making the last 2 hour journey to Queenstown. Marty put on a movie for our entertainment. I was delivered to my hotel just after 8pm. It had been a long day, but one I will fondly remember for a long time.
If you’re wanting a personalised, small group tour, book the BBQ Bus. I highly recommend it.