There is quite a contrast in the activities that you can do in Fiordland. And if you base yourself in Te Anau, you can enjoy some top things to do in the Fiordland National Park. Try mixing and matching your adventures. For example, if you are a serious hiker, a heli-hiking trip with Trips & Tramps to the Mt Luxmore Hut is a must-do. And if the weather is calm, you simply can’t miss out on a kayak trip in Milford Sound. But you might want set aside at least one day for relaxation. So why not kick back on Faith of Fiordland, stunning leisure cruise around Lake Te Anau.
Heli-hiking, Luxmore Hut and Kepler Track
You can pretty much guarantee you will get a great guide on any Trips & Tramps tour. And the reason for that, is because their guides are chosen for their personality and passion for the great outdoors. The heli-hiking trip can be best described as discovering ‘pure New Zealand’ pretty much on your own terms. So what happens?
Helicopter to Mt Luxmore Hut
We were picked up from our accommodation by our guide, Becs, who drove us to the heli-pad for take-off. What a feeling of euphoria as we took off and soared over Lake Te Anau! Seriously folks, it will take your breath away – the views are spectacular. The flight only takes about 8 minutes, but in that short time you will absorb so much.
The helicopter winds its way over the hidden lakes and beech forest of Mt Luxmore. Then you will gently descend towards Luxmore Hut and land in the alpine area.
Get prepared to experience a whole beautiful and untamed world. Because what you are about to see, is the raw beauty of an alpine area surrounded by stunning tussock fields.
Huts on the Kepler Track
The Mt Luxmore Hut is the very first hut you will come to on the Kepler Track Great Walk. I guess when it comes to huts, this one is probably one of the best in New Zealand.
Now if you are really fit, you can walk to the summit of Mount Luxmore. On the day we did this trip, the wind was just too strong to reach the summit. But we did manage to make our way along quite close to the top.
You will need to be well equipped for this trip and that means plenty of layers plus a good raincoat. But even if you find that this is not enough, your guide will have brought extra gear, just in case. View details in New Zealand seasons. Also, you will soon discover, that this part of the track is uphill all the way. If you go at a steady pace, with a few stops, you should make it in about one hour and a half.
Guided Walk on the Kepler Track
We surely live in a land of contrasts in Aotearoa (New Zealand). Just in this area alone, we found so many diverse landscapes to explore. After a packed lunch, we began our walk down the Kepler Track to Lake Te Anau. Now a word of caution her folks, this walk is downhill all the way – so it can be hard on your the hips and knees. But don’t worry, your guide will have extra hiking sticks to ease the way for you.
Beautiful native Fiordland forest
As you descend through the forest, you can’t help but notice the foliage getting greener and denser. The different ferns and moss here, are just gorgeous. There are plenty of walks in the Fiordland region.
But what really takes your eye, are the trees – the Totora and kauri.
The whole day just goes so fast and before you know it, you will be heading back on a jet boat to Te Anau. You will probably sleep well that night with scenes like this lingering in your dreams.
Sea Kayaking in Milford Sound
Sea kayaking is hugely popular and a wonderful way of discovering New Zealand’s nature at its best. There are a couple of local operators (Roscos and Go Orange) who operate at Milford and Doubtful Sounds. You can either select a half day, a full day to an overnight guided tour.
Getting to Milford Sound
On a rather cool Autumn day, I went for the ‘Sunriser’ tour with Roscos. And as the name suggests this meant an early start in Te Anau at 6.45am – in the summer season you will be rising with the sun at 5.30am! The early morning drive to Milford takes about 2 hours. And because you have started so early, the Milford road will be empty of tourists- and that is definitely a bonus.
Kayaking out on the water
At the harbour of Milford Sound (Deepwater Basin) we all swung into action. This is where you will get dressed up in special kayaking gear. Besides a pair of sunglasses and a hat, everything else is taken care of by the kayaking operator. I was incredibly grateful for my thermal clothing and a good rain jacket. As operations go, it really is a well oiled machine. After a last toilet stop we received our final instructions and we were off gliding through the the water.
Why go kayaking at Milford Sound ?
The main reason why travellers will select the kayaking over the classic cruise, is that they want to be closer to nature. And surely this is totally understandable. If you look at the steep walls rising hundreds of meters above you – you will have a special insight as to how special kayaking the sounds really is. The only sounds come from the waterfalls and the bird life. And let us not forget the gentle sounds of the paddles dipping through the water.
Each and every one of us felt a great sense of achievement after doing this kayak trip. But were were all rather keen on getting back to Te Anau at 4pm for a bite to eat. It was a great day out in one of NZ’s finest nature spots.
Faith in Fiordland
Now here is a total contrast. For total relaxation on Lake Te Anau, there is no better option than a leisurely afternoon cruise on Faith in Fiordland. This beautiful old lady is in fact a 19.7m motor sailer built from teak, oak and mahogany. In great weather with blue sun and blue skies this is a perfect kick-back trip.
Faith in Fiordland History
Faith in Fiordland was built in 1935. In fact this dear old girl was used in the the Second World War to rescue soldiers off the beach of Dunkirk. But of course, she’s an entirely different vessel now. Because from the moment you step aboard, and smell the wood, you may think back to a more gracious time . Believe me, you will be totally pampered by the crew. Here is one happy sailor who enjoyed the ‘bubbly’ and hors d’oeuvres that were served on-board. Just wondering how he may have acquired that hat….
And speaking of the crew, we were in for a bit of a surprise. What we didn’t know, was that owners, George and Adam, always dress in the uniforms of the 1930s. What an awesome touch. These guys really were the icing on the case that make the cruise so special. They love people and it really does show! In fact they make it so much fun. It doesn’t take long before they our hearts.
Faith in Fiordland – Forest Walks
It really helps if you choose a perfectly fine day to do this leisure cruise. That way, you will get to enjoy exploring the Hidden Lakes area that only a boat can assess. But you can’t beat variety folks, and part of the cruise involves a short walk through a beautiful forest. George puts on a different hat and takes over as guide. He talks about the history of the area and the different species of plants that live on the forest floor. But he also has some very funny stories up his sleeve.
The crowning glory of what had been the most perfect day, was Adam picking up his bagpipes and playing a couple of tunes. We thought that it was a very special touches we headed back to Te Anau. Our small group was quiet moved by it.
So, three very different experiences if you want to explore Fiordland and want some variety.
Happy Travelling Fiordland!