Don’t try to see all of New Zealand in two weeks. It is not possible. Yes, the country is pretty small. No, the distances are not that far as the crow flies.
You are not a crow.
Slow down. Make plans for adventures. Bicycle through vineyards. Let someone else drive. Stay two nights where you considered staying for one. Have a picnic. Enjoy the sunset. Visit a gallery. Meet some local people. Find a concert. And plan to come back–again and again.
We moved to the South Island, West Coast of New Zealand in May 2016 but it took us until April 2017 to make our way down to Queenstown, Milford Sound, and Fiordland. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to go–it was the top on our list.
Back to that old crow. As the crow flies, the distance from Greymouth to Milford Sound is 225 miles or 359 kilometers. Easy peasy. Right? But look at that estimated travel time over at the bottom right (about 25 mph or 36 mph). Huh?
Gradually we realized that it is a long way from here to there–not in miles or kilometers but in time. There are things like mountains and rivers and one lane bridges and curves that simply sloooooooooooow you down.
Now check out the driving directions:
That is not a straight line and the alternative routes look, well…… loooooooong (but not that much slower). It doesn’t look logical. Quite honestly, ten hours travel time is not enough. We would allow 8 hours to drive from Greymouth to Queenstown and another 5 hours to get to Milford Sound, in part because I have an addiction to photo stops and this place is unbelievably gorgeous.
We finally got to Milford Sound over Easter weekend.
Our plan, which worked well, was to leave early Friday morning, drive to Queenstown. Have dinner. Sleep. Then Saturday morning take the Real Journeys bus to Milford Sound, spend the night on the Mariner (still a part of Real Journeys), cruise the fiord (misnamed a sound), take the bus back to Queenstown, arrive about 4pm, drive halfway back to a tiny place called Karangarua (Hunt’s Beach Accommodations), then back to Greymouth the following day. We did it!
In a nutshell, the Real Journeys part of the plan was Dan’s (perfect) idea. The drive from Queenstown to Milford and back was in a luxury bus with a funny (and safe) driver who knew (and stopped at) all of the best photo stops and short walks along the way. We arrived in Milford relaxed and excited and ready to go. The Mariner crew also wandered places just for the experiences to be had–like kayaking in a cove, pulling up to and getting sprayed by a waterfall, seeing the best sunrise, and capturing pictures of a rainbow.
I don’t know how to describe Milford Sound other than through photos, so I will let them speak for themselves.
Kayaking in Harrison Cove in the evening after dinner (aka tea) and as the sun set was incredible and not as cold as we predicted.
And waking up to the incredible light of a Milford sunrise on the Mariner was unbelievable.
Our next Real Journey trip? Doubtful Sound! No, we don’t actually have a plan yet but we’ll be scheming.