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From the Southern Alps to the Fiords: A Journey Through New Zealand's Diverse Beauty

From the Southern Alps to the Fiords: A Journey Through New Zealand's Diverse Beauty

New Zealand might be made up of just a few small islands, but within its shores you’ll find a dazzling diversity of landscapes unlike anywhere else on Earth. This variety reaches its peak among the icy giants of the Southern Alps and the lush, misty rainforests of the fiords along the South Island’s western coast. A journey from the heart of the Southern Alps down to the secluded Milford Sound encompasses some of New Zealand’s most awe-inspiring highlights.

Queenstown and the Mighty Southern Alps

Base yourself in Queenstown to launch into the Southern Alps region. Peer down from scenic viewpoints along winding mountain passes to see aquamarine glacial lakes dotted amongst craggy alpine peaks. Stop to snap photos of the dense native beech forests coated in glowing green moss that thrive in parts of Mount Aspiring National Park. As you continue south, pause at the thunderous Hobbit Falls, which cascade right next to the road through beech trees straight out of Tolkien’s tales.

Gateway to Fiordland

No visit to New Zealand’s lakes region is complete without spending a few days in Te Anau, the gateway to fiordland and Milford Sound. Relax from all that mountain driving with a peaceful cruise across Lake Te Anau, the South Island’s largest lake. Its glacier-fed waters have a vibrant turquoise hue that sparkles under the summer sun. Next, stretch your legs on some of the area’s most renowned day hikes, including the Routeburn Track and Key Summit Track, both offering more spectacular alpine scenery.

Entering the Rainforest Realm

When you’re ready to head into fiordland, stop at mirror-like Lake Gunn nestled amongst the mountains. Temperatures are cooler down here with frequent rainfall nurturing the lush temperate rainforests smothering the landscape. The feeling of being swallowed whole by nature only intensifies as you enter the supremely beautiful Milford Sound. In Maori legend, the fiords were created not by glaciers but by the mystical mountain warrior Tu-te-raki-whanoa, who carved them out with his adze. Gazing up at the towering waterfalls cascading down vertical cliff faces over 1,500 meters high, you can almost believe the ancient myths.

Cruising the Fjord Waters

Cruising out onto the dark fjord waters, keep an eye out for seals sunbathing on rocks near the shore as waterfalls disintegrate into mist around you. If it’s rainy, prepare to be dazzled by hundreds of temporary waterfalls streaming down the cliffs that only run after heavy rainfall. Out on the Tasman Sea, watch for dolphins playing in the wake of your boat and whales breaching between rain showers. Throughout the cruise, the sound lives up to its name, with moments of silence broken dramatically by the sudden roar of collapsing glaciers as chunks of ice crack off and smash into the waters below. 

Over the course of the journey south from the lofty heights of the Southern Alps to the remote rainforest-shrouded Milford Sound, you’ll witness Mother Nature at her best. Few places on Earth offer such diverse landscapes - from massive icy peaks and glaciers to wet temperate rainforests and narrow fjords - all packed into such compact islands. Why not discover New Zealand with Travelessence? A bespoke trip will help you see more of the scenery you’re interested in.

As you explore these epic yet contrasting New Zealand destinations you’ll gain a new appreciation for nature’s majesty and the Kiwi spirit of adventure. Happy travels!

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