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Doubtful Sound AND Milford Sound, New Zealand

Doubtful Sound AND Milford Sound, New Zealand

Queenstown was AWESOME!!  Now I’m on the road again early in the morning to ride to my next “appointment”.  I’ve booked a place on the boat in Doubtful Sound!  This is the jewel in the crown for anyone who ever travels to New Zealand. It’s a bit pricey, but I’m told it can’t be missed.

OH man, it was a chilly ride! I did not plug in my heated jacket because quite honestly I was afraid it wouldn’t work. We just connected the main wire to the battery this morning in case I got cold and I was trying to be tough.  At the halfway mark, I found a little roadside cafe and went in for a Chai Latte, absolutely shivering and shaking.  The lady at the counter laughed at me, “A bit cold on the bike today?’  Uh huh..!

Eventually rode into Manapouri where I will lock the bike up and leave it in the local parking lot while I take this boat tour overnight.

The tour begins by crossing Lake Manapouri on a boat, and then off to a land crossing by bus which gave us some great views!


Even better was arriving this lovely gorgeous boat inside Doubtful Sound! “Doubtful Sound was named ‘Doubtful Harbour’ in 1770 by Captain Cook, who did not enter the inlet as he was uncertain whether it was navigable under sail. It was later renamed Doubtful Sound by whalers and sealers, although it is not technically a sound but a fiord.” Wikipedia.

The cruise begins and its not like we need to sail to the pretty part.  You start and stay in the most gorgeous scenery you’ll see anywhere on earth. You know what I think of as we sail through the sound?  Remember that song by Kylie Minogue, “Wow Wow Wow Wow”??

We have a naturalist guide on board and she comfortably explains everything we are looking at.  She has to explain it every single day with a new group of people.  This boat is very efficiently run and even though we do an overnight on board, it has a turn around of passengers at the same time every day.  So I don’t blame her for having a bit of a rest!  She was actually quite funny and you can tell that she loves her job.  Heck, can you imagine if this was your office every day??

They don’t waste much time.  We sail into one of the Doubtful Sound arms where we have 2 activity options.  A ride around in the dinghy or kayaking.  I’d like a kayak please!!

The people who chose the dinghy were unloaded and away first.

Then we get into our kayaks and the big boat sails ahead to pick us up a bit further down the arm.  Heck, kayaking twice in one week.  I can’t say that was my intention for New Zealand, but it’s working for me! 😉

This is PURE BEAUTY…… It’s so beautiful that sometimes I look at it and think I’m living in some fantasty world and it isn’t real.

I paddled about with this American woman and her daughter.. It was fun to talk in a familiar accent! 😉

Back on board, we sail towards the outskirts of the sound, the outer land border of New Zealand. We came across some lovely playful dolphins along the way.

As the sun was setting, the colors were unreal.  The Captain even let us stay around longer until it went down.  During the summer, the sun is always up when they reach this point, so this time of year is special.

Sea lions resting on the rocks at the mouth of Doubtful Sound

Turning back in to Doubtful Sound to anchor for the night

The next morning I’m up early.  So early I was sitting up on the deck in the dark.. and the mist.  It was soooo peaceful.  The engines were off, a slight lapping of the water against the boat.  These puffs of mist would go softly in front of me and they look so much like ghosts passing by.  As the passengers woke up they all just went in to the lounge for breakfast and I’m still enjoying the top deck.  I can’t imagine for anything why this is the ONLY morning they will ever experience IN Doubtful Sound and they’d prefer to eat bacon and eggs and chat in the lounge.  I’m not complaining though because it’s that much more special to me being the only one up here.. One other man finally came up, an Austrian man who I ate dinner with last night.  So he took this photo of me.. with my beloved tea.

I went and had a chat with the Captain.  This man is SOOO nice.  He talked to me as if he’d known me for years and explained to me everything he was doing as if I was there to do it with him.

Eventually, the people had enough coffee and bacon and nearly all of them came up to the top deck.

The fog is lifting more and more, so the Captain starts the motors.  We will be sailing back shortly.

Ooooo, here comes the sun as well.  Again, these two days were predicted to be total rain.  It rains more than 200 days per year in Fiordland, so you are only LUCKY to have a sunny day if you book this boat.  Yesterday was divine and it looks like today is going to be another lucky one!

The crew is trying to lift the anchor.  I hear the Captain inside the bridge saying that the generator to the anchor is overheating.  He tried a bit longer but then he shuts the whole boat down.  He put on his overalls and heads down to the engine room to try and find the problem.

The crew are trying to find the problem with the anchor


I was still hanging around the bridge when the Captain came back in with this little bucket of crayfish and mussels.  He says, “These guys are the problem.. they clogged up my anchor passage!”

Crayfish and Mussels

He was actually quite surprised, even though he has been driving this boat for many years.  He said it’s unusual that so many could come in over just one night.  After a good clean, he started the motors again and raised the anchor no problem.  Me and another American girl were trying to devise another problem as we enjoyed being “stuck” in Doubtful Sound!

We completed our sail, back on the bus over the hill, on to the boat over Lake Manapouri and back to my motorcycle.  A perfect little adventure.  Every tiny bit of that tour was well thought out, organized and fun.. despite all that awful scenery! ;-)))

I rode the bike up to the town Te Anau for my next night.. a whopping 30 km’s!  That might go in to my shortest day ride.  The longest was 1221 km’s in Russia.. I still very much remember!

In Te Anau it was properly raining this time.  They told me the weather in town can be, and usually is, totally different than just a few miles away in the Sound itself.  So I tucked myself into the closest hostel and did some research for riding out tomorrow.  However, talking to the people there, they all said “You can’t be here and miss Milford Sound.”  My thoughts about seeing Milford were iffy because for one, I had just finished the most amazing tour in Doubtful so I don’t see the point of paying to go on another boat in another Sound up the road.  And secondly, the rain is so hard, that riding up to Milford and back 235 km’s would have been miserable.  There is nothing there, other than the boats, so you just turn around and come back.  I wasn’t keen but I was then convinced by the people here. So, I found a company that included some hikes along the route to Milford.  Being a last minute caller and in a slowing tourist season, the owner gave me a heck of a discount and a free lunch!

I made the plans last night in the pouring rain, it was raining this morning and the forecast said it would the rest of the day.. but!  Wrong…!!!  We’ve got a sunny day again already!  Now I wish I brought the bike!  I will get to do these small hikes in freedom without the restrictive motorcycle gear and boots, so that’s a plus side.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” is a philosophical thought experiment that raises questions regarding observation and knowledge of reality.  I think this is proof that it clearly has ears and hears! Ancient philosophical question solved!! 😉

The down side?  Lots and lots and lots of tourists!  I wouldn’t have avoided them with the bike.. The road is covered in tour buses and the walking tracks are crowded.  The negative side of being in the most beautiful part of the world.  I’ve made a plan with myself to come back one day and walk the 4 day Milford Track.. surely less crowded, yes?

We stopped at this old settlers ground for morning tea and a scone.

This used to be an old gold mining village, and they use a lot of common sense around here.

They’re not joking either. The sandflies here are freakin’ brutal!

And I don’t need to make any phone calls, thank goodness..

While the others were inside a building having a cup of tea, as much as I love tea, I’d rather take in more of this beautiful place.  Only rarely in anyone’s life can you just “be” in a place like this.  I can drink tea and chat with people in any old place. So I sneak off into the forest for a while.  I just love to stop and listen to the sound of the birds.  Would also love to see a wild Kiwi as there are plenty around here, but they are nocturnal.

Out of the wild jungle, we come in to this incredible looking valley!

Yeah, I think this is “Lord of the Rings” stuff, right here… 😉

Next, we wait our turn to go through the 1.2 km (3/4 mile) long Homer Tunnel. Easy to remember as it’s my Great Uncle’s name.

Now, on to the boat to have a look around Milford Sound.  To be clear, I didn’t have to take another boat.  I could have gone by helicopter or airplane.  Not in my budget at the moment, however I feel it’s always better to be close and personal than high in the sky.. Well both would be ideal actually.. 😉

Bee you tee ful!!!!

It seemed like getting through Milford Sound was a bit shorter in distance.  I’m not sure as we took some side arms in Doubtful.  But it’s so cool to make it out to the Pacific Ocean once again.  I would have expected the waves to be wild and crazy down here at the bottom of the world, but it seems really calm!

I took this photo looking west to the sun when the boat was out of the sound and in the open ocean.  Continuing on would take us right over to Australia! How close am I to home!??

From the open water, we turn around and head back.  I can only imagine being Captain Cook and what it was like to sail here for discovery.

We can’t have such a beautiful area too easy.. Or it would just be too perfect right?  Sandflies. They are evil……. you don’t feel them land or bite you.. but you sure feel the after effects.  They hurt and itch with large red bumps for days and days.

Saying they are “mischievous” is a very kind way to describe them.

Back into our little bus and the rain did begin on our way back to Te Anau.

All good things come to an end.  I can’t believe I nearly passed up seeing Milford Sound. They are similar yet very different at the same time.  I’m so glad I saw both.  And now I never have to wonder if I missed anything!

Originally from America. Proud citizen of Australia. Currently riding my motorcycle around the world. 44 countries so far and counting. ;-)


  • June 29, 2013

    WOW, New Zealand is amazingly beautiful. When I lived in Australia many years ago (1968) I was to go on vacation (holiday) to New Zealand but life got in the way (I got drafted) and I didn’t get to go… Thanks for the great post… and pictures…

      • June 29, 2013

        They say a picture is worth a 1000 words… experiencing it is worth a million…

  • June 29, 2013

    We love to hate the kiwis on the sportfield- rugby and cricket. But they sure live in a beautiful place!


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