If you're traveling to New Zealand for its diverse and beautiful scenery, then you musn't miss Te Anau and its nearby fjords. They will take your breath away. So much so, it's an almost obligatory stop!
As you'll soon find out, there's only one road that leads to Te Anau, on the edge of the Fjordland National Park. You'll cross a stunning landscape, but nothing will prepare you for the beauty that lies ahead. The town of Te Anau itself is nothing out of the ordinary. It's got the usual range of hotels and shops, so you've got somewhere to stay and buy supplies before you head off to the star attractions - the Milford and Doubtful Sound fjords.
That said, there's nothing actually wrong with Te Anau, unlike some other, similar towns that I've visited. Its streets are relatively quiet, it's not too expensive and you can find some good trails heading out of town, which is not always the case elsewhere! It's actually a good idea to base yourself here before going on to the fjords, where you'll find only one overbooked, overpriced hotel! So plan to stay in town and think about how you'd like to get to the fjords. Bear in mind that they're two hours away by car and you may want to stop along the way - the amazing Mirror Lakes being one of many spots.
Both are UNESCO World Heritage Sitesand part of the Fjordland National Park. Each one has its merits. Milford Sound is legendary, touristy and, thanks to its breathtaking beauty, often the climax of trips to New Zealand. Visitors come from all over the world to walk, swim, sail, breathe in the landscape and photograph anything that moves.
So if you're looking for peace and quiet, be warned that it's tourist-ridden, with lots of large boats toing and frowing, sometimes blocking the views; you may feel disappointed, if it's solitude you're after.
If you need a bit of breathing space, you'd be better off heading to the quieter, more solitary Doubtful Sound. It's lesser known and a different world. The only companions you'll find here are the stars above and schools of dolphins playing around. To go swimming with them will certainly cost you more than a two-hour cruise at Milford Sound, but what an experience - well worth the expense! So there are pros and cons to each, but whatever the case, you'll be left with some unforgettable memories.