We decided that we would skip Invercargill other than to top up supplies so from Bluff it was to be via the Scenic route to Te Anau with a possible stop for the night at Monkey Island a freedom camping area (#9173) located on the beach just before State Highway 99 turns inland. It’s a pretty area with a number of people already camping there with easy access just 2kms from the main road. Monkey Island is also the name of a very popular computer game series that my family played some years ago so our boys where interested to know we had been there. You can walk to the island at low tide. We decided however to move on.
There are so many places long the 99 route to stop for a photo opportunity but the Clifton suspension bridge is a must located these days away just off the road next to a large rest area that even has a caravan selling coffee teas and food (they make great coffee) Built in 1899 it served until 1978 when it was replaced with the two lane bridge about 100 metres downstream. The bridge then fell into disrepair closing in 2010 as being deemed to unsafe to use but was restored in 2013 and stands today as a great stopping point for good coffee and good photos.
We arrived at the NZMCA camp in Te Anau (#9101) to find a large spacious camp with about 25 campers or caravans already here but plenty of space for us. Located close to the town it’s a handy base to enjoy some of the attractions that Te Anau has to offer.
The weather looked a bit gloomy on Saturday morning but as is our want we set off for a walk into town to explore the area, thankfully we had packed our umbrellas as no sooner had we left the camp than the drizzle started. Te Anau is still quite a small town with less than 3000 permanent residents but as a tourist destination it is becoming an important stopping off point for the great walks as well as Milford Sound.
We found the waterfront area very quiet with all the tourists hiding from the rain but that gave us the chance to have a good explore finding the boat harbour that had these fantastic toadstools growing as well as the trees with red berries that seem to be everywhere in the south.
With the rest of Saturday washed out we woke on Sunday to find a much better day so after completing a few chores around the van, hanging out the washing etc. It was onto the bikes to ride part of the bike trail between Te Anau and Manapouri it’s 28kms each way so thats a bit far for us but we would see what we could manage.
The toadstools where out in force along the trail with their red caps adding some real colour as a contrast to the green of the forest . At around the 4km mark you reach the control gates between the lake and the river to Manapouri we both thought the sign about the Darwin Awards was amusing wondering who would be dumb enough to jump into the water rushing through the gates, but I guess that’s why the sign is there.
The cycle track is a mostly easy cycle with a few steeper bits along the way but that’s why they invented electric cycles isn’t it! In the end we rode about 10kms along the track before turning back and riding along Golf Road that runs across the top of the river valley a stretch of metal road that had no traffic and was another easy ride.
On the way back into town we stopped at the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary were we saw for the first time Takahe. I always thought that Takahe were just overgrown Pukeko but when you see them up close it’s easy to see they are different. The adults at the sanctuary are a sterile couple but apparently great foster parents raising a chick every year. Great to see an endangered bird on the road to recovery. With free admission although they do request a gold coin donation it’s a stop well worth making.
Getting back into town we came across this memorial statue to Quintin MacKinnon who was with Ernest Mitchell the first Europeans to travel from Te Anau to Milford Sound with their route becoming the very famous Milford Track.
We had been debating whether or not to drive the campervan into Milford Sound but after posing the question on the Motorhome Friends Facebook page almost every response told us to catch a tour as parking especially for a camper of our size was non existent and that we would see so much more taking the tour. When we arrived at the camp here in Te Anau we had not been here long when Ray from Fiordland Tours turned up at the camp talking to us and other campers about his company which after some debate we decided to run with.
I considered including the trip to Milford Sound in this blog but so much happened and we saw so much it has to have it’s own blog, coming soon………..