Sunday, January 16, 2011

lakes, mountains, and the house of the farm

One benefit to living in the Southern Hemisphere is the holiday season occurs in the middle of summer. So we took advantage of the holidays and went on a family vacation to the South Island. Since we moved to New Zealand, we had been looking forward to this trip because New Zealand's South Island is known for spectacular scenery in the Southern Alps, a mountain range that runs along the western side of the South Island.

We started the trip on December 27 and flew from Auckland to Queenstown, which is a beautiful resort town situated on a large lake (Lake Wakatipu) nestled at the foot of craggy mountains (one set of mountain peaks next to Queenstown are named the Remarkables, which we thought is a pretty awesome name for a mountain range). From Queenstown, we picked up a rental car and drove 1.5 hours south.
Lake Wakatipu from highway south of Queenstown
Our destination for the first portion of our trip was Fiordland National Park, which is located in the southwestern portion of the South Island and consists of high mountains, beautiful lakes, temperate rain forests, and fiords (glacially carved valleys that have been inundated with the sea since the glaciers retreated). Fiordland National Park includes Milford Sound, which is the most visited tourist destination in New Zealand. We visited Milford Sound, but we'll dedicate a later post to that excursion because it deserves its own.

Te Anau is a small resort town that functions as the gateway to Fiordland National Park. Holiday season accommodation in Te Anau was difficult to find, so we set up base at a bach in Mossburn, which is a very small town located 40 minutes from Te Anau. The owners of the bach have a farm and offered to put a few farm animals in the yard by the bach for the kids to enjoy. So when we were leaving on the trip, we told Maya and Max that we were going to stay in "the house on the farm", which made them excited to see the "sheepies and cows". 
"the house on the farm", Mossburn
Maya and Max peeking out the window at the sheep in the yard
A big storm hit the region during our first day and night, so we enjoyed some much needed relaxation for the first day and a half. When the rain cleared, we went into Te Anau and took in the sights. Like Queenstown, Te Anau is in a stunning location on a large alpine lake (Lake Te Anau) with towering mountains surrounding the lake. On our second full day, we went on a tour to the Te Anau glowworm caves. The tour includes a 45 minute ferry ride across Lake Te Anau and then a tour of the caves. The cave system had a small river running through it, and we really enjoyed the 20 minute tour through the caves and view of the glowworms.
Lake Manapouri, which is just south of Lake Te Anau

Lake Te Anau when the rain began to stop
Shores of Lake Te Anau
We caught a big one!
Actually two big ones!
On the ferry to the glowworm caves
Lake Te Anau
Lake Te Anau
We love that there are great parks for kids wherever you go in New Zealand.


  1. Paul and I have decided that we need to find him a job in New Zealand. :) Other top picks are the Ogasawara Isands in Japan or Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. Let us know if you hear of anything....

  2. Ok my question is . . which lake is more beautiful? The lake in Guat or this lake. They both look like Heaven.

  3. What a wonderful trip! Fjordland National Park is on David's and my list of places to see in the next ten years. Thanks for sharing the photos.

  4. Thought you were kidding about the glowworms, then Zane said they were real and described them as I hit your link to the glowworm page. Sure enough they are real - and Zane knew all about them! Man, you think you really know your kids then bam, they throw you?! ;)

    PS I agree with Rebecca's plan about NZ!

  5. I seriously get sick with jealousy when I look at your blog. You look like you're having such a wonderful experience. Keep enjoying and making me jealous!

  6. Beautiful! I hope your kids remember some of this. What a great experience!