I’ve got two pieces of advice for you:
1) Don’t be afraid to spend good money on peanut butter
2) Go to Doubtful Sound
I’ve never been on one of those massive day tours before. I’ve been on walking tours, rode a hop on/hop off before, and spent the day with five other people and a van in Hobart once, but I had never been on one of those “big fancy bus filled with 60 people and Japanese translators” kind of tours. I was skeptical; a bunch of money on a tour that’s been done a thousand times by a million people…I mean, could it really be *that* great?
Doubtful Sound is similar to the more popular Milford Sound, but it’s 10 times bigger, much less touristy and (one would assume) heaps more awesome. Found in Fijordland National Park, Doubtful Sound was breathtaking and completely awe-inspiring.
Our day started early. The bus picked me up from my hostel at 6:50am, and drove us through beautiful countryside for a few hours. After some great bus driver commentary, a nap and a bus transfer, we arrived in Manapouri, the town closest to the Sound. We boarded our first boat of the day to take us across a lake and on to a second bus, which would take us to the Sound. After a quick drive through rainforest, we hopped on to our second boat and finally set sail (er, revved engine?) for what would turn out to be a three hour cruise of amazing.
The pictures simply don’t do it justice. The weather was great and, despite the chilly wind, the sun was hot and the coffee free, so I was comfortable and smiling the whole time. Many opted to stay inside the boat but, yo, when else are you going to be sailing out to the Tasman sea and surrounded by trees and seals and penguins?! I stayed on the roof like a crazy person who completely underestimated how hard wind could get.
To go along with the pristine scenery, there’s a lot of history to the site; the Spanish found the sound and spent a day mapping it out, so there are quite a few Spanish names around. And in the 1700s, some dude named Cook was sailing through and pretty much said “Meh, I doubt there’s anything cool in there. Just some boring old harbour. Sail on!” Get it? That’s how it got its name. Doubtful Harbour.
The three-hour cruise was fantastic, and the commentary was just right. I got a boxed lunch which was quite good, and, aside from a few penguins and the 40-odd other people on the boat, there wasn’t a soul in sight. Waterfalls and trees and rock falls and albatrosses (albatri?) and sunshine and wind all worked in perfect unison to give me a splendid day.
Then we went to a power station underground. Random.
If you find yourself on the South Island looking for adventure, I’d really recommend shelling out a few bucks and heading to Doubtful Sound. It’s a long day (we got home around 7:30pm) and is a bit more expensive than Milford Sound, but it’s really worth it. I only wish I could’ve hopped off the cruise with a tent and some matches and spent a week trekking and exploring by myself!
No doubts about it, Doubtful Sound was a blast! No diggity.*
*Of course I was going to make a joke about it. HELLO.