Take me to Fiordland, the only spot in the country where you hope for rain. Rain brings Fiordland's famous waterfalls, and makes a drive into Milford Sound even more spectacular as hundreds cascade down the cliffs.
Where to eat in Fiordland
In Te Anau,
is a white van that parks up just off the main drag. They serve sushi bowls with pork belly, karaage chicken and crispy tofu, but most customers are lining up for the bao feasts. Try buttermilk fried chicken, salt and pepper squid and the local venison, with a side of loaded Vietnamese fries. It's eclectic and it's good.
A few steps further up the road, you'll find
, where locals wrap themselves in blankets to gather for pizza and pasta in the outdoor dining area, festooned in fairy lights.
If it's a pub lunch you're after,
The Fat Duck
is a gastro pub that serves mulled wine in the winter and hosts live music on the weekends.
Where to drink in Fiordland
A few doors up, head to the dark and cosy
Black Dog bar
, which is attached to Te Anau's boutique Fiordland Cinema. They serve local wines and brews, as well as whiskies, and warm bar snacks like Southland's famous cheese rolls, empanadas, and platters of cheese and charcuterie. Their level 1 opening times are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
is a family-suitable restaurant by day, serving hearty favourites such as lamb shanks, seafood chowder and surf 'n' turf - perfect for those returning from a wet and wild trip to Milford Sound - and a friendly bar by night with happy hours and jam sessions.
Where to stay in Fiordland
In town, treat yourself to a stay at the
, a moody looking apartment that sits above the local boutique cinema. The apartment is deep green with heavy cinema curtains, deep mossy carpets, and green velvet sofas. A panoramic photograph of the forests of Fiordland covers the back wall. In short, it's gorgeously stylish, and belies the bustle of the tourists town outside. There are two double bedrooms and two bathrooms, plus a living area.
Milford Sound Lodge
offers luxury right next to the Sounds. Beneath the Darran mountains, the lodge is deep in the forest, and the views are spectacular. In the Pio Pio restaurant, they serve Fiordland wild venison and Marlborough salmon, or there is a self-catering kitchen available. Book a riverside chalet to truly feel immersed in the landscape. There's also a pretty fancy campervan park onsite.
Where to cruise in Fiordland
Ultimately, the best way to experience Fiordland is from the water. Aboard the
, you'll be treated to the freshest seafood imaginable - if the chef has been diving that day, you'll be eating crayfish pulled from the waters beneath your boat - as well as interesting local wines, and a hot tub on deck. And beautiful rooms, all with a view.
Aboard the 26m
, which accommodates just 12 passengers at a time, you can experience fishing, photography or paddleboarding on any given day. There is no schedule to their group trips - they go with the sun and the tide to discover the best of the Sounds. They take part in local conservation projects, helping to trap predators, and a portion of each fare goes to the Tamatea Dusky Sound Restoration project. There are stylish comfortable bunk rooms onboard, as well as scuba gear, kayaks, wetsuits, three delicious meals a day and a hot tub to warm up. Flightless is available to be chartered as well.