“So lovely was the loneliness of a wild lake.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe
The Doubtful Sound awes you with its scale and beauty.
Vertiginous mountains rise straight out of the water, clouds hovering their tops, smothered in thick rainforest of fern and podocarp trees. Sheer cliffs at sharp angles stoically impose their presence, often with waterfalls starting so high that the water becomes mist on before it reaches the ground.
It’s magical here. Mystical even. A place that has essentially remained unchanged since it was discovered by Lieutenant James Cook in 1770. After months of exploration up and down the entangled waters that snake their way into the mountains and sub-aquatic valleys of the South Island’s fiords, Cook was doubtful he’d be able to find his way back to the ocean from this maze of epic but rugged waterlogged beauty. He named it Doubtful Harbour.
It’s so calm and peaceful. On average it’s 400m deep (1300ft), and with protection from off & on shore winds, it’s surface is often glassy and mirror-flat. Because it’s logistically difficult to get to, tourist numbers are minimal with only a few boats sailing it’s expanse at any one time. We didn’t see another boat the 4 hours we sailed The Sound’s pristine waters.
It’s status as marine & nature reserve ensure the only inhabitants are dolphins, fur seals, native birds like the kiwi, weta and morepork and the world’s rarest little penguin the Fiordland Crested Penguin. We stopped for a while and saw this beautiful little couple…
We cruise aboard Real Journey’s Patea Explorer. It’s freezing outside, the mix of wind from sailing across the water and the light rain whipping around us boring through the layers of clothing and chilling us to the bone. But it makes for a more authentic experience; us in the elements, engulfed by the wildness and remoteness of The Sound.
The captain announces that we’re anchoring at a sound reserve for a few minutes to experience the true nature of Doubtful Sound’s moniker ‘Sounds of Silence’. I can’t quite explain the experience of pure silence from static noise. Bobbing aboard a boat in the middle of a mirror lake, surrounded by 4,000ft of forested mountain walls, with only the occasional call of a bird and the distant rush of a waterfall is incredible. Your ears ring in the silence, your throat catches and your chest aches with pure wonder. It’s soulful.
If you get a chance, you need to experience this place for yourself.
We stay in the closest town, a 2 hour journey by boat & bus, nestled on the shore of NZ’s second largest lake, in the peaceful little town of Te Anau.
We stay at a little motel; Lakeside Motel and Apartments, our room is on the ground floor that looks out to the most amazing view, below.
The motel owners really love their garden and all their care is evident, the trees are neatly pruned, the grass is short and intensely green and the tulips are an explosion of colour; a welcome contrast against they endless grey-blue of the lake and surrounding mountains.
The first night we eat at a little pizza place where the owner’s 12 year old son pours our beers from the bar tap, and the food is simple but homey and welcoming. The next night we have take-away fish’n’chips sitting on the dock overlooking the waves and watching the day’s last rays of sun shimmer on their rippling peaks. It’s a quiet town, simple in its beauty and lovely how it doesn’t try to be anything flashy.
//all photos my own//