After the lovey weather we enjoyed for most of yesterday, a big storm rolled in overnight and the thunder was enough to wake us a couple of times. Fortunately, the worst of the weather was gone by the time we were ready to leave so, although we had a bit of rain, it was not enough to make for an uncomfortable journey.
Given that we only had to drive to Te Anau today, a couple of hours journey, we elected to visit Arrowtown before we left the Queenstown area. We had hoped to see it on the way in to Queenstown, but spent so long enjoying the Haast Valley that we had to give it a miss. We were very pleased we made the effort to go; Arrowtown is one of the many little towns that sprung up during the Otago Gold Rush but, unlike many others, it did not die when the gold ran out. It has retained most of its frontier charm and is a very photogenic place. We would have liked to have spent more time exploring the quaint shops and museum, but had to satisfy ourselves with admiring the lovely buildings. Perhaps another time...
Moving on, we returned to Queenstown then completed our review of Lake Wakatipu. Yesterday, we sailed around the Eastern Basin in the morning, then drove alone the Central and Northern Basins in the afternoon; today, it was the turn of the Southern Basin to receive our admiration. Almost a third of the drive to Te Anau from Queenstown is a superbly scenic trip. Hugging the shore of Lake Wakapitu on one side; hemmed in by The Remarkables mountains on the other; and looking across the lake to the snow-capped Bayonet Peaks, this is one of the most scenic drive in New Zealand.
Leaving Kingston at the Southern tip of the lake, the scenery changed quite dramatically. We still had snow covered hills around, but were now travelling along broad valley floors. This is a very agricultural area and we saw many sheep, cattle, deer and alpaca.
As we were still a bit early for check in, we diverted to the little town of Manapouri, which sits at the Southeastern corner of Lake Manapouri. We sat on the beach, eating lunch and admiring the view across the lake to the Keplar and Murchison mountains, which are part of the huge Fiordland National Park. It was very moody today, with low cloud, mist and occasional rain showers lending the mountains a very forbidding atmosphere. Fortunately for us, we were heading for the comfort of Te Anau!
After checking in to our hotel, we spent the afternoon strolling along the lake front - wrapped up against the occasional heavy shower - and looking around the town centre. It was not very busy, but then we are only at the very beginning of the tourist season. With all the activities on offer in this area, we could easily see Te Anau as a packed out place later in the year - happy to be here without the crowds!
We spent the evening refining our plans for our last few days in New Zealand and getting ready for our much-anticipated tour into Milford Sound tomorrow.