We had originally planned to be headed to Milford Sound for a cruise today, but since we had changed our plans and done that yesterday, we had a free day today.  When we woke up, the sky was overcast and it was cool out.  We were very glad that we had decided to head to Milford Sound a day early as the cruise would not have been nearly as spectacular on a gray day like today.  We searched through the guidebooks to see what there was to do and found a trail nearby that had a large swinging suspension bridge on it.  Tyler was really enjoying swinging bridges, so we decided we would go and at least hike some of it to see the bridge.  We drove outside of town and parked at a trailhead that we thought would lead us to our desired trail.  It turns out we stopped too soon and this trail didn't go where we wanted it to.  It was still very nice and scenic so we spent about 20 minutes on it walking through the forest near the river.  The trail left from the Kepler Track parking lot, I can't remember if we were on the Kepler track or a different trail, but it was nice and scenic regardless.  The trail quickly headed off into a thick forest.  The overall feel was like we were back in the medieval times.  The low clouds helped contribute to the feeling.  This forest was quite a bit different then the fern dominated forests we spent most of our time in while in New Zealand.  This was a real Lord of the Rings type forest.

Thick, dense forest

We finally decided we were on the wrong trail since we had gone quite a ways and not hit the swinging bridge, so we turned around and got back into the car.  We drove further away from Te Anau and found the correct trailhead.  The book had said the swinging bridge was close to the beginning of the trail.  It turns out it is about 1 minute from the parking lot.  Tyler ran out onto and we took some pictures.

Swinging Bridge

Tyler was ready to turn around after crossing the bridge, but we made him continue on the trail into the forest.  Everyone was glad that we went on as the forest was covered with several types of really cool moss.  We also saw a really neat looking red mushroom.

Mosses and mushroom

After the short hikes, we headed to the Te Anau Wildlife Centre. It turned out to be pretty underwhelming, but we still took about 15 minutes to walk around and look at the various birds in the cages.   Since we didn't have anything really going on that day, it was fine, but I would definitely skip it if the weather is nice.  There are lots of better activities that can be found in the area.  I took a few pictures of some of the birds we saw.

Te Anau Wildlife Centre

After the wildlife center we headed back into town and just spent most of the day shopping.  There was a neat Classic American car parade that drove through town in the afternoon which was kind of surreal.  You wouldn't think you'd see about 75 classic 1950's and 1960's American cars on the bottom of the South Island in New Zealand, but we did.  Erin and I bought souvenirs for ourselves and we also did some early Christmas shopping for our family.  We couldn't buy too much stuff as it had to all fit into our two main suitcases for the plane ride home.  My parents watched Tyler so Erin and I could enjoy our last night in New Zealand with a nice dinner at an Italian place in town.  After dinner we packed up and got ready to go home.  Overall, it was a fairly relaxing day which is kind of what everyone needed as we had crammed quite a lot into our 2 week trip.  Our last night in New Zealand was another night at the Birchwood Cottages cabin.

Continue to Day 13

Back to trip home