Deep in New Zealand’s South Island lies a sleepy body of water that makes up part of a World Heritage site, a National Park and a Marine Reserve.
It is bordered by jagged cliffs carved by ancient glaciers, home to more wildlife than people and offers some of the most picturesque views you’ll ever bear witness to. This place frequently ranks highly as a destination-of-choice, in both New Zealand and the wider world. I am referring to the spectacular Milford Sound. If this is your first time hearing about Milford Sound, then be aware my words and pictures will not do this amazing place justice. Even the most gifted writers in the world would struggle to put the atmosphere and tranquility of such a majestic place into words. So instead, I will bring you what you need to know about the place.
So first up, Milford Sound isn’t actually a Sound. A Sound (geographically speaking) is defined as a “long, relatively wide body of water, larger than a straight or a channel, connecting larger bodies of water.” Either side of Milford are huge, steep cliffs, that were cut through way back in the day by glaciers until the valley was flooded by the sea – which just so happens to be the definition of a Fiord. Nevertheless, it’s still amazing.
The most popular launching pad for a trip to Milford Sound is New Zealand’s adventure capital, Queenstown. A trip to Milford brings a welcome change of pace for many travellers, as it feels like the four-hour long journey takes you into another realm. The journey itself is fascinating – you’ll take in lakes, mountains, national parks and more along the way. Most tours stop at various points for photo opportunties, if you’re driving yourself, make sure you don’t miss anything en route.
Once there, just how you view the area is up to you. You could spend a few days tramping around it, a few hours cruise out to the Tasman sea, or just a few minutes flying over (for those with more cash than time, a luxury I am not blessed with) – the choice is yours. I booked on to a daytrip tour, which includes one hour an 45 minutes cruising time. This was maximising time and minimising my spend (my backpacking motto) – with the cost being just over $100NZ including booking fee.
The cruise itself was fantastic. We were blessed with amazing weather, sunshine and blue skies, for the whole time, which I really appreciated considering the area is known to be one of the wettest in the world, with 700cm annual rainfall on average. Rain doesn’t spoil the fun though, and we were told that even in light drizzle, more waterfalls than you can count start to cascade down the cliffs. Due to such a glorious day when I went, we only witnessed the two permanent waterfalls – Lady Bowen and Stirling – which by no means is a complaint.
So the boat goes out to the Tasman Sea, where it turns around to make its return. There’s plenty of time for photos, trying to get that perfect shot. If you have good enough equipment and fast enough on the button, you might even be able to snap some of the areas famous wildlife. We saw a small seal colony and dolphins on our cruise, though turtles, whales and penguins are known in the area also. My top tip would be to make sure you see the place with your eyes as well as through your camera lens though – even with the best kit going, your eyes will always be the best receptical and they will be what enables you to really appreciate the magic of Milford Sound.
After the day is over and done, it was back to the bus for an express journey back to Queenstown, no stops for photos this time, though there was a stop for coffee. I made it back for dinner time, which when in Queenstown has to be a Fergburger. These are delicious creations of man, in all shapes, all sizes, all ingredients that are a must-eat while you’re in the area. I had first heard about them through a friend about five years prior to my trip, needless to say they lived up to their reputation.
As for Milford, I rate the day trip I went on (booked through Naked trip) highly, mostly due to the driver being a local and well versed in the history of the area. Saying that, most of the day trip itineries are identical and I’m sure all of the drivers are informative, so whoever you go with, whenever you go, you’re going to have a great time there.