Milford Sound – The English Eight Wonder Of The World!
Cruise, Kayak or Fly…MILFORD SOUND NEW ZEALAND ROCKS! Milford Sound is pristine in every way and every single visitor to NZ should immediately put it on their ‘Must Do’ list! And yet still there are people you speak to who give it a miss…madness!
This is the number one tourist attraction in New Zealand, and with good reason. Over 500,000 people take Milford Sound tours each year, and according to Wikipedia, it has been voted as the number 1 of all holiday destinations for tourists in the world. The famous British author, Rudyard Kipling referred to it as the Eighth Wonder of the World.
About Milford Sound
The Sound is a fiord, located on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island, in Fiordland National Park. It extends 15 kilometres inland from the Tasman Sea. This spectacular area is home to towering snow capped peaks that rise up to 1,200 metres (3,900 feet) from the deep dark waters of the sound.
Massive water falls plummet from the sheer walls of the sound, and run constantly due to the heavy rainfall received in the area.
The journey into Milford is an experience in itself, as you pass over raging creeks, through massive gorges and between snow covered mountains. If you take your Milford Sound tour by coach, you will travel through the Homer Tunnel. The Homer Tunnel passes through the Main Divide at the Homer Saddle, was opened in 1954, and allows road access to Milford from Queenstown and Te Anau. The tunnel is 1.2 kilometres long, and opens into a rain forest covered canyon, reminiscent of something from Jurassic Park.
To add to the list of exciting things, Milford Sound is actually not too far away from Queenstown but because of the road network on the South Island not being fantastic…and also the fact there there is a mega mountain range smack bang in the middle it’s a little tricky to get to…well unless you take a flight to Milford in which case you’ll get there in about half an hour! (More of that later.) So to get to Milford Sound you’re going to have to drive (about 5 hours) or bus it on one of the backpacker bus Kiwi Experience…Magic etc. or Nakedbus. But the effort required to get to Milford is well rewarded upon arrival!
You have several options when it comes to choosing the way you’d like to see the Sound…the main ones are cruise… (the most popular), road trip, kayak or from above on a Milford Sound scenic flight which, although in the slightly higher price bracket, is well worth the extra expenditure, the views of the Sound and beyond are nothing short of breathtaking.
Why Should You Opt To Go For A Milford Sound Cruise?
Most people opt for a cruise where you take a leisurely cruise to the very end of the sound and back, stopping for photo opportunities at numerous waterfalls and more often than not penguins and dolphins! And remember Milford is the only place in the world that becomes more spectacular during and after rain! The cliffs on either side of the Sound seem to erupt as thousands of mini waterfalls cascade down the cliffs. On a cruise you’ll be taking right into the heart of a waterfall so be sure to take a raincoat!
A Milford Sound cruise should be a ‘must do’ activity for all visitors to New Zealand. On a cruise you’ll see nature at its most perfect. And more than likely dolphins up close & personal! A Milford Sound cruise is truly special and will grant you a front row seat to the majestic scenery all around you.
There are several operators who will take you on a Milford Sound cruise…some larger operators and some smaller with no more than 30-40 people per boat. There are advantages and disadvantages to both but each & every Milford Sound cruise is guaranteed to impress and you’ll be in awe of the scenery around you!
A smaller cruise boat has the advantage of getting as close as possible to the nature around you, even taking you inside a waterfall for those daring enough to stand at the front of the boat (remember waterproofs!). On a smaller cruise it feels more intimate, more personal and it’s not unknown to be offered the chance to steer the boat! A definite favourite of ours is Mitre Peak cruises.
Larger cruise operators cater to the hordes of tourists who pour into Milford daily from Queenstown and beyond. Yes the boats are larger but that doesn’t necessarily mean a better vantage point. They have to keep their distance from the wildlife and cascading waterfalls for fear of damaging the boat or worse still a little penguin! But many of the larger operators offer breakfast or lunch buffet style..
Whomever you opt for, large or small, a Milford Sound cruise will long be a conversation starter and when you get your photos it won’t be long before you’re met ‘oohs’ and ‘aaahhs!’
Milford is extraordinarily wet sometimes but this is actually the best time to take a cruise as the sheer cliffs around you simply erupt with endless new waterfalls making for an awe inpsiring display! Don’t forget your camera!
Dolphins are not guaranteed but there’s a very good chance you’ll spot one on your Milford Sound cruise; penguins too are more often than not spotted. Very occasionally Orca whales are spotted but you’d have to be extremely lucky!
On the home stretch of your Milford Sound cruise you’ll be given the opportunity to stop at the purpose built underwater observatory which is fascinating and gives you insight into what lies in the depths of Milford Sound!
How About A Road Trip Across Milford Sound?
Road trips are one of the most popular ways to get around New Zealand, and not just with the locals! Campervans and cars are easy to rent and, because New Zealand has so much on offer in each region, making your way around on four wheels couldn’t make more sense.
In the South Island, Milford Sound boasts a number of activities and attractions for visitors looking to check out the rugged and gorgeous New Zealand landscape for themselves.
Finding Milford Sound
The area is popular with travellers because of its remote location. Access is only found via Milford Road, running north from Te Anau.
Located on the West Coast of the South Island, the closest thing on the map to Milford Sound is perhaps Queenstown, though State Highway 8 that leads south around Lake Wakatipu is the only way to get to there by land.
If you aren’t a fan of renting and driving a car through New Zealand’s windier roads, there are a number of sightseeing tour options that will get you there; and you will be accompanied by expert guides. Te Anau and Queenstown are both great places to book tours if you’re planning on a stay in the region, otherwise you can book ahead online before you head to the South Island.
Milford Sound Kayak Tours
The other popular choice you have to see Milford Sound is from sea level in a kayak. A Milford Sound kayak tour is the way to go if you want to get up close & personal on Milford Sound. Kayak into waterfalls. See dolphins and get as close to nature as you’ll probably ever get!
If you want to see the sound from a completely different perspective then you should definitely consider a kayak tour. A kayak tour brings you closer to nature and a dolphin alongside your kayak is not an uncommon sight!
There are several companies in Milford who offer kayak tours and kayak trips are catered to every ability so if you’ve never been in a kayak before then no problem! You’re not going to be racing along struggling to keep up! Milford Sound is all about getting back to nature, relax!
A kayak tour will take you closer to nature than perhaps you’ve ever been before! Dolphins are a common sight and what better perspective than to have a dolphin playing alongside your kayak just inches away!
Penguins are another common sight on your kayak trip. On a Milford Sound cruise you’re a little limited in how close you can get to the rocks but the advantage of being on a kayak tour means you can get close enough to almost touch a penguin! But um…don’t! They don’t like it!!
Milford Sound is one of the wettest places on earth and rains on average around 4 days a week! But Milford Sound is also one of the only places on earth where heavy rain is a welcome sight as a thousand new waterfalls appear and cascade down the sheer cliffs making for an unforgettable sight so don’t forget to take your camera! (You’re given a waterproof bag for any valuables!)
The kayak trips all leave at various times of the day. There are sunrise.. morning.. afternoon and sunset kayak tours and groups are limited to around 4 or 5 kayaks per guide so it’s a very personal service and you feel more valued than if you were on a Milford Sound cruise.
For the more advanced kayaker there’s a kayak trip which travels the whole length of the sound so best get in training now if you’re game!
But for most a 3 or 4 hour Milford Sound kayak tour is enough paddling! It’s truly a very special way to see one of the most majestic places on earth and well worth the trip!
Other Milford Sound Attractions
Ahh, Milford Sound; a place where it rains more than a 180 days a year, and where summertime daytime temperatures average only about 67ºF. But, if you let that stop you from even considering visiting this New Zealand South Island spot, you’d be missing out on one of the prettiest places on Earth.
And if you don’t believe me, just ask Trip Advisor, where Milford Sound was given a “Travelers’ Choice Destination” Award. The water didn’t stop them from enjoying themselves, and it certainly shouldn’t stop you.
Think of it this way, water is a central theme around Milford Sound with two permanent falls found within the Sound, known as the Stirling Falls and Lady Bowen Falls. When those deluge rains come down, however, hundreds of smaller (yet, none less beautiful) ones can be found throughout the entire region.
The rains that fall on Milford Sound support an abundance of wildlife, yet it’s the seals, dolphins, penguins, and whales that seem to get all the hoopla. I think Milford Sound’s black coral deserves a good mention, as well. You can see it from an underwater observatory–and before you ask “what is the big deal, I’ve seen coral before in the Caribbean or the Great Barrier Reef”, keep in mind that black coral is usually found in the tropics.
For some the highlight of their trip to Milford Sound is to hike the 53km Milford Track. If you’re going to do this baby, you’d better plan ahead since only a certain number of people are allowed to hike it per day during its peak season from Spring to Autumn. For you northern hemisphere living folks, remember that’s October to April.
You very well could do it in the winter months, but some of the walkways that’ll carry you over the wetlands have been pulled up. Whatever season you’re hiking in Milford Track you must carry your own food and supplies with you.
Overall, Milford Sound is not exactly the easiest family vacation with small children, but a definite must for a “Guys in the Wilderness” kind of get-together. Ladies, you too, grab your best gal pals and hike the stress away.
The dramatic cliffs of Milford Sound, the wonderful and varied wildlife, and the rugged hiking trails will make you forget about all of life’s stresses. And if that’s not worth putting up with some chilly weather and rain, I don’t know what is.
With so many options it would be a crime to not get out and about and explore the nature on your doorstep! Whatever the weather Milford has something to offer everybody.
Visit the New Zealand destinations category to learn more about other places to visit in New Zealand!