New Zealands Milford Sound
The Eighth Wonder of the World, New Zealand’s Milford Sound is the most famous tourist destination, world’s top travel destination – there aren’t enough superlatives to describe magnificent Milford Sound, a fiord in the southwest of New Zealand’s South Island. Located within the glacier-carved Fiordland National Park, Milford Sound is a wonderland of cascading waterfalls, lush ancient rainforests, and thick alpine passes.
Located within the glacier-carved Fiordland National Park, Milford Sound is a wonderland of cascading waterfalls, lush, ancient rain forests, and thick alpine beech passes.
New Zealand’s Milford Sound’s reputation as one of the wettest places in the world does not deter the nearly one million annual visitors. Stormy days just mean there’s a chance to witness the performance that the “prankster” wind presents as it collides with the cascading waterfalls, causing the water to flow back up the sheer cliffs instead of down.
There are many ways to discover Milford Sound. Make your choice based on how much time you have, and whether you favor active or passive exploration.
Day & Nature Cruises
You can drive yourself the four steep and windy hours from Queenstown to Milford Sound and grab your day cruise there. Or better yet, you can relax in a cruise operator’s coach and enjoy the sights with a knowledgeable narrator. You can even fly in on a 13-passenger turbo prop Cessna! Best bet: bus in, fly out!
Most cruises run about two hours long, and if you stick with the smaller ships, you’ll enjoy a more intimate experience. Not only with the fewer passengers and crew, but with the maneuverability of the ships. Captains are known to park their vessels right underneath a waterfall, giving passengers a good soak. You’ll meet up with pods of bottlenose, dusky, and Hector’s dolphins, New Zealand fur seals, and two species of penguins along your way.
Here lies the best of all worlds. You’ll leave from Queenstown and alternate a coach ride with a bit of hiking for five days, along with up to six hours of cycling each day and full vehicle support. One night is devoted to cruising Milford Sound where you’ll sleep on a boat in the company of about a dozen other bike nuts. The final day leaves from Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland National Park, and passes through the hidden Mavora Lakes, filming site of the final scenes in “Lord of the Rings.”
Even if you’ve never set butt in a kayak before, this is a relaxed and truly hands-on way to travel Milford Sound. Those with previous experience will be in paddle heaven with the ability to get so close to the majestic scenery while seals and dolphins gather around the kayaks. Many visitors who experience the Sound from a kayak find the sheer size and scale of the sky-scraping cliffs and other natural formations mind-blowing.
You’ll travel with a small group of a half dozen or so others who share your ability level. The tours are ranked according to difficulty based on your level of fitness and stamina. Travel in summer, (November through March), and the long daylight hours give you access to sunrise and twilight trips. Go in winter, October through April, and enjoy smaller crowds, calmer waters, and fewer nuisance motorboats and sand flies harassing you. Paddle in either October or November and you’ve got an unobtrusive way to share some quality time with the Fiordland Crested Penguins as they tend to the daily business of feeding, sunning, washing, and preening themselves.
How about a spectacular eight-day walking tour out of Queenstown that kicks off with a hike to the peak of Ben Lomond for the killer views? Follow this with a trek through the rolling hills of Central Otago’s native forests and dramatic seascapes. Then it’s on to Catlins Coast, a remote Stewart Island where the flightless and iconic kiwi makes it home, and a walk in the lower portions of Fiordland National Park. When you finally make your way to Milford Sound, you’ll cruise a while, and then helicopter out and head on to Martin’s Bay where rugged coastline, seals, and penguins await.
For a truly immerse experience of Milford Sound, take a 24-hour voyage. You’ll float the full length of the fiord to the Tasman Sea and anchor in sheltered Harrison Cove where you’ll sleep in a private cabin with an adjoining bath. A delicious three-course dinner and breakfast are included. The staff is doting and very knowledgeable, and swimming off the boat and kayaking are all included.