Ever since I saw it featured on a travel television program, I’ve always wanted to visit the incredible natural wonder that is Milford Sound.
For those of you who don’t know, it is located at the northern end of Fiordland National Park on New Zealand’s South Island. In some places it is up to 400 metres deep, and is believed to have been discovered by the Maori people more than 1000 years ago. In 1912, John Grono was the first European settler to land in the sound and he named it Milford Sound after Milford Haven in Wales.
After doing some research online, my fiance N and I decided to hire a car in Queenstown and drive to Milford Sound. We did look into bus tours, but we didn’t want to restrict our time in places we liked the look of. Therefore, we also decided to book one night’s accommodation in Milford Sound, so we could take our time photographing the sites and just relax in our peaceful surroundings.
We left Queenstown early in the morning and drove approximately two hours until we reached Te Anau. Here, we stopped off for breakfast (raisin toast and tea for me, bacon and eggs and a cappuccino for N) and topped up the car with petrol as there are no service stations on the way to or at Milford Sound.
N and I hit the road again with snacks, drinks and a fully charged camera, hoping to see some picturesque sites as we drove through the Fiordland National Park – and we weren’t disappointed.
We stopped off at the breathtaking Eglinton Valley, where I hummed ‘The Hills Are Alive’ because I truly felt like I had stepped onto some sort of New Zealand set for The Sound of Music! The mountains were so large and close-up, while the river was a gorgeous shade of blue.
Nearby was Mirror Lakes, which caused me to have a giggling fit as N, who completely ignored the reflection, didn’t understand why the sign was upside down and though someone must have vandalised it!
The other highlight of our 2-hour drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound was the Homer Tunnel. Opened to the public in 1954 after 19 years of construction, it is 1.2 km long and passes through solid rock. Being a narrow tunnel, we had to wait at traffic lights for cars in the opposite direction to come past. So we waited…and waited…and waited…and finally we could go through!
After our gorgeous drive, N and I arrived our accommodation for the night – the Milford Sound Lodge. We decided to treat ourselves to a mountain view chalet, which was absolutely gorgeous. I made a cup of tea and sat outside on our picnic bench, admiring the views of the mountains and the beautiful sunshine.
We headed down to the Lodge’s Pio Pio Cafe for dinner – or as they suggest, a ‘light evening meal’. There wasn’t a great selection, probably because it’s out in the middle of nowhere, so I chose a baked potato. There is also a well-equipped kitchen, so if you’re looking for something more substantial (or you’re a fussy eater) I would suggest to bring your own food and cook!
After a pretty bad night’s sleep (not an uncomfortable bed, just shocking stormy weather!), N and I drove to the site of our Milford Sound cruise. A rainy and dreary day, we became more enthusiastic when we saw natural waterfalls beginning to form on the mountains as boarded our boat with Cruise Milford.
Our cruise began with our skipper/helmsman telling us that it rains 180-200 days per year, with an average annual rainfall of 6813mm (268 inches). This makes it New Zealand’s wettest inhabited place. That explained the crazy turn in weather! We also learnt that Milford Sound was carved by glaciers during the ice ages.
Our tour guides was so lovely, even with the skipper continuously making fun of Australian sporting teams as we sailed! One guide always offered to take our pictures near waterfalls (even though she and we got soaking wet), and we were offered complimentary and unlimited tea, coffee and biscuits.
Because our boat was so small, we were able to get up close to the waterfalls (so close that we got soaked) and a colony of seals who were sleeping peacefully on rocks. A small boat meant less tourists, so we didn’t have to fight a crowd to get our questions answered.
After two and a half hours, the cruise finished. N and I left the boat wishing we could go back in time and do it all over again.
So now it’s over to you, fine readers. Have you been to Milford Sound? Let me know in the comments!
Note: All of my trip was paid for by me (and N – he earns money too).