Since today is World Water Day, it makes sense to share my love of my favourite water body: Milford Sound. On the west coast of New Zealand’s south island, this gorgeous fjord took my breath away and is probably my favourite place in the world. If you are wondering whether to add Milford Sound to your New Zealand itinerary, the answer is definitely yes!
The two hour drive from Te Anau is unforgettable in itself, with stunning mountains rising up out of the mist all around as you enter the heart of Fiordland National Park. There are several beautiful viewpoints and lookouts to stop off at along the way, from the Mirror Lakes to gorgeous Eglinton Valley.
When we reached the fjord we were thrilled to see blue skies with no clouds in sight, as Milford Sound is one of the wettest places on earth! The beauty of Milford Sound is only really appreciated when you take one of the boat trips and experience it from the water.
We opted for a 5 hour cruise on the Lady Bowen, as part of a combined cruise and kayak package with Southern Discoveries, which I can 100% recommend as it was a fantastic day. However, you can often find extremely deals for Milford boat trips on Bookme, so it is worth taking a look there.
We were rapidly out in the fjord, in awe of our surroundings. As if the stunning scenery was not enough, we were immediately joined by a pod of southern bottlenose dolphins, who frolicked around at the bow of the boat. Early in the trip we nosed into one of the gorgeous waterfalls cascading off the cliffs, capturing the pure, clean, delicious water in a tray of glasses which were passed round for us to drink.
Whilst aboard we learned from the knowledgeable guide about the nature and geography of the fjord, including how it was carved out by glaciers. We were lucky enough to see a couple of rare Fiordland crested penguins perched on the rocks at the side! They were tiny – so small we could barely see them against the rocks.
We cruised all the way out past Mitre Peak, right round the fjord and out into the opening of the Tasman Sea. We were greeted on our return to the fjord by a colony of sea lions lounging on the rocks, sunning themselves in the beautiful weather.
Disembarking at the Milford discovery centre in Harrison Cove, we changed into kayaking gear, then headed back out on the water in much smaller vessels. It was lovely to travel around the bay at our own pace, taking in the gorgeous scenery. The scale of the mountains, emerging straight out of the water is truly amazing, and from our tiny kayaks the mountains felt even larger.
Afterwards we were able to see the marine life of the fjord, including rare black coral, close up from inside the underwater observatory. We then boarded a boat back to the village, treated with the company of another pod of dolphins!
I truly will never forget Milford Sound. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and really no surprise Rudyard Kipling called it the eighth Wonder of the World.
You can reach Milford Sound from Te Anau in about two hours, but you should definitely allow more time to stop off at the beautiful view points. From Queenstown it is well over four hours, so I would definitely recommend staying over in Te Anau for two nights and going to Milford Sound as a day trip. The drive itself is beautiful, and you might prefer to take a bus rather than drive yourself to be able to properly take in the views.
I stayed at the YHA in Te Anau, which was a great base for our Milford adventure. If you have your own vehicle and tent, you could stay at Cascade Creek Campsite on the Milford Road, which is an affordable DOC campsite. You can check out all DOC sites on this map, as there are several along the Milford Road to choose from. Alternatively, you can stay in Milford itself but there are limited accommodation options, namely Milford Sound Lodge.
So, if you are still trying to work out whether it’s worth going the extra distance to include Milford Sound in your trip, I hope this post has persuaded you that it is! In my year in New Zealand I never met a single person who regretted their visit to Milford Sound, and most loved it as much as I did.