7 Reasons to Go to Milford Sound
Featured destinations: Milford Sound
Published 11 April 2017
Milford Sound, a dramatic fiord located in Fiordland National Park in New Zealand’s South Island, is at least two hours’ drive from the nearest large settlement. Despite its relative remoteness, over half a million visitors a year make the effort to reach it, some on a day trip, others staying longer to appreciate the silence. Here are seven reasons why you too should visit this majestic natural wonder:
Let’s start with an easy one. There’s no getting away from it; Milford Sound is simply stunning. A large body of dark water, surrounded by towering peaks and sheer sided cliffs (some more than 1,200m high) cascading with waterfalls and dotted with trees, what’s not to love? There’s a reason this is New Zealand’s South Island’s flagship attraction: bring your camera or just admire it with your eyes – you can’t fail to be impressed.
There are plenty of activities on offer
When it comes to exploring Milford Sound, there’s something for everyone. By far the most popular option is a cruise, which vary in standard and length, but usually include a visit to the Milford Discovery Centre & Underwater Observatory, a sunken room with glass walls, allowing you to get a closer look at the fiord’s underwater inhabitants. If it’s warm, kayaking is a great way to see the sights, allowing you to get closer to the cliff faces and waterfalls or, if you’re feeling flash, then a helicopter ride over Milford Sound is the way to go – many of these also land on Fiordland national Park’s Mount Tutoko glacier and/or on a Tasman Sea beach. Finally, you can choose to dive into the dark fiord water, explore the underwater cliff faces and coral trees, and look out for eels, octopus or stingray.
It doesn’t matter what the weather’s like
Usually, when you’re on holiday and it starts to rain, it’s tempting to cancel your plans and head straight for the nearest restaurant, museum or bar, or indeed anything with a roof over it. In Milford Sound, things are a little different. Here, the fiord looks fabulous no matter what the weather, and rain is a good thing, especially heavy rain, which brings dramatic cascades to the cliffsides, and mist, which gives the area a spooky, mystical appearance. Cruising in the rain is a dramatic experience, with many cruise boats getting close enough to the waterfalls for you to feel the spray. Even if you’re here on a sunny day, look out for Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls, Milford Sound’s two permanent cascades.
You can spot wildlife
Milford Sound’s cruise passengers have every chance of seeing fur seals lazing on the rocks at Seal Point, one of the few places where they can come out of the water. Dolphins too are a much-publicised resident, with the bottlenose and dusky varieties often spotted riding the bow waves of pleasure boats or getting up close to kayakers. If you’re here between July and November then look out for Fiordland penguins, one of the rarest of New Zealand’s penguins. For the really lucky few though, you might spot the dorsal fin of a southern right or humpback whale gently breaking the surface.
There’s endless peace and quiet
With very little settlement, no roads and one hotel, Milford Sound is a quiet place. Sounds you’re likely to hear include lapping waves, squawking birds and wind rustling through the trees; and that’s about it. Even on busy days, it’s easy to find peace – most tourists disappear off on cruises, so take a walk or hire a kayak to really feel like you have the place to yourself.
The drive to get there is incredibly scenic
Whether you’re driving from Queenstown or Te Anau, the two nearest hubs, the road to Milford Sound is a memorable one. From Queenstown you’ll pass the delightful Lake Wakatipu, backed by the impressive Remarkables mountain range, which might even be topped with snow. You’ll soon join the Milford Road, which comes from Te Anau and cuts through the valleys and forests of Fiordland National Park. It’s usually deserted, giving you ample time to stop by the roadside for photographs of the mountains, lakes and peaks. Whichever route you come by, it’s worth taking your time.
There are Mirror Lakes nearby
If you’re driving to Milford Sound from Te Anau, you’ll go right past the Mirror Lakes, just off the Milford Road. If you stop nowhere else on the road, you should make an exception for these sparkling lakes. Their flat, mirror-like surfaces perfectly reflect the Earl Mountains backdrop, and the surrounding forest offers a few gentle walks. So take a picnic, park the car, take a break from driving, and soak up the spectacular views.
Visit Milford Sound with one of Round the World Experts’ Milford Sound Holidays.