Milford Sound, Fiordland (Photo: Rob Suisted)
Visiting New Zealand’s Greatest Wonder – Milford Sound
By Daniel Blechynden on 5 May 2017
Since 2012 I have travelled the world, visiting upwards of 25 countries (and counting!). One of my favourite places was New Zealand, and one of the most incredible things I saw in New Zealand was the awe-inspiring wonder of Milford Sound.
Found in the heart of New Zealand’s very own fiordland, Milford Sound is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It is a place like no other, with vertical cliffs stretching into the sky, more rainfall than nearly anywhere else on the planet, and a landscape that wouldn’t be out of place in a fantasy movie.
Milford Sound boasts an incredible 252 inches of rain per year - that’s almost 6.5 meters of water falling on every piece of land in the area. Of course, this water is heavily concentrated and flows into the Sound itself via numerous rivers, and can cause a layer of fresh water on top of the salty ocean which is up to 12 meters thick!
Milford Sound was created thousands of years ago by an ancient glacier which carved it way through a mountain range. Evidence of this can be seen today by simply looking at the sheer cliffs which surround the area. The highest of these cliffs forms one of the faces of Mitre Peak, rising vertically most of the way to the mountains 1690 meter summit.
Nowhere else in the world does such a large mountain rise directly out of the ocean. You have to see it to believe it.
Milford Sound, Fiordland (Photo: Adam Bryce)
Getting to Milford Sound:
Milford Sound is extremely difficult to get to, especially if you don’t have your own transport. It is accessed by a narrow, windy road which stretches through the mountains. While the entire road is exciting, the most interesting feature is undoubtedly the Homer Tunnel.
The 1.2 kilometer long Homer Tunnel basically drills a hole directly through a mountain range. Until 1935, Milford Sound was completely inaccessible, except by boat. However, in 1935 the New Zealand government decided that they would open up a road to the area by digging a tunnel directly through the Darran Mountain range. The entrance to the tunnel is absolutely incredible - picture driving into a vertical cliff, and then emerging from the other side some minutes later.
If you don’t have your own vehicle, you can get to Milford Sound by either taking a bus or by chartering a small aircraft. Note that there is very little accommodation and no shops in the area, so make sure that you take everything that you need with you, and if you want to stay overnight, book in advance.
Milford Sound, Fiordland (Photo: Tourism Holdings)
Things to do at Milford Sound:
Most people who visit the sound do so for the wonderful boat cruises that are on offer. However, there is also incredible fishing, along with hiking and canoeing opportunities.
The boat cruises in the area are nothing short of breathtaking. I personally went out on the sound twice when I was there, on two consecutive days. On the first day it was cloudy and drizzling, which meant that you couldn’t really appreciate the size of the place. However, I did get to experience the sound’s famed waterfalls, which I can now say really are as incredible as they look!
The second time that I went out the weather was incredible. The sun was shining, and it wasn’t even too cold! Since it had been snowing during the night, the waterfalls were still flowing pretty strong, and I was absolutely awe-struck by every aspect of the place.
Eglinton River, Fiordland National Park, Fiordland (Photo: David Lambroughton)
One of the most incredible things, and something which I will remember forever, was looking across Milford Sound and seeing another cruise boat underneath one of the area’s permanent waterfalls. The other boat looked like it was the size of an ant - no joke!
I saw a lot of both the North and the South islands of New Zealand while I was there, but hardly anything came close to what I saw at Milford Sound. If you are planning a journey to New Zealand in the future, then make sure that you include a visit to either Milford Sound or to one of New Zealand’s other fiords.