Tucked away at the bottom of New Zealand in Fiordland you'll find Milford Sound, one of the world's greatest natural wonders. Milford Sound is not really a Sound at all and is actually a fiord since it was created by the erosive effects of a glacier, instead of being a river that was flooded by the sea.
Milford Sound is a World Heritage Site, and people who have visited throw around the words “awe-inspiring”, “magnificent” and “stunning”. Here you'll see snow-capped mountains, lush rainforests, incredible wildlife, amazing waterfalls, and unspoiled scenery like nothing else on earth.
What to see and do
Real Journeys offer many different tours to see Milford Sound and one of the best is to take a scenic cruise. You'll get to see seals and dolphins, as well as the Majestic Mitre Peak which looms over a kilometer above the water, so make sure you bring your camera. You can also take an overnight cruise which will give you even more time to soak up your surroundings.
Prices for the scenic cruise start at around $70 for one hour and forty minutes, and you can also choose to add lunch onto this as well. If you'd like to take an overnight cruise you can expect to pay around $189 for a twin-share room on the Milford Wanderer, and you'll be given a delicious dinner and breakfast, with more time to learn about the Sound. If you're brave enough you can even go for a swim!
Many tour companies also offer scenic flights from Queenstown and Te Anau to the Milford Sound, and although you can choose to fly both ways, the scenic Milford Road is not to be missed so it's worth taking the coach although it will take longer. Check out the Naked Bus which is a luxury glass-roofed coach that departs Queenstown, drives past Lake Wakitipu, and stops at Te Anau before driving through The Fiordland National park and on to the Milford Sound. This experience can't be beaten, and prices start at $119 per person.
For those who are a bit more adventurous, exploring Milford Sound in a guided Kayak tour is definitely a way to appreciate the vastness of the Sound. You'll be able to see more wildlife than you would on a cruise, and you'll probably learn more from the guide since the groups are much smaller.
Take a look at Rosco Milford Kayaks. These guys only take groups of around 8 people, so if you're not in love with the idea of being on a cruise with at least eighty people then this is a good idea for you. All the equipment is provided and in great condition, and there are lots of options for tours, depending on the experience you want. Check out the Sunriser Classic, which does a huge loop of the Sound, takes around five and a half hours, and costs $145.
For those who haven't been kayaking before, or simply don't fancy the thought of kayaking for five and a half hours, consider taking the Easy Rider tour, which is only two hours and $89. You'll even get to kayak under a waterfall.
If you're traveling from Queenstown or Te Anau consider taking a coach tour to the Milford Sound. The Milford Road runs from Te Anau to Milford and is known as one of the best drives in the world. If you choose to drive yourself take your time as the Milford Road is one of the most dangerous roads in New Zealand.
Weather in Milford Sound
Milford Sound is the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand, and one of the wettest in the world. Every time it rains many waterfalls are created, making the place even more breathtaking. It will always be on the cooler side here and if you're driving on Milford Road in winter you must have chains for your tires - the road may even occasionally be closed. Summer is from October to April, although you should always be prepared for wet weather if you're heading down to Milford Sound.
Once you get down in Fiordland you're in “sandfly country”, so make sure you bring plenty of insect repellant with you.
Where to stay
The only choice for accommodation in the Milford Sound is the Milford Sound Lodge. Here you can choose between a tent or campervan site, a dorm, a lodge room, or a riverside chalet - there really is an option for everyone. Most of the accommodation is basic and clean, but the whole place has a friendly atmosphere and you're bound to meet travelers from all over the world.
If you're not interested in the Milford Sound Lodge you might want to stay in Te Anau which is around an hour and a half away and the closest town to Milford Sound. Try the Bella Vista Motel which is the closest motel to the centre of town, has free wifi, and wonderful hosts who like to greet visitors with freshly baked muffins.
Food and where to eat
Food choices are fairly limited in Milford Sound, so it's either the Blue Duck Café and Bar on Milford Sound Highway, or the International Buffet at the Milford Wharf Visitor centre. The Blue Duck is a good place to go after hiking the Milford track, with great comfort food and decent coffee.
Once you get to Milford Sound you'll see why Rudyard Kipling described it as the “eighth wonder of the world”. There are many different ways to see the Sound, and one trip won't be enough.
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