With water below, around, in front and behind you, it is not surprising that this fjord is called the wettest place in New Zealand. Or would it be called so because of the fact that it rains two out of three days !? Nevertheless, do not let this spoil your fun. When I visited Milford Sound, it was sunny but misty. Mystic and a bit threatening is how I would describe the atmosphere. With all those little waterfalls tumbling down from the cliffs and the wide open ocean in front of you, it almost seemed as if I was heading to the end of the world. Camera's and binoculars could come in handy as seals, penguins and dolphins are often spotted here.
Described by Rudyard Kipling as the "8th wonder of the world" Milford Sound is situated 120km's north of Te Anau on the South Island of New Zealand. It is very much a top visitor destination and off the beaten path at the same time given its remote location.
First settled in 1877, the original route to Milford weaved around the Darren Mountains and over the McKinnon Pass. The track is known today as the Milford Track (approx. 52km long) and was the only way to enter Milford other than via the sea.
Milford Sound isn't, strictly speaking, a sound - it's a fiord. A sound is a river valley flooded by the sea, following a rise in sea levels. A fiord on the other hand, is a glaciated valley that has been flooded by the sea after the glacier's retreat.
Milford Sound was not discovered until 1877 and by complete accident. A ship was looking for refuge from a storm when it went into what they thought was a bay. Captain Cook and several other prominent explorers passed by not bothering to check it out.
Building of the Homer Tunnel through the Darren Mountain Range started in 1935 and was completed in 1953, the tunnel is 1270m long. The tunnel opened up Milford Sound making it a very popular tourist destination.
The mountains making up the fiord are composed of granite and have virtually NO soil on them due to the extremely high rainfall (annual average of 7 metres!!). Because there is no soil, when it rains the water comes straight down the mountains creating many waterfalls. There are only 2 permanent waterfalls, the rest form during storms and a few days following a storm. What this means is Milford Sound is more spectacular when it's really wet!! Also of interest is the fact that because it rains so much here there is normally a 6-9 metre layer of fresh water above the ocean water!!
If you enjoy hiking and have a reasonable level of fitness and agility, you may like some of our walking tracks. This one, The Kepler 60kms, is in the very scenic area known as Fiordland National Park. You can trek either direction, and it returns to the same point of finish/start. I recommend travelling to Luxmore Hut first and then to Iris Burn hut, not the other way. This means you traverse the tricky and steep staircase in the alpine section, going downhill not uphill.
You go through a really nice variety of terrain ranging from Beech forest to alpine ridgetops to river valleys and lake fronts. All isolated places made more easily accessible by this great track.
You can view my photos and report on my Kepler page.
If there is only one multiple day hike a New Zealand inhabitant will ever do in his/her life, they will do the Milford Track. At least that's what I've been told. I do believe it since it was a great track. Because of the Milford Track's popularity you have to book months in advance. You have to do the track in 4 days and can only walk it in one direction. As you see there are quite a few rules to it, and the track is quite expensive to. The huts are 35 dollars a night and you need to stay in three huts, but it's the transportation that is so expensive. You will be looking to a total of about 225 NZ$.
First we took the bus for about 45 minutes from Te Anau to Te Anau Downs. There we had to board the boat and that would take us to the start of the track. Although it was raining during the boat trip there was a mystic atmosphere in the sound because of all the mist and the rainbows. When we got to the start we only had to walk for an hour to get to the hut. On the way we walked along the Clinton River and crossed the first swingbridge. Even though it was short the walk was very nice for a start up day.
Second day we walked through the Clinton Valley, which is a hanging, or U-shaped valley which is carved out by a giant glacier that used to be here. It is like walking through a tunnel without a roof, since on both sides of the valley there ate huge walls. We had a good day all the wy to the next hut.
The weather still seemed to be alright and we decided to walk up to Mackinnon Pass right away. We would go there tomorrow aswell, but you never know how the weather is going to develop. So we took our chance today.
There are several characteristic of Fiordland. Fiordland National Park is the largest national park in New Zealand and also the largest area of wilderness in New Zealand.
Fiordland remained wild because it is a mountainous and extremely rugged land. Fiordland is submitted to the very high rainfall weather pattern which is characteristic of the west coast of the South Island.
So much things u can do in Fiordland, walking, mountaineering, scenic flights, fishing, hunting and so on.
Please check in at the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre for up-to-date information on weather and track conditions before starting your over-night trip.
Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre
Two popular cruises in the Fiordland area of South Island are the Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound. We went on the Milford Sound cruise. There are various companies that will take you. We went with Real Journeys "Fly-Cruise-Fly" trip. From Queenstown they flew us out to where the cruise ship leaves from. The scenery on the flight was amazing. Impressive mountains covered in forests and fog with streams and waterfalls. The cruise takes you out to the mouth of the fjord and back where you get a more close up view of the gorgeous mountains that surround the fjord. We took so many pictures we drained the battery on our digital camera and couldn't take any pictures on the flight back to Queenstown.
Overwhelming nature at these fiords where you can choose from different cruises through God's Backyard...:-)
There is also the famous Milford Sound Hiking Track but unfortunately I didn't have enough time to do that, but I will be back!
There is just one thing I can say : IF YOU DON'T FOLLOW THIS TIP YOU ARE NUTS....hahaha.
I don't even have the words to describe the intense beauty of this part of the South Island!
Falls,lakes,great hikes,mountains and forest all in one package...:-)
At the end of our 4 days tramping through Fiordland National Park on the Milford Track the weather was absolutely awful, however in the evening when we had warmed up again in the hostel in Milford the skies seemed to get clearer. We didn't keep our hopes up high, since you never know what to expect over here, so prepared for the worst for the next day.
However next morning we got up quite early and as we opened the curtains we saw nothing in the sky, just endless blue!! Had a quick brekkie and shower and off we went on the free shuttle bus. We were among the first people that day to walk in Milford Sound and with such good weather it felt like a privilege. This has to be the most tranquil place in the whole world!!!
Around noon the tour buses all came in and the atmosphere was gone. However we had to meet up again with the Kiwi Experience bus, because they would take us back to Queenstwon tonight. But first a boat cruise on the Sound for a couple of hours....
At the end of the Bottom Bus trip we went to Lake Manapouri. A great lake where we made a short stop. The weather wasn't too great so no-one went for a swim here. Well some maybe did, but not voluntarily....
If you were to visit Doubtful Sound you would pass Lake Manapouri. At the other end of the lake you are picked up by a bus and that bus will take you a little furter, after which you have to board another boat, to get into Doubtful Sound. Because of time and money shortage at this stage of my NZ trip I decided not to to this trip, but I've heard some great stories about it. Apparently it's not as touristic yet as Milford Sound.
After Lake Manapouri we were back again in Fiordland and Te Anau where we decided to stay for 2 more nights, so we could walk up to Key Summit.
Milford Sound, on South Island, is a 22km-long breathtakingly beautiful fjord, flanked by the 1695 metre high Mitre Peak. It was named after Milford Haven in Wales by John Grono, the Welsh captain of a seal ship in the 1820s. In Maori it was known as Piopio-tahi which means 'lone thrush' after a local folk tale.
Milford Sound was created around one million years ago by moving glaciers. About 10,000 yeasr ago the ice melted, creating the Tasman Sea.
The weather is somewhat grey and dull, and it is incredibly cold and windy up on deck. I wish I'd brought my hat, scarves and gloves. We see beautiful waterfalls, sheer mountain sides, seals basking on the rocks and I even briefly glimpse a couple of dolphins by the side of the boat, but am too slow to photograph them.
The best way of enjoying the splendour of Milford Sound, is on one of the many cruises that operate from the wharf. Most of the cruises take in Bowen Falls, Mitre Peak, The Elephant, Anita Bay and Stirling Falls. It is a good idea to book a few days in advance, as the cruises are very popular.
Mitre Peak, at 5550ft is one of the highest mountains to rise straight from the sea.
Kea are a protected species and the Kea is also rated as one of the most intelligent birds in the world!
Raucous cries of "keeaa" often give away the presence of these highly social and inquisitive birds. However, their endearing and mischievous behaviour can cause conflict with people. Leave any food on your plate and you can expect it be gone as soon as you turn your head!!!!!
our food sources have become a welcome high energy food source and groups of kea frequent public sites around Fiordland like Milford Road carparks and at Milford Sound.
However, because these kea do not have to spend a large amount of time foraging for low energy natural foods, they have plenty of spare time to explore the many and varied new objects placed in their environment by people. Juvenile male birds seem to make up the majority of these loitering groups.
This exploration by kea has resulted in damage to property, especially around camping grounds and in carparks. Although a large number of kea may be watching, it is normally only a few mischievous birds which are doing any damage. A key to solving kea mischievousness is to remove all artificial food sources form their environment.