When I began to research things to do on New Zealand’s south island, one suggestion showed up on every list I found- Milford Sound. To be honest until then I really didn’t know anything about Milford Sound, or even what a sound was (FYI it’s a narrow ocean channel between two bodies of land). Technically Milford is not a sound at all but a fjord, because it is formed by a glacier. But whatever is was, as soon I saw pictures of this beautiful natural wonder I knew we would have to make it there.
Milford Sound is not the easiest place to get to (although it is the only fjord that can be accessed by road). The entire area is a national park so there is only one campsite/hotel that you can stay in and obviously for that reason, it books up quickly. ALSO if you search on a hotel website it might appear that you can stay in nearby towns but once you put the addresses in google maps it is actually at least a 2 hour drive. Driving in New Zealand is just tricky like that.
We stayed in the small town of Te Anau, which is a popular gateway to the sound. When we arrived Wednesday afternoon we were advised multiple times to rent tire chains and check the road conditions, as it was supposed to snow the following day. We were pretty excited to see some snowfall in the middle of June (clearly still getting used to these opposite seasons) but were disappointed to see clear, sunny skies when we woke up. We checked with the local gas station and were told the weather conditions were clear and we wouldn’t need the chains.
Off we went down Milford Road. We had a map in hand and several stops we wanted to make before we got to the boat terminal for our cruise. First stop was the highly anticipated Mirror Lakes.
To be honest this one was kind of a let down which probably just speaks more to the how beautiful ALL of New Zealand is because these Mirror Lakes didn’t hold a candle to some of the reflections we had already seen on our trip. But they were still gorgeous because hey- were in New Zealand.
We hopped back into the car and continued on our journey. The next place we stopped was at Lake Gunn.
Lake Gunn provided us with another chance to stretch our legs on a short walk but more importantly- a stunning view of the snow capped mountains behind the lake.
Our last pitstop was at The Chasm where we completed a short rainforest walk and checked out some waterfalls.
There is also an abundance of birdlife in the area.
And they clearly love all of the tourists, I wonder why…
because some people feed them their granola bars (not naming names).
The drive from Te Anau to Milford only took us an hour and half since the roads were clear and there was not any traffic in sight. We pulled into Milford with plenty of time to kill so we enjoyed breakfast and coffees at the Blue Duck Cafe and took a stroll on the nearby hiking path.
As beautiful as the view from land was, we were ready to begin our cruise and get a different perspective. We chose the Southern Discoveries Discover More cruise because it was the most inclusive one we saw. If the weather was warmer I would have loved to kayak around the fjord as well.
We hopped on the boat and enjoyed a cup of tea as we cruised through Milford Sound taking in the sights.
We also took hilarious pictures like this one.
About half way through the crew announced that if we wanted to stand under Stirling Falls and drink glacier water we could get rain coats from the lower deck. Even though it was frigid outside we couldn’t turn down this opportunity. Apparently if you really want to get drenched you have to stand on the lower deck. We didn’t realize this until we were under the falls and heard all the screams from below, but I was completely content with my moderate amount of soaking.
On the way back to the terminal the boat stopped and let off the Discover More passengers at the Underwater Observatory. It was pretty much an opposite aquarium where we were in a glass room in the ocean looking at the different fish and coral on the other side. It was really interesting seeing the plants and fish in their natural habitat and the guide was full of information on what we were seeing.
After our underwater experience we got on a smaller boat and cruised back to the terminal with this view behind us…