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Any trip to New Zealand can be classed as "complete" without a visit to the awe inspiring beauty of Milford Sound. The views here are quite simply stunning and the stuff of tourist posters and postcards. Make sure that you have reserved enough memory in your camera and camcorder because you will need it all!
One of the problems with Milford Sound is that there is one main road in and out. If you're not a confident driver, beware! The "main" road is virtually a mountain track in some places and altough it offers spectacular views along the way, it also offers terrifying sheer drops. To tackle this, we set off early as the road is packed with coaches and campervans after 8am. This was the right choice as we had plenty of chances to stop off regularly and enjoy the scenery and photo opportunities without the hassle of working your way back in to a queue of traffic. As the drive is about 120km, it also provided plenty of opportunities to break and share the driving.
At Milford Sound itself, the vast fjordland opens up in front of you. There are numerous sight seeing cruise tours of the area but it is wise to book in advance to avoid disappointment. The cruise terminal resembles a mini airport and as we had booked on one of the earliest tours was quite quiet upon our arrival. When we returned, the place was rammed, again confirming the wisdom of setting off early as opposed to taking the peak midday tour.
The cruise itself was wonderful with quite literally every turn offering more incredible views than before. Expect incredible waterfalls, dolphins, seals, penguins and more on an hour and a half cruise. We also had a complimentary breakfast thrown in.
There is a huge issue with pesky sandflies around NZ in general, but Milford Sound appears to be the home of them! Ensure you have packed sufficient fly repellant beforehand or your trip could be ruined. Also, make sure that you have some warm clothing, whatever season you travel in, as it is cold out there.
Overall, Milford Sound has etched its beauty into my mind forever. It is a truly beautiful place to visit and will stay with you for a long time after you've left.
I visited Queenstown NZ in 2008 and had read up about Milford Sound and it looked Beautiful! Me and my partner were going to take the coach from Queenstown to Milford Sound to do the cruise but decided a 5 hour coach journey (one way!) was not particuarly inviting, so we decided to drive up there ourselves! This was still a good 4 hour journey but would highly recommend driving there yourself as there are so many stop off photo points. The drive leading into Milford Sound is out of this world! When we reached there we got the boat cruise tour.
I must say I have never visited a place like this the views are out of this world and something I will definitley not forget! The Cruise takes you on a tour through Milford Sound and out to the Tasmen Sea. There is a also a chance to see Dolphins on the cruise however on this occasion we didnt ...but did see seals lying on the bay.
All in all this was definitley worth the trip and has to be one of the best sights to see in New Zealand.
We were staying in Queenstown and our visit to Milford Sound was a day trip from Queenstown and back. This is quite a normal trip for people wanting to have a trip on Milford Sound and there are many companies offering day trips similar to ours. Milford Sound is New Zealand's most visited attraction and is a fjord in the south west of New Zealand's South Island, in Fiordland National Park and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site.
We were up early for a 7.15 departure and our first stop was at Te Anau at the Lake's edge where we had a coffee and a walk around the few shops and the lake edge.
The next stop was Mirror Lakes where there were the most amazing reflections of the mountains only occasionally spoilt by a duck swimming across the water and causing ripples!! The reflections were so perfect it was almost impossible to tell which the reflection was and which was real. When we got our photos printed it was even more tricky to distinguish the reflection from the reality, some pictures were carefully taken with only the reflection and trees on the shore closest to us the only non-reflection - the image in the lake was lovely mountains. It was really quite challenging fun trying different photographic possibilities as we walked alongside the various lakes and the reflected images.
A toilet stop at Knobs Flat was next - here the glacier had flattened the valley floor and there were a few lumps or large rocks which were the knobs of the name. Typical Antipodean to call a spade a spade and name this place 'Knob's Flat - a flat area with knob like rocks lying around.
We climbed fairly continuously upwards before reaching Homer Tunnel where we had to wait a quite few minutes for the light to go green before passing through a 1210 metre long single track tunnel through the rocks. The tunnel was opened in 1954 and was originally a single track gravel road but today it is tarmac. There was no Homer Simpson waiting despite the name. Within the tunnel and as we came out of the long tunnel the road descended rapidly ( 1 :10 gradient) down through the mountains to sea level again.
Our last stop was at The Chasm which was a very impressive rock sculptures waterfall or chasm on the Cleddau River. The water had worn away holes and moulded the rocks into various interesting shapes which had water tumbling over and through in the most spectacular way .We walked through the beech rainforest to get to the chasm and then returned along another path through ferns, tree ferns and trees covered in lichens. The river has a Welsh name like Milford Sound as it was a Welshman that discovered and named them. It is a very spectacular piece of natural sculpture and just near the Chasm there is a notice with a quotation from David Henry Thoreau;
The finest workers in stone are not copper or steel tools, but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leisure with a liberal allowance of time.
Milford Sound goes 15 kilometres inland from the Tasman Sea and is a fjord with sheer rock faces that rise 1,200 metres or more on either side.
Strangely Milford Sound is named after Milford Haven in Wales but the Maori name is once again far more romantic than the one Europeans chose it is Piopiotahi which comes from the thrush-like piopio bird which unfortunately is now extinct.
Once we arrived at Milford Sound we queued to board our boat the 'Milford Mariner' which is an old boat with sails which they didn't put up today but the mast was enormous so it would have been spectacular.
We were given a box with a picnic lunch in it - very nice tasty sandwich, apple and other bits including a box of apple drink. We were quite hungry so we ate ours as soon as we got it then went upstairs on deck to enjoy the scenery.
There was plenty of room up top and the weather was so sunny, at times it was quite windy but most of the time I was in just my T-shirt while others we wrapped up in coats! The views were splendid everywhere you looked from the glacially carved mountains to the waterfalls to the tree avalanches and the general Sound itself. We also saw NZ fur seals basking on the rocks, they were quite small ones but clearly visible, we saw a lone penguin swimming, diving and enjoying himself and finally when we were just outside the Sound we saw an albatross flying around not so far from us so that was the icing on our cake.
The scenery within the fjord or Sound was beautiful with many waterfalls cascading down the cliff edges. It was a sight to see Mitre Peak silhouetted against a perfect blue sky, it was easy to see why Rudyard Kipling called it the eighth Wonder of the World. Other peaks are The Elephant at 1,517 metres and Lion Mountain, 1,302 metres which looked like a crouching lion.
It was made all the more perfect as the day was lovely and sunny and we had 'enjoyed' or endured quite a few rainy days in NZ so far. Our guide kept trying to convince us that it was lovely in the rain in Milford Sound as the waterfalls become even more stunning but I was more than happy to miss out on the full waterfalls in exchange for brilliant sunshine and blue skies. We were extremely lucky as we were told that it rains on 182 days a year with a mean annual rainfall of 6,813 mm, so it was good to beat the odds and get a sunny day for our trip
Once we were beyond the Sound and in the Tasman Sea it did get quite wavy but really we were so lucky as it was not bad at all and the wind was mild and the sun shone all the time.
It was a thoroughly memorable day and the only down side was that we had a 4 hour drive back.
THE RETURN TO QUEENSTOWN
I have to say I wasn't looking forward to the journey back as although the drive was quite pretty but after a while the coach becomes quite uncomfortable and you have just had enough.
We made one leg stretch/snack/toilet stop in Mossburn and the only thing I remember there was a giant Pukeko (NZ bird with huge wading feet) statue which I was rather taken with but really all I wanted to do was walk and stretch my legs and rub my numb bum. We got back to the hotel by just after 8pm and all I felt like was a nice bath and something to eat before retiring to bed. It was a lovely day with some spectacular sights but it was a long and tiring day. On the way there we had lots of stops which made the journey go quicker but on the way back it was dark most of the way and we just wanted to get 'home' and not be sitting in a coach.
We had a wonderful day. It was extremely long and tiring day but worth all the numbing of the bum in the coach in order to experience this world famous natural sight. I think if I was recommending the trip to someone I would suggest staying somewhere closer to Milford Sound rather than doing it as a day trip from Queenstown although there are several companies that offer trips from Queenstown so we were not alone in this experience and it is possible but very a tiring day trip. Milford Sound is often considered the world's top travel destination by many and is certainly New Zealand's most famous tourist destination. It is definitely worth making the effort to visit if you are South Island New Zealand.
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The route to the Milford Sound takes about an hour and half through a valley carpeted with wild flowers. The huge mountains tower above you either side. We visited in February when the weather can be unpredictable in this area, and at this time of the year. We left in the morning, we were advised to wait until after 10am to avoid the tour buses. There are a number of stops enroute which, are enhanced 10 fold if they are experienced in a small group. A number of walking trails start from various points along this route. There is a tunnel about half way along the route which only lets traffic through one way at a time, so there is a short delay whilst waiting your turn. It is a good opportunity to have a look back down the valley to trace the route you have just come from. The Kea birds also keep you amused. Watch out for them getting into open car windows though, they pinch things, given half the chance. The Milford Sound is the end at the of the road. There are only a couple of hotels here, so if you aren't wanting to travel back to Te Anau on the same day, make sure you book ahead. There is a free shuttle that takes you from the car park and a small restaurant around to the harbour area where the cruise boats depart. The hour long cruise trip is well worth taking. It is excellent value. The guy takes of photo of you as you board and you can buy the photo whilst on the boat with a cd of arial photos of the sound. We had beautiful weather when we did the trip. The trip takes you along through the fiord, passing seals basking in the sun on rocks just by the boat, there are magnificent waterfalls and glaciers to be seen. The trip goes out into the sea and then turns around back into the sound again. The captain is giving out information about what you are seeing throughout the trip. There are plenty of opportunities to take fab photos. Wear something warm though as it can get a bit chilly on the way back, against the wind. A definite must for the South island visit.
Milford Sound well deserves the title of New Zealand's number one tourist location. It is a stunning fjord in the South Island of New Zealand in the Fiordland region of the country. It is a must-sees for any tourist. If you are in the country, take the time to go on a cruise of the fjord - there are many operators available, with several tours leaving from Te Anau and Queenstown. As the crow (or tourist) flies, it is just a short hop over a few mountains from Queenstown but if the crow is travelling by bus then it's 300km by road via Te Anau that takes many hours.
After dreaming of it for many years, I finally took a cruise of Milford Sound in April 2009. Named after Milford Haven in South Wales, it is nothing like its namesake, although very similar to the fjords I have seen in Norway. The walls of Milford Sound have an incredibly vivid emerald green colour from all the trees and shrubs.
The tour started early in the morning from Te Anau and finished late at night in Queenstown and involved two long and hair-raising coach journeys taken at breakneck speed together with a much more sedate and leisurely 2-hour cruise through the waters of the fjord and out to the sea. Both the coach and the boat operators provided excellent service - the guides were first class and took the time to explain the history, geography and biology of the area; the transport was comfortable with frequent refreshment and photo opportunities.
The bus out from Te Anau stops at many scenic viewpoints along the way. My favourite was the aptly named Mirror Lake, where the water has minerals in it that cause the surface to act like a mirror and almost completely reflect the snow-capped mountains above.
Like Norway, the fjords and U-shaped valleys in Fiordland were carved during the last ice age by glaciers. When the ice retreated, the fjords were left behind - these are deep flooded valleys that are open to the sea at one end. Milford Sound is one of many fjords in the area, although a particularly large and beautiful one. The mountains around it rise over a kilometer above the surface of the water.
Although hard to believe for such a large body of water, once you have left the fjord and entered the sea, if you look back, it is almost impossible to see the entrance to the Sound. Our guide told us that this meant that the fjord was discovered relative late by Europeans, although well known by the Maori (New Zealand's indigenous population).
The walls of the fjord seemed impossibly steep to be supporting such luxuriant vegetation. Our guide explained to us that the roots cannot go deep into the ground, meaning the vegetation clings like a mat to the surface. When something dislodges a tree (fairly common in such an earthquake-rich zone), then whole swathes of trees fall as one and the scar on the landscape that is left behind takes decades to be repopulated.
For the nature lovers, there are a great variety of birds and beasts to be seen on this trip - we saw several seals basking in the sun and countless types of birds (although sadly no penguins, which we were assured do live in this area). For me, though, it was the geography of the place that I appreciated the most - the highlight was when the boats sailed into one of the waterfalls, with cascading spray on the deck creating rainbows.
I would definitely recommend this trip to anyone visiting this beautiful country.
Our day started in Queenstown where our tour departed from and would return to later that day.
We left very early in the morning by coach with around 30 other people of mixed ages from Queenstown to head to Milford Sound for what would be a really memorable day.
The coach follows Lake Wakatipu, then onto Kingston, Mossburn and onto Te Anau which is the door to the Fiordland National Park on South Island New Zealand and where we had a breakfast stop which was included in the tour price.
The breakfast was pastries, coffee, tea, juices and rolls with cold cheeses and meats, cakes and fruit, you could have whatever you wanted and as much as you wanted. It was taken in a lounge of a hotel at Te Anau so was very pleasant and comfortable and you could sit wherever you wanted and with whom you wanted unlike some tours where they sit you all on long tables together with a set menu.
Many tours start from te Anau also but as we were in Queenstown we did a full trip from there even though we are not in general overly fussed on organised excursions particularly coach tours and usually prefer to do our own thing.
This tour was however different, the scenery was simply stunning and the journey comfortable and the driver and guide were fabulous. Our fellow excursion mates were all like minded and all there for the same reason of course so the same awed exclaimations could be heard up and down the coach.
We travelled onwards to Eglington Valley and to the amazing Mirror Lakes, fab photo opportunities here and we didnt feel rushed or anything when we were allowed off the coach for a walk around the mirror lakes, we had plenty of time to take it all in. They are so called the Mirror lakes because the surface reflects back like a mirror which when you see it is absolutely stunning and such a picturesque setting.
The coach takes in much more scenery and stunning creeks and valleys along the way before arriving at the Homer Tunnel which has been carved through the solid rock to enable us to pass through to the Cleddau Valley and Milford Sound itself. We stopped here for more photo chances as there were hufe snowdrifts taller than the bus which we all had to have photos next to!
You see the sound looming as you approach and it is simply breathtaking. Once we had arrived we boarded our red boat for the cruise through the sound which i cannot begin to describe, this fjord has to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth, the peaks with their cascading waterfalls, the wildlife that can be seen and the sheer majesty of the place is simply awe inspiring.
You can opt for a lunch onboard which is a packed affair to eat during th cruise. Most people who were travelling back by coach were taking that as its a long drive back again. We didnt have the lunch box option, i doubt we would of eaten it anyway, we couldnt take our eyes of the sound.
The other reason was we were not travelling back by the coach as we had booked to fly back over the glaciers.
This was FAB FAB FAB...if you can do it!
Even better, if you can do the one that lands on the glacier and do a hike DO THAT!
We boarded a light propeller aircraft with 4 other people and the pilot , all donned our headphones and we were away. The pilot was a lovely lady and she told us what were the things to look out for and as we all had a window seat everyone had a fantastic view.
I cannot emphasise enough how fantastic the flight over the glaciers is, seeing Mitre Peak ( the main peak at the sound) that close is a sight i will never forget.
We did not do the trip that landed on the glacier as i would of been inable to hike sadly so our flight took in all the views before heading back to Queenstown.
I actually cannot remember how long the flight was, it certainly wasnt a quick fly over and back but we were back in Queenstown mid afternoon. The runway used on the landing back was the grass runway...a fact the pilot hadnt mentioned so as your preparing to land and you see the grass looming up its a little scary when one is usually used to tarmac, until you realise its the runway!
This is certainly a trip i would do again, its simply amazing. If you go to South Island, do visit Milford Sound and book whichever trip you can afford within your budget, you won't regret it.
THIS REVIEW WAS PREVIOUSLY POSTED ON QYPE BY MYSELF UNDER THE NAME SUNLINESAM ...I have added more information to this review however.
Select the cruise that best suits your travel criteria. Several tours to choose from.