As the Southernmost Alpine Crossing in the World, Milford Sound, in New Zealand, is one of those places you’ll always see on postcards or in New Zealand guidebooks.
It’s greenery, mountains, many waterfalls are awe inspiring. It attracts many visitors (and sand-flies!) each year.
Mitre Peak is probably the most photographed feature of the Sound itself.
Milford Sound is known as the wettest place in New Zealand, averaging on 7-9 metres of rain per year, but that does make for pretty specular waterfalls.
During my South Island trip, with my dad and sister back in December 2012, Milford Sound was a stop off we had factored in to our itinerary. However, on the days we were in Te Anau, there was a huge rain storm, so the road was closed and only opened on the day we were heading to Wanaka. I vowed to return.
So prior to leaving New Zealand, I did just that. I took a few days off work, and headed south with my free car.
There are various ways you can get to Milford Sound – by driving yourself either from the key hub of Queenstown, or Te Anau, or you can jump on a tour or shuttle bus. You can also walk the Milford Sound track, which takes about three days, and you can camp or stay in huts along the route.
I happened to be in Te Anau, visiting my friend Holly, who had moved down that way, from Christchurch prior to moving to the States. So I opted for a tour from Te Anau.
I booked with Great Sights, and was picked up at a decent time, in comfortable bus, with not many people on it. The roof of the bus was clear in parts, so you could look up and see the snow capped Mountains.
The drive takes a few hours, with stops factored in along the way. We first stopped at Eglinton Valley, which was pretty spectacular; blue skies, wheat fields, low cloud and mountains with snow.
The next stop is the Mirror Lakes, which of late have not been well tended to. They were pretty, but I found that Lake Matheson on South Westland was much more impressive, mainly because my beloved Mount Cook is visible from there.
Another stopping point was at a Glacier waterfall, where you could fill up your drink bottle with fresh cold water – it was awesome.
During our drive, we were told that the road to Milford is known as the most dangerous Alpine road in all of New Zealand. There are 54 points along the road that Avalanches can occur. There is also a dangerous corner, nicknamed ‘cardiac corner’ as many camper-vans park there, and are hit by the unsuspecting car/bus coming down the hill.
The evening before I headed to Milford, it rained heavily. I was told that this was a good thing though, as it creates wonderful waterfalls (and it did).
We arrived at the gateway to Milford Sound, with a plethora of our tour buses and Travellers swarming the place.
With my bus ticket, you also get a ticket for Southern Discoveries cruises – 2 hours on the water. You could also buy a ticket for thw buffet meal, but I opted to take a sandwich from a bakery in Te Anau.
If you drive yourself to Milford, you have more options fir the cruise, including Jucy cruises, which appears to be the cheapest. They often have deals on the popular voucher site GrabOne.
After nearly being eaten alive by sand-flies, whilst I waited for the obligatory tourist photo, I was oneboard. The free tea and coffee was a welcoming sight.
The cruise itself was great – we saw numerous waterfalls, and amazing mountains, though I still believe that Mount Cook has destroyed my view of anywhere now. I have yet to see anything as beautiful.
I got quite sea sick on the way back, as it was quite choppy. Overall though, it was a stunning day, blue skies, no rain and great scenery.
Worth a visit if you’re down south.