My journey around the South Island was mainly very off the beaten track. I rarely met people and enjoyed peaceful days very much. But from the moment I read about Milford Sound and saw few pictures I knew I want to go there. Funny thing: picture on the cover of my guidebook was taken in Milford and I discovered it the moment I saw it! Milford Sound is a very touristic place and I think that even a long way you need to drive is worthy to see this! By all means!
Milford Sound is very far away. And it’s not only because it is in New Zealand. It is actually located at the very end of 120 km road constructed only for touristic purpose. Can you imagine? Some people in New Zealand realized long time ago that they need to share this place with the world. And I think this was a wonderful idea! And even if this place is packed with people I loved it!
I think it was pretty clever to camp the night before Milford in a nearby campsite called Gunns Historical Hollyford Valley Camp. This campground is particular. It is located in Hollyford with interesting local story behind: a road to be constructed and various issues around it. The idea to connect Milford with the rest of the country to cut time and distance is more than one hundred years old. There was a small village constructed to host the builders and the campground is in this exact location, packed with old photos (ladies dressed in old fashion way, man in white shirts, hats protecting them from sandflies), and artifacts left by these early settlers. Needless to say the construction ended after 13 km and till today there was nothing done about it for decades. Every couple of years there are some politicians who bring this idea again but it never gets high priority nor proper funding (recently it was accused by green lobby for a hidden intention of mining purpose in protected area). Two families who run this place are one of a kind. Although quite simple it is brilliantly organized (water heated with wood was very warm and pleasant). Also, we were invited to a short walk after dark to see glow worms.
So here we are: to visit the place you need to drive 120 km around a lake and through relatively high mountains. Early wake up and quick breakfast was crucial: I arrived to Milford at 10:00 a.m. and got to the boat at the very last moment. Southern Discoveries provides excellent services and if you wish to watch the Sound Encounter Nature Cruise is cool. Booking is essential but here is the good news: in New Zealand people are really helpful and each campsite I stayed in provided support in booking of nearby attractions. I know this is a clever PR trick and all these companies make profit out of it but I am looking at it from a traveler’s perspective: not all people buy a local SIM card to their phone and I don’t even want to think about the cell phone bill if all was booked with it. So courtesy of previous camping ground my ticket was booked.
If you have a choice pick up a cruise at 10:15 a.m. the earliest. Milford is a tough place: it rains for 200 days a year and the morning fog is almost every day phenomenon. It might happen you’ll go for a cruise and you don’t see a thing! At the beginning of 10:15 cruise the mountains were covered with fog and clouds but is was getting better and better with every minute. Also Laurence from Finding the Universe was lucky in terms of weather. Watch his stunning photos here.
As always: it seams almost impossible to describe how beautiful this place is. Along the 14 km way to the Tasman Sea we saw real wonders: waterfalls, ore, forrest with a unique root to keep the mountain still, glacier and seals. The whole scenery is constantly changing here. The color of water is hard to believe: it starts with dark blue and ends with light green depending on the clarity of the sky and the sun. It’s properties are very particular: due to a high annual rainfall the top 2 m consists of fresh water while the rest is salt.
Some people say that to see best fiords in the world you need to visit Norway. Well, I was in Norway before and saw few of them and I think that to see the most beautiful fiords in the world you need to visit New Zealand. This huge Fiordland terrain is unspoiled and totally wild. The road constructed to Milford is the only human activity in this area. The rest is just as it was for hundred years before. Even though we are aware of some birds’ extinction the area makes amazing impression of very very old piece of land.
The cruise was spectacular mainly due to the right time of the day and the weather condition. It was amazing to cross the pass and tunnel in the sun first to dissolve myself in a fog and to see the sun again. Moreover, it took less than three hours to witness these dynamic changes. It was also interesting to hear some stories on the board of the ferry: about ore, and the old forest, wild animals and waterfalls. The sound is really deep (up to 400 m of depth) and extremely steep so the boat could go as close to the shore as you could imagine: we got wet from the highest waterfall! And the seals that were sleeping on the rocks were so close that we could almost touch it. This was unforgettable experience! A very similar experience and delight with Milford was shared by Ari – a blogger – who visited this place few months before I did. You can read here story too.
If you are fan of beautiful pictures, sea and beaches click here: gallery of most beautiful beaches in New Zealand!
Disclosure: Souther Discoveries offered a generous discount for this cruise.