Famously referred to as ‘The Eighth Wonder of the World’ by Rudyard Kipling, Milford Sound is a picture-perfect paradise and one of New Zealand’s most treasured highlights.
Located on New Zealand’s South Island at Fiordland National Park, Milford Sound offers some of the world’s most dramatic coastal scenery with roaring waterfalls, alluring blue waters and the mighty Mitre Peak summit towering 1,692 metres high. All good guided tours of New Zealand will take you to experience this natural phenomena – and it’s an experience you really don’t want to miss.
A quick history…
Milford Sound is said to have been discovered by Māori more than 1,000 years ago. Having been originally overlooked by European explorers due to its narrow entry, it was actually a Welsh explorer, John Grono, who in 1812 visited the fiord and named it Milford Haven after his birthplace in Wales. Its name change to Milford Sound came about in 1877 and was chosen by one of its most famous residents, Captain John Lort Strokes. Or if you’d like to call it by its Māori name, it’s Piopiotahi, meaning ‘single native thrush’.
How to get there…
One of the great things about visiting Milford Sound, is that even before you arrive there, you’ll get to see some of the most stunning scenery imaginable on your journey. It’s what makes sightseeing day trips to Milford Sound so popular!
For a more leisurely journey, tour buses depart from Queenstown (178 miles in 3hr 45 mins) or Te Anau (73 miles in 1hr 45mins), and allow you to relax as you cruise along the Milford Road. Alternatively, for a more hands on experience, around 14,000 hikers arrive by foot along the Milford Track. This moderate to difficult-level hike can take up to four days and gives you the opportunity to explore famous landmarks such as Lake Ada and the Giant Gate waterfall, so be sure to pop your camera in your backpack.
What to do at Milford Sound…
The 1,700 acres of paradise and extensive range of activities available in Milford Sound mean you’ll be torn between simply relaxing and taking in the breath-taking sights, and trying out some of the more adrenaline pumping ways to explore the Sound.
You can sail the Sound in style on a Milford Sound cruise and enjoy the full length of the fiord with all its secret hideouts. Exploring by water lets you get up close to the fierce rock faces and cascading waterfalls – which often soak the deck! These cruises vary from a leisurely nature-themed excursion filled with dolphin and seal spotting to a longer overnight stay on the Milford Mariner. Whichever you choose, you’re sure to come away with memories to last a lifetime.
Alternatively you can satisfy your adventurous spirit by kayaking along the waters or going on a ‘tramp’ (Kiwi term for hike). Being a haven for hikers, a Milford Sound tour is a great opportunity to visit Arthur River or tackle the incredibly adventurous 5,560ft-high Mitre Peak.
On this Milford Sound tour you can also visit the amazing Discovery Centre and underwater observatory located in Harrison Cove. Hidden 10 meters underwater in a large glass viewing platform, this unique environment allows you to view the Sound’s colourful sea creatures and rare black coral, without getting your feet wet.
And finally, one of the most exhilarating activities available at Milford Sound will see you taking to the air on a Milford Sound scenic flight to explore the stunning landscape from above. Once you’ve boarded this specially selected aircraft from Queenstown, you will undertake a 45 minute adventure among the mountain’s hidden peaks with unobstructed views. You’ll soon understand exactly why Milford Sound has been referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World”.
By now knowing all the different ways you can really make the most of your time at Milford Sound, a trip here is sure to be one of your many highlights of New Zealand. This hidden away alcove of untouched beauty, fully represents the sheer power of the land’s natural wonder and should not be missed by anyone.
Image by Rob Suisted