Pretty much every itinerary of New Zealand’s South Island features a visit to Milford Sound, a sight that’s known to blow your mind, in the heart of Fiordland National Park, a World Heritage Site. When in New Zealand, especially if you’ve been road tripping across the country for a while, like we had been, you have really high expectations of being swept off your feet by the landscape, by the time you get to the end of your trip. Why, you ask? Because everywhere you look in New Zealand, you see the sheer artistic brilliance of nature. Luckily, Milford Sound tours do not disappoint.
Queenstown, our base for exploring Milford Sound and Te Anau, is a picture perfect town with the beautiful backdrop of Lake Wakatipu. Coming from Dubai, such a landscape is not something I could take for granted and it was funny how every time we passed by the lake, I wanted to slow down, click photos and sit by the lake, in spite of having been there for quite a few days.
Which Milford Sound Tour is Right for You?
We decided to take the Milford Sound Coach, Cruise and Walk from Te Anau group tour on our third day, simply because we didn’t want to tire ourselves with the long drive and actually be able to enjoy the trip, plus, we had heard good things about the Milford Sound cruise. There are tons of Milford Sound tours from Queenstown but if you prefer to self-drive it, that is an option too. Plus if you have an extra day or two, you can also stay in Te Anau.
I had originally wanted to hike in the area, which is why we had allowed for extra days in Queenstown and would have loved to go on a guided half-day hike on Milford Track, but the weather was having none of that. By the way, it rains a lot in Milford Sound and views are often foggy, so keep your fingers crossed for good weather.
Groggy-eyed, we rubbed our hands together as we waited for our bus at 6.30am to take us on a Milford Sound day trip, on what was for us, a freezing morning. Luckily, soon enough our bus arrived and off we went. We slept for a good part of the beginning of our journey from Queenstown to Milford Sound, as did almost everybody else on the bus and were woken up by our guide’s voice booming over the microphone.
We drove through some very beautiful scenery, then again in NZ, when do you not? The ride took us through Homer Tunnel, which our guide introduced to us with a childlike sense of enthusiasm, “Close your eyes….okay now look up!”, as the incredible landscape of Fiordland towered around us through the glass roof of the bus. The other stops were at the postcard like Mirror Lakes and a twenty-minute trek amid waterfalls at The Chasm.
We arrived at Milford Sound and were combined with a Southern Discoveries tour for the cruise. That’s when we realized really how crowded it is during the day with tourists. But that does not take away from the experience because the place itself is remote. And gorgeous!
As we set sail, the scenery of rocky peaks and rising out of the Tasman Sea, amid the thick blanket of clouds was absolutely breathtaking. Waterfalls gushed from the dense rainforests in the rock faces and our vessel even ventured close enough to drench everyone on the top viewing deck! Seals, penguins, dolphins and whales are known to inhabit Milford Sound and we did see a couple of dolphins and seals.
If you like the idea of kayaking in Milford Sound and are lucky to have good weather, this Cruise and Kayak tour is a good choice. And if you have some extra cash, you can also take a helicopter ride or scenic flight to Milford Sound.
I could go on about how peaceful it was on the viewing deck sailing through the sounds but I’d rather show you.
The tallest outline is of Mitre Peak that at 1690 m above sea level is one of the highest mountains in the world to rise out of the sea.
- The top viewing deck is where you want to spend most of your time unless it’s too chilly.
- Don’t forget to carry a warm jacket as it can get quite cold onboard.
- The commentary on the bus ride was great- entertaining, friendly and informative, exactly what you’d like it to be.
- Other options include touring the sounds by helicopter for aerial views and spending a night onboard one of the overnight cruises. Personally, I felt like the regular day cruise was a good enough way to experience Milford Sound and we didn’t miss out on anything.
- You can also kayak here if you’re on a Cruise and Kayak tour and I can only imagine what a spectacular experience that must be.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes.
- We returned to Queenstown by 9.00pm, stopping briefly at Te Anau.
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