Often referred to the 8th natural wonder of the world, the Milford Sound is an absolute must do for all NZ visitors, and residents for that matter!
The sounds are a nestled paradise buried among tall, rocky peaks, streaming waterfalls and rainbows (no, you’re not dreaming).
This mystical place is small, but captivating. It’s not exactly a place you just ‘stumble upon’. So with that, allow me to give you a quick rundown of the need-to-knows before you embark on your Milford journey.
The spectacle + attractions
Firstly, this is place is so stunning, that just taking it all in is an activity on its own. Gazing out at the towering peaks and being buried deep in nature is New Zealand in its purest form.
Despite the fact it rains 182 days of the year in the Sounds, the place is still stunning, even in the heaviest rain. The more rain, the more waterfalls, which also means the more rainbows. Just make sure you pack a raincoat.
One of the best ways to experience the sounds is to take a cruise. Not doing a cruise, would be like going to Paris and not going to see the Eifel Tower. It’s a must do. You can choose the length of your cruise and there are many options depending on what sort of experience you’re after. Either way, make sure you book one in!
For a more intimate and active experience, another option would be to jump in a kayak. We were feeling pretty lazy, so we chose the cruise. But seeing kayakers voyaging down the placid waters did give me a bit of fomo.
Other than experiencing the sounds up close and personal, there are also plenty of stunning bush walks and bike tracks to do around the area. I would highly recommend the Routeburn/key summit track (three hour return). Just make sure you do it on a clear day, it’s all about the views!
Here you have a couple of options. A lot of people opt for the ‘day trip’ plan, being that accommodation options are scarce and it is totally doable to conquer the sounds in a day. We were fortunate enough to have a rental car, and we did actually spend a night there (which I will cover below). However, a lot of people tend to jump on one of the tour busses which leave from either Te Anau (two hour drive) or Queenstown (four hour drive).
If you’re planning on the day trip decision, weather you’re bussing or driving, the best choice would be to leave from Te Anau. (The drive is also really pretty! Would recommend stopping at the Mirror Lakes).
The other option (if you are looking for a real experience) would be a helicopter ride from Queenstown. I’m yet to do this, but I hear the gaze down over the often snowy Fiordlands is absolutely stunning (this would also significantly cut down travel time!).
As I mentioned, a lot of people just take a day trip. But I think there’s something really special about waking up here, buried among the tranquillity.
We spent the night at the Milford Sound Lodge, which was totally adequate. You can either choose from the backpacker style accommodation (what we chose), the Chalets (quite fancy), or the campervan park (if you came in a campervan).
The facilities at the lodge are great. There is a large kitchen for you to cook your own meals, washing facilities, a restaurant, and the rooms are toasty warm.
Spending the night mean we could wake up early to catch the sunrise – a real spectacle.
As well as there only being one accommodation provider, there is also very limited dining options in the Sounds. We mostly ate at the restaurant at our accommodation because on a scale 1-10 for being disorganised with bringing our own food to cook, we were a solid 1.
The food was fab and pretty reasonable price-wise (top tip – go for the lamb). Would also recommend booking in advance. The other eatery option (that I could see anyway) is the café which is close to the waterfront and near where all the cruises go from. Ideal for a wee hot chip and pie combo after your cruise/kayak.
I could go on all day about how wonderful this place is, but I think I’ll leave it here. The rest is up to you to uncover on your own Milford journey.