Milford Sound is is a fjord within Fiordland National Park in New Zealand. It is also the most popular tourist destination in New Zealand. So you can imagine how busy is this place. It is also one of the wettest places on the World. With an average 200 rainy days per year and annual rainfall 6700 mm and over 250 mm of rain in a single day is pretty common. The rainiest is Spring and that's also when there are the most waterfalls and streams coming down of the walls of the fjord.
On the way to Milford Sound we stopped by Te Anau which is named after a Lake. It is a little tourist town, where you can book a lot of tours for your Milford Sound adventure. A lot of tourists actually prefer to stay here in hostels and guest houses, as there are some stores and gas station. It is probably the last place where you will be able to buy some groceries before starting your journey towards Milford Sound.
What to see on the way to Milford Sound and where to spend the night?
The road from Te Anau is scenic and we wanted to stop every 5 minutes just to make pictures and admire the nature. It stretches through a valley and looks absolutely like out of the fairy tale.
There are some stops that you can do on your way. Like Eglinton Valley and the Mirror Lake. This time Mirror Lake wasn’t as calm and reflective as shown in pictures online, but it was still beautiful.
At the evening it started to rain. We ended up staying at Cascade Creek Campsite, which was the last campsite for non self-contained vehicles. It costs 13 NZD per person. They had a little hiking trail close by, and despite the rain we decided to go for a walk.
Milford Sound Cruise
When we woke up the mountains around us where hidden in clouds. We made our breakfast and drove straight to Milford Sound port. We had booking for a cruise with Go Orange at 9 am. We got it for relatively cheap less than 30 NZD per person. You can check good budget friendly deals HERE.
The cruise took about 2 hours, but it felt like time flies so much faster. The boat took us to the Tasman sea and back, stopping by waterfalls.
Overall the cruise was nice and informative. You can buy coffee and some snacks on board.
It was breathtaking to see the fjord, seals lying on rocks and waterfalls coming down from vertical walls. Unfortunatelly we were kind of lucky with a sunny weather which is rare here and therefore a lot of waterfalls were dried out. I definitely recommend to do a cruise, but do not pay the full price (which can get really high).
More things to do in Milford Sound
Milford Sound has a lot of other things to do including many hiking trails, rent kayaks, and take Helihopter rides etc.
One of the most popular from the multi day hikes are Milford Track which is one of the New zealands Great Walks. It is 53 km long and takes about 4 days to finish. You also have to book a boat at Lake Te Anau at Glade Wharf to take you to the tracks starting point.
It is also nice just to walk around and breathe in the spectacullar views of the beautiful mountains. There are nice spots for picnics as well.
One of the signature of this area is Mitre Peak (1690m) which is perfectly triangle shapped and therefore it is one of the most photographed peaks in the country.
One thing that I found very interesting was Homer Tunnel. This basically the only reason we can reach Milford Sound and it is accessible for cars. Before it was made there was no access to the fjord from mainland.
In 1935 five men with picks, shovels began digging the Darran Mountain Range, beginning the creation of a 1240 m long Homer tunnel. It was completed in 1953. It's hard to imagine workers living in canvas tents or primitive buildings in this isolation. Knowing it is so rainny and there is harsh winters I bet that the living and working conditions were not that great. But they did it, despite the avalanches and people dying in the building process, we are able to reach the magnificient Milford Sound Fjord.
The mountains really looks like high walls, so there's no doubt that the tunnel was very needed.
On our way back we stop by Homer tunnel just to see the area. There was a hiking trail close by, but unfortunately we didn’t have time for it. Also you have to be careful, because little curious Keas are very active in the area. We left our car for ten minutes and they already tried to steal some rubber part that goes around the windows. Other cars were attacked as well. They are cute, and not afraid of people, just remember NOT to feed them.
Exiting the Milford Sound area feels really surreal. Suddenly the valley gets wider, the sky gets clearer and you are out of this magical world.