The Milford Sound is the most beautiful corner of New Zealand. I know that’s a strong statement, but it’s true! New Zealand’s diverse landscapes are fascinating – so much variation on such a tiny island… we explored jungles next to glaciers next to beaches. How crazy beautiful is that? Of all the incredible places we explored, nothing compared to the The Milford Sound… not even close.
Though it’s considered a bit of an ‘out of the way’ destination, the sound is the only fjord in New Zealand that is accessible by road. Its pristine beauty inspires travelers from all over the world to drive, hike, kayak or even fly in for a visit.
The Milford Sound is truly the poster-child for Fiordland National Park, a region in the south-west corner of the South Island, where a long, narrow inlet was created by glacial erosion. The environment lends itself to temperate rain-forests that cling to steep cliffs (the tallest standing at 5,500 ft), over which flow hundreds of higher-than-high waterfalls.
We took a day trip to the sound from our temporary Wanaka home, booking a tour through Southern Alps Air New Zealand. This proved to be the most efficient and (above all) most dynamic way to experience the vast landscapes en-route to Milford.
Southern Alps Air provides scenic, prop-plane flights to and from the Milford Sound, allowing for unparalleled glacial views above Mt. Aspiring National Park along the way. They also schedule cruises for guest who want to explore more of the sound at sea level. The flight was a relaxing, smooth ride with just a small group on board (5 people + 1 great captain).
We were blown away by killer views for the entirety of our 1.5 hour flight. The amazing, aerial panoramas were simply unforgettable.
The grand finale of our prop-plane experience was coming in for a landing! We soared the full length of the Milford Sound at low altitude, for an up-close encounter with dramatic Fiordland scenery, before boarding our boat cruise. The sound is said to be beautiful rain or shine – captivating at all times regardless of how jaded a traveler you might be – a true statement indeed. We were lucky to enjoy a sunny day, and perfect conditions for rainbow-colored waterfalls… this certainly kicks the scenery up a notch!
The two hour boat ride comfortably cruises the full length of the fjord, just to the edge of the open ocean. Every moment was packed with impressive views and unique wildlife encounters. I was ecstatic to learn the sound is home to fur seals, penguins and dolphins!
Our boat adventure was followed by another spectacular flight, this time over the the Milford Track, Sutherland Falls, the Dart River Valley and a few Lord of the Rings locations.
Our visit to the Milford Sound was one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences that I’d pressure anyone to do. Trust me – put this on your bucket-list and make it happen! A friend of mine put it very frankly – “If you leave the South Island without visiting the Milford Sound, then you’ve wasted your time”. Now, based on firsthand experience, I’ll have to agree.
Get a better feel for the Milford Sound experience – click the video for highlights below!