New Zealand day 6: Milford Sound

Milford Sound is usually described with adjectives like “one of the most beautiful place on earth” and “8th natural wonder of the world”. It is definitely on the itinerary of every traveler to New Zealand. Needless to say we were very excited on the previous day. For a change, the weather was expected to be sunny on that day. What else we need?

Milford Sound
Milford Sound is about 120 km from Te Anau. With lot of spots to cover on the way, we estimated about 2 to 2.5 hours of journey. 

Mountains on the way to Milford Sound
The first part of the journey was uneventful. Things started getting interesting as we stopped at Eglinton valley for some views.

Eglinton valley
Then came the mirror lakes. Needless to say it provided some nice reflection of the mountains nearby.

Mirror lakes
The scenery got better and better as the road passed through the mountains. We had climbed up to the highest point of the journey to cross 1.2 km long Homer tunnel. Since only one way traffic was allowed in this tunnel, we had to wait for our turn. It is said that traffic is allowed both sides during winter and spring due to avalanche risk for the vehicles waiting both sides. 

Waiting at Homer tunnel
The road then continuously went down to reach the sea level at Milford Sound. For the first time in New Zealand, I faced parking issue. I could not find any parking place even after searching for some time. I remembered a deviation a km before Milford Sound that seem to had some empty places. I dropped my family and drove back to the deviation. I could fine some place to park but had to walk back 2 km to the entrance. Luckily, I had put some buffer time and we could manage to reach the boat ride on time. 

Mountain view
As we walked from the parking lot to the Jetty, the beauty of the Sound was seen. Before New Zealand trip, I was wondering what was the meaning of “Sound” in the context of Milford Sound. Basically in geographical terms, Sound is a large sea or ocean inlet larger than a bay and wider than a fjord.

Milford Sound
Cruise is one of the best and popular way to enjoy Milford Sound. Many operators provide this service and the journey usually takes 1.5 to 2 hours. Most of them go till the mouth of the Sound and return back. I had booked “Jucy cruise” couple of days ago on internet. It was a very simple process.

"Jucy" boat
The beauty of the place gets magnified as the boat makes its journey. When it rains, hundreds of waterfalls appear from nowhere and pour the water into the Sound. But on sunny days, two permanent waterfalls steal the show!!

Bowen falls
From the boat, mountains look huge and the waterfalls looked small though there were nearly 150 meters tall. You can then imagine the height of the mountains!!

Stirling falls which is 146 meters high
Milford Sound is beautiful irrespective of the weather. Each weather condition gives a different perspective of the place. It rains a lot in Milford Sound and even the tour guide mentioned it as a rare event to see perfect sunshine. That was good!!

Milford Sound from jetty
As the commentary continued we were immersed by the beauty of this place. The photographs do not do the justice at all!! It has to be experienced.

Mountains at Milford Sound
At the mouth of the Sound, we could see the coast of Westland. The Tasman sea looked amazing.

Tasman sea and the mountains
We were lucky to see Antacrtic fur seals, permanent resident of Milford Sound.

Antarctic fur seals
While returning back, the boat went very close to Stirling falls. So close that that we were splashed with the water from the falls.

Stirling falls
The base of the falls looked beautiful and the water was very clear.

The two hours on boat had passed very quickly. Food and drinks were supplied inside the boat (for extra cost, tea/coffee is free) but we mostly stayed on the deck for better views.

Stirling falls

Final words

If I plan again, I would consider going with tour operators though it was a nice drive to Milford Sound. Parking is a real problem in this area and we need to time it well with cruise timings. Buses looked very comfortable. The tours can be organized from Queenstown. They also stop at the viewpoints all along the way. But will be a long day from Queenstown(600+ km round trip). 

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