Finding proper words to describe our trip to Milford Sound is very hard. It most certainly deserves all the superlative adjectives there are, but *epic* will probably do it justice. It has even been referred to it as the 8th wonder of the world. Milford Sound is perhaps one of the biggest jewels of the South Island, and also one of the biggest tourist destinations in New Zealand. The entire ride from Queenstown to Milford Sound is jaw-dropping and there is no excuse for not taking a trip there.
There are a few ways to do the tour of Milford Sound from Queenstown which can include driving, ferry ride on the Sound and flying. I’m so happy we got to experience all three in one day which made our trip into once in a lifetime experience! The bus ride takes around 4 hours including all the scenic stops, while the flight takes 45 minutes one way. Once you get to the Sound, you can take a ferry ride, or, if you feel more adventurous, kayak the whole way. Which mode of transportation you choose to get to the Sound is totally up to you and your budget, but I wanted to share my experience with all three, so that you can see what options you have.
Our trip to Milford Sound was as much about the journey as it was about the destination and the biggest contributor to it was our knowledgeable driver and guide Rob from the Milford Sound BBQ Bus Tour that my mom-in-law booked for us. The journey started conveniently at our hotel doorstep, where the guide picked us up promptly in a small group coach before setting off on one of the most scenic rides I’ve ever taken – especially once we hit the famous Milford Road. For the next few hours, we couldn’t take our eyes off the window or turn off our cameras. Most importantly, unlike any other tour I have booked before, Rob made a point to stop by every scenic point and give us ample time to take beautiful photos. We also stopped for the complimentary BBQ lunch on the way, which was delicious.
Besides the majestic beauty of the mountain ranges we passed, I was amazed by how crystal clear the lakes and rivers were! A few highlights on our way to Milford Sound were The Remarkables mountain range; Lake Wakatipu — New Zealand’s longest lake; Lake Te Anau — the South Island’s the largest lake; Eglinton Flats; Mirror Lake; the Chasm; Keas; Falls Creek which provided some great views of the coastal mountains looming in the distance.
With so much beautiful scenery, our four-hour journey flew by without us even noticing. Upon arrival to the Sound we promptly boarded a boat for an hour and a half cruise along one of the most dramatic scenery I have personally seen. There are five or six tour companies offering an hour and a half tour of the Milford Sound, all with nearly identical itineraries. And I don’t think you have to book tickets in advance.
No photo or video will ever do this place justice. Imagine a sweeping landscape of jagged snow-capped mountains, shimmering fjords and lakes, emerald greenery and dozens of waterfalls cascading down the steep cliffs. We traced the Sound to the outlet on the Tasman Sea, passing waterfalls that tumble from high cliffs. The interesting fact about Milford Sound is that it is not a sound. It’s actually a fiord. It was named so in recognition of its geographic features, but just like fjord it was carved out by an erosion of ancient glacial ice.
They say Milford Sound is the wettest place in New Zealand – with almost 7,000mm of rainfall across 182 days of the year. How we got so lucky with clear blue skies the whole day, I have no clue, but I’m glad we did. Mind you, it gets very chilly during the cruise so bring some layers and a warm hat.
Last but not least, when it was time to head back to Queenstown, our guide offered us an option to take a scenic flight on Air Milford back and we happily yielded to this (alas pricey) temptation. The opportunity to fly over the Sound as well as the glaciers was too good to pass. We even got the view of the jaw-dropping Sutherland Falls (sadly, my photo taken via dirty window in a bubmpy crammed plane doesn’t really do the views justice).
Admittedly, it was also incredibly convenient wait to get back to the hotel, since we didn’t have to spend another four hours on the same road. I must confess the flight was a bit scary in the beginning due to turbulence, but once we were at a right altitude, the flight turned out to be nothing short of amazing.
As convenient as the flight was, had we not driven, I think we would miss a beautiful chunk of the island which can be experienced only by ground transportation. On the other hand, flying provided totally different perspective of the Sound and glaciers, which was priceless. Therefore, I’d highly recommend to arrange both if your budget (and weather) will allow it. If you are not able to book a flight, then I’d recommend doing an overnight rest stop in Te Anau, since a 12-hour day might be a bit taxing. Either way, I guarantee you’ll have the most remarkable trip.
Have you been to Milford Sound? Did you think it was worth the hype?
Linking up with wonderful ladies at Faraway Files.
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