Milford Sound – New Zealand

Our first stop in New Zealand was to the enchanting area of the Milford Sound. The Fiordland National Park is on the southwestern side of the the South Island.

We joined fifty others from our cruise ship, who decided to take an  overnight excursion. Our trip was from the Milford Sound with an overnight in Queenstown. The next day, we rejoined our cruise ship in the city of Dunedin on the east the next day.

milford

The morning we arrived was so peaceful. Our ship slowly made its way through the low-hanging clouds and fog through the fjord. Milford reminded us of our trip in the Norwegian fjords. The water was so calm and mountains grew taller on both sides as we traveled farther inland.

IMG_0020

We reached the center of the fiord. Our ship slowly spun around to allow everyone to enjoy a 360-degree viewpoint. Before leaving for our excursion, we had our morning coffee out on our balcony. The funny thing is we had no idea of the glorious waterfall which was just behind us (second picture below).

Our weather made for an eerie scene. I have seen pictures on clear days where the views are breathtaking. This explains why this area has been the filming locations for many movies such as The Lord of the Rings, King Kong, and many others.

IMG_0027

The author Rudyard Kipling once called the Milford Sound the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. The area is also known as Piopiotahi by the native Māori people.

Milford is one of New Zealand’s most famous and popular tourist destinations. Nearly 1 million visitors come to the otherworldly destination.

IMG_0037

The sound runs 15 kilometers inland from the Tasmanian Sea. Mountain peaks top between 1200-15oo meters (3900-5000 feet). The above “Lady Bowen Falls” flow year-round and is at a height of 162 meters (531 feet) above the water.

IMG_0041

Milford Sound is one of the wettest places on Earth with an average of 252-inches of rain annually. This amount of water contributes to green moss clinging to the rock faces creating all the waterfalls.

The sound went undiscovered during the early explorations of Europeans. They feared the narrow entrance into the sound and the steep mountains along the water.

This changed in 1812 when the first European ships entered. Even though undiscovered for a long time, the Māori people have enjoyed the area for centuries.

IMG_0057 (1)

It came time to leave our ship. We went to the ‘A’ deck and boarded a small boat which came out to our ship to pick us up. We were the only ones to leave. We would rejoin our ship the next day on the other side of the South Island.

As we boarded our small boat, New Zealand border agents greeted us. They had the cutest little beagle with them. Its job was to sniff our bags looking for any contraband foods anyone may have taken from the ship. Unfortunately, my only picture of the beagle was too blurry because I was so excited taking pictures of our surroundings.

IMG_0069

Our bus snaked its way through the switchback roads to cross over the mountains inland. After about 30 minutes of travel, we stopped at a place called “The Chasm Walkway”.

IMG_0070

The Cleddau River flows from southern New Zealand into the Milford Sound. For thousands of years, the river has carved away rock creating a deep chasm (narrow, deep canyon).

IMG_0073

The walkway is very easy to complete. It is a paved 400-meter walkway that makes a circular path through the rain forest. There are two, foot bridges to cross. Cach bridge provides an excellent vantage point to see the river below through the chasm.

IMG_0074

The sound of the raging river does not come through the pictures. Standing in the middle of the bridge, you can get a sense of how the force of the water created such a scenic area.

IMG_0075

While downpours of rain are possible, thankfully we only experienced a little light rain. Even if it were raining hard, this nature walk is a must for anyone visiting the area.

IMG_5013

IMG_0078

In 1935, construction of the Home Tunnel began, opening in 1954. The length of the tunnel is 1.25 kilometers (0.75 miles) and cuts through the mountains on the edge of the Milford Sound area.

IMG_0086

We parked outside the tunnel once we passed. Large mountains with melting glacier snow created feather-like waterfalls trickling down the rock face. The size of the bus next to the mountain provides perspective to the heights around us.

IMG_1819

I really expected a dinosaur to come running between the mountains at any moment.

IMG_0082

IMG_0091

The lingering fog seemed to be lifting ahead of us as we boarded our bus to continue on to Queenstown.

IMG_0092

Once we were back on the road, a valley full of lavender and wildflowers opened up in front of us as the weather cleared.

IMG_0099

The mountains seemed to fall away in the distance as the flat valley grew and the cloud layer lifted.

IMG_0105 (1)

IMG_0129

IMG_0132

By noon, we stopped in a small town, roadside diner for lunch. At this point, the clouds had all lifted and the weather was perfect. Near the diner, a small lake was across the street which was very serene.

IMG_0121 (1)

IMG_0125After about 6 hours of travel, we arrived in Queenstown where we had a wonderful evening. Our post about Queenstown is here.

Milford Sound is truly an enchanting place. While remote, it is worth the travel. And, after all isn’t that the point.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s