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Visit Milford Sound

Home > Queenstown > Nature | Photography | Places of Interest | Tours | Travel
by Paula McManus (subscribe)
Photography obsessed writer and urban explorer. Lover of nature, art and long weekends. Adelaide, South Australia.
Published October 31st 2016
Discover the magic
Famously named by Rudyard Kipling as the "Eighth Wonder of the World" Milford Sound is New Zealand's most popular tourist destination.

milford sound new zealand
Milford Sound, New Zealand (©paula mcmanus)

It is estimated that there are up to 1 million tourists who visit the area each year. Milford Sound is very remote - it is 120 kilometres from the nearest town, Te Anau, and 300 kilometres from Queenstown.

milford sound new zealand
Milford Sound, New Zealand (©paula mcmanus)

Highway 94 is the highest and most scenic state highway in New Zealand.The road is mountainous and vehicles must go through the Homer Tunnel - a man made marvel. The tunnel is 1.2 kilometres long and is wide enough for one lane of traffic. Traffic lights at each end control the flow of vehicles and, during peak times, the wait can be a little bit lengthy.

The drive in to Milford is spectacular - almost as breathtaking as the destination. It's easy to see why many scenes from Lord of the Rings were filmed in the South Island.

milford sound new zealand
Stunning views on the road to Milford Sound (©paula mcmanus)

Milford Sound (Piopiotahi in Māori) is named after Milford Haven in Wales and is located on the west coast of the South Island in the Fiordland National Park. The National Park covers an area of over 1.2 million hectares and is a World Heritage site.

The river that flows into the sound, the Cleddau River, also has it's name origins from Wales.

The Māori named the Sound Piopiotahi after the now extinct thrush-like piopio bird.

milford sound new zealand
Stunning views on the road to Milford Sound (©paula mcmanus)

Milford Sound was carved by glaciers during the ice ages. The cliffs rise vertically from the water and waterfalls, some as high as 1000 metres, create a breathtaking experience.

When it rains on the west coast it really rains. It is one of the wettest places in the world. Rain falls for an average of 189 days per year and the west coast receives up to 7 metres of rain each year. The rain creates hundreds of waterfalls within the Sound but even when it is dry there are 2 permanent waterfalls that are magnificent.

They are the Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls and they flow all year round.

Stirling Falls Milford Sound
Stirling Falls, Milford Sound (©paula mcmanus)

Stirling Falls are 155 metres high and are named after Captain Frederick Stirling. Lady Bowen Falls are 161 metres high and are named after the wife of one of New Zealand's early governors - Sir George Ferguson Bowen

Visitors to Milford Sound really should consider a boat cruise to see the sound at it's best. Cruises operate all year round and vary in the size of boat, the cruise length and experience types.

Cruises will take you up close and personal to a waterfall. Stay outdoors and let the spray drench you - it's exhilarating! My tip is to cover your camera though - you don't want to lose your precious photos of this amazing place.

Bowen falls Milford Sound
Lady Bowen Falls, Milford Sound (©paula mcmanus)

Cruises leave the Wharf Terminal. There are several tour companies that you can book with. Your cruise may include all or any of the following places of interest:

Lady Bowen Falls
One of only two permanent waterfalls in Milford Sound.

Cascade Range
Water cascades out the the mountain range and creates some incredible waterfalls

Sinbad Gully
A U-shaped valley formed by Mt Phillips, Llawrenny Peak, Mitre Peak and the Footstool - Milford's smallest mountain.

Mitre Peak Milford Sound
Mitre Peak, Milford Sound (©paula mcmanus)

Mitre Peak
Seen in postcards and advertising brochures, Mitre Peak is the hero of Milford Sound. It is one of the tallest mountains in the world, rising 1692 metres directly from the sea floor.

Copper Point
Often the windiest point in the Sound it gets it's name due to the veins of copper in the rock.

Fairy Falls
This waterfall drops straight down into the water of the fiord. This is a refreshing visit!

Bridal Veil Falls
Is simply magnificent after heavy rain.

Anita Bay
Maori travelled here to collect the jade to make tools and ornaments.

St Anne Point
The entrance to Milford Sound

entrance Milford Sound new zealand
The entrance to Milford Sound (©paula mcmanus)

Dale Point and The Tasman Sea
The point where the waters of Milford Sound meet the Tasman Sea.

Seal Rock
The rock is home to the New Zealand Fur Seal. They live here all year round and from the boat, you can easily spot them basking on the rocks.

seal rock milford sound
Seal Rock, Milford Sound (©paula mcmanus)

Stirling Falls
The second of two permanent waterfalls in Milford Sound. The waterfall drops 155 metres and is fed by glaciers in the mountain behind.

Mt Kimberley (or The Lion)
Is 1302 metres high and gets it's nickname from its shape that resembles a crouching lion.

Harrison's Cove
Faces away from the entrance to the fiord and is the only safe natural harbour in Milford Sound.

A visit to Milford Sound should be on everyones travel list. The options of what to do and see are varied and very easy to book. You can drive yourself or jump on a bus and let someone else do the driving.

If you are self driving, check the road conditions before you go. On occasion, the road is closed due to avalanches.

There's accommodation at Milford, with a range of options including a backpackers hostel. So why not stay a day or two?

If you're not staying overnight, it is a very big day out but one that you are unlikely to forget.

sunset Milford Sound
Sunset at Milford Sound (©paula mcmanus)

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Why? Visit Milford Sound in the beautiful World Heritage Fiordland National Park
Where: Milford Sound, New Zealand
Your Comment
My wife and I went on a cruise of Milford Sound in 2013. The area is breathtaking, as is the drive there. I have a photo of part of it as my wallpaper on my PC. If you go to NZ, don't miss out on a trip there.
by keith (score: 0|5) 1776 days ago
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