Milford Sound

Visit Milford Sound, Fiordland, NZ

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  • Milford Sound is a glacier-carved fjord surrounded by sheer mountain peaks that rise up to 1500 m above the water. It is ranked as one of the best tourist destinations in the world for its majestic, unspoiled scenery.

    From a narrow sea entrance, the Sound runs 15 km inland, where the settlement of Milford Sound is located. There are no roads further along the Sound; travel further west is by water craft only.

    Mitre Peak, Milford Sound’s most famous landmark, rises over 2,000 feet above the water in an almost perfect cone shape. Other peaks with sheer rock faces rise 4-5,000 feet. Two large, permanent waterfalls plunge from mountain faces into the Sound. During periods of wet weather, hundreds of temporary waterfalls form an entrancing display of cascades.

    Accommodation in Milford Sound (NZ)

    There are limited accommodation options at Milford Sound. It is wise, therefore, to book ahead.

    At Milford Sound itself, there is one major accommodation provider, offering luxury self-contained chalets for rent, as well as facilities for camping, campervans and backpacker-style accommodation.

    There are lodges, self-contained units and other options available at locations along the road from Te Anau, and at Manapouri.

    Self-catering overnight accommodation is also available at tramping huts along the Routeburn Walk and other trails in the area. Prior booking is essential.

    A further option is to stay aboard a ship during an overnight cruise, at a sheltered anchorage.

    Transport around Milford Sound

    Due to its remote location on the western side of the Southern Alps, Milford sound is a long journey by road from its closest neighbours. It is 90 minutes drive from Te Anau, and a further two hours from Queenstown.

    The road itself it a sightseeing adventure, as travellers ride through grassland and forest, ascending in altitude, until passing through the Homer Tunnel, to descend through lush mountain west coast rainforest to Milford Sound. Inter-citycoach services and tour buses regularly travel this road.

    Many people prefer to travel by aircraft from Te Anau, Queenstown or Wanaka, which is a very scenic flight. Milford Sound’s busy airport also serves local “flightseeing” charters using airplanes, including float planes that can land on the Sound itself, and helicopters, which can take passengers to otherwise inaccessible locations for activities such as climbing, base jumping, and photography.

    Shuttle services at Milford Sound take hikers to and from the start and end of popular day walks and multi-day hikes, such as the Hollyford Track.

    Tourist Activities around Milford Sound

    Short and long boat cruises on Milford Sound are one of its most popular activities, with a number of charter cruise operations to choose from.

    Kayaking is also very popular. Sea kayak tours are available from Milford Sound, and kayaking of often offered as an optional activity on overnight boat cruises.

    An unusual feature of Milford Sound is the 2-10 metre deep layer of fresh water, from rainfall, that floats on top of the sea water. The fresh water layer is coloured by tannin compounds as it drains through forest soil into the Sound. Because it absorbs light, marine species that normally live at depth are found close to the surface, notably black corals.

    This marine life can be viewed while scuba diving, or at an underwater observatory attached to the Milford Sound Discovery Centre, which also has displays that explain the geography and natural history of the area.

    A number of short, half-day and day-long walks are within easy reach of Milford Sound. There are also longer walks of up to five days, including the famous Milford, Routeburn and Hollyford Tracks, which provide self-catering overnight accommodation in huts and lodges.

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    Milford Sound