Milford Sound, New Zealand

Fjordland National Park
Milford Sound is one of the "must dos" of the South Island of NZ and people flock down from Queenstown to cruise on the fjords. It is rainy or cloudy more than seventy percent of the time and although we had two days of rain in Wanaka we had great luck in Milford Sound, as you can see from our snaps. We had the best of all worlds; because it had just rained the waterfalls were full, and because the the sun was shining, the water reflected and refracted the light. 
This is why you drive all the way down here!
Before we arrived I had read a lot about which company, which boat, and how long a cruise to take? One of the guidebooks sensibly said it doesn't matter a great deal, recommending you take the boat and time most convenient for you. We drove down from Queenstown and because we were staying overnight took the last boat of the day. The were no more than 25 people and we managed to avoid any large groups which was my greatest concern. We opted for the longest cruise available which was over two hours and because it was so calm they took us out beyond the fjord and back.

They brought the boat right under the waterfall!
The vegetation grows directly out of crevices in the rock and survives because of the high rainfall and the moist, misty conditions.
This is a very large cruise ship, which provides some perspective.
Such a gorgeous afternoon -  I was so happy to be there.
I could have looked at this all day.
January 2011
Milford Sound is the dominant destination in Fjordland National Park but there's a lot more to see, I'll try to post something on the lovely walk we did to Key Summit just off the Routeburn Track. Staying overnight gives you a richer experience of the diversity of the landscape.  We spent two nights and we could have stayed much longer.  Home to several multi-day tracks (the Milford and the Routeburn) there is so much more to do  beyond the Sound and it's sad to think that so many people come and go within a single day.

  • I highly recommend staying at least one night as which allows you to take the first or last cruises of the day and to avoid much of the traffic when you drive in and out of the park.  We visited in January (during the high season and the school holidays) this may be less of a concern in other seasons.
  • There aren't many accommodation options if you don't want to share a bathroom or to camp. I highly recommend the new cabins at the Milford Sound Lodge. There are only four and they are  heavily booked. The cabins are built right on the river with fabulous views and clean modern styling. If they're fully booked keep checking the website as cancellations do appear. It's worth planning your trip around the reservation and I wish we could have stayed two nights.
  • If the cabins aren't available, or if you're looking for something more affordable, try Knobs Flat which is further inland but still in the National Park.  It's no frill but is wonderfully located, environmentally friendly, has better availability and a full kitchen in the unit. You can get excellent advice on walking from the owner P.C. who has obviously spent years "tramping" (as the say in NZ) in the the area.