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Home : Holidays : Oceania : New Zealand : Milford Sound-New Zealand's Top 5

Milford Sound-New Zealand's Top 5

Wet or fine Milford is incredibly grand.  Mitre Peak magnetises photographers, and the fiord??s precipitous cliffs excite both admiration and apprehension. Milford is by far the best known of all of the fiords and the only one that can be accessed by road.  It is approximately 16km from the head of the fiord to the Tasman Sea, which means visitors can comfortably travel the length of the fiord to open ocean and return on one of the many cruise options available in 1½ to 2 hours cruising time.

Milford Sound Cruise, South Island, New Zealand


Underwater World

Another unique feature of the Milford Sound environment is life under the Fiord. Beneath the water, the mountains continue to plunge down as steep rock walls until they reach the floor of the fiord at depths of 100-450m.  Few visitors are aware that below the tide line is a fascinating and unique world.  A fresh water layer that sits on top of the seawater filters light to allow normally deep water dwelling species to exist very close to the surface.  A visit to the underwater observatory or on a guided dive tour allows access to sights rarely revealed to human visitors.

Visitor Facilities

Visitors need to be aware that there are limited facilities at Milford itself.  Full lunches are provided by most cruise options.  The Milford Caf¨? and restaurant at Milford lodge are the only dinning options.  Petrol is available from the caf¨? within limited timeframes.  Car parking is available for travellers within short walking distance to the boat departure terminal and information area.

Accommodation

The overnight boats and Milford Lodge Backpackers are the only options for accommodation within Milford. Obviously those wishing to stay here need to book well in advance.
 

Where is it?

Milford Sound is located on the south west coast of the South Island of New Zealand.

How do I get there?

Milford Sound can be accessed by road or air.

The Milford road is one of the most incredible and frequently overlooked features of Milford Sound and the journey to get there.  Visitors need to allow plenty of time to stop at the numerous viewing points or short walking opportunities enroute.  At 119km (approx. 74 miles) from Te Anau to Milford Sound the sealed road takes a minimum of 2 hours driving without allowing for stops.  Motorists are advised to fill vehicles with petrol in Te Anau, although supplies are available at Gunn??s Camp in the Hollyford Valley and at Milford Sound these are only available at limited times.
 

When is the best time to go?

Fiordland experiences long twilights over the summer months, allowing time for evening activities such as lakeside strolls, a visit to the Te Anau Glowworm Caves or simply sitting back and enjoying a meal and glass of wine.

Winter in Fiordland has relatively stable weather patterns that produce cool, calm and clear days, snow capped mountains, spectacular waterfalls and wildlife.

The peace and tranquillity of winter contrast dramatically with the busy bustle of summer.  Heavy snow can lead to avalanche conditions affecting the Milford road, however, an extensive avalanche control programme is in place to manage the risk and prevents new avalanches from forming.

In the peak period, between October and April, it is important to book your accommodation and activities in advance.

Fiordland National Park

Created in 1952, Fiordland is the largest national park in New Zealand, and one of the largest in the world. It stretches 230 kilometres from north-east to south-west. At its broadest it is 80 kilometres across. The isolation of the region has encouraged endemism - over 700 plants are found only in Fiordland. Three of the country's 'great walks' (the Milford, Routeburn and Kepler tracks) are located within the park's boundaries; there is also a variety of short walks to enjoy.

Fiordland's famous walks

Milford Track (53.9 kilometres) follows several glaciated valleys, ascends an alpine pass and traverses some spectacular scenery. The walk takes four days and involves boat travel at both ends. You can walk the track independently or take a guide.

From the Milford end of the track, you'll start your journey at aptly named Sandfly Point. Maori legend imaginatively explains the presence of Fiordland's famously large sand flies: The goddess Te Hine-nui-te-po released the sandfly to stop people from lingering too long in the beauty of the fiords.

Routeburn Track (39 kilometres) starts from the divide between the eastern and western sides of the Southern Alps and ends in the beech forests 80 kilometres from Queenstown. Dramatic alpine views, lakes and changing forest types can be experienced on this three to four day walk. You can walk independently or take a guide.

Kepler Track (67 kilometres) starts and finishes at Lake Te Anau. You'll see lake edges, mountain beech forest, exposed mountaintops and glacial valleys, along with excellent views of the Southern Alps. This track offers independent walks only.

Hollyford Track (80 kilometres) leads the walker from the sheer rock walls of the Darren Mountains down to the sand dunes of the Tasman Sea at Martins Bay. Experience the splendid isolation of the Fiordland forest, the rushing energy of the Hollyford River and the sand and windswept beauty of Martins Bay. Both independent and guided walks are available on this track.

Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track (53 kilometres) is New Zealand's newest track. It offers commanding views of the south coast, Lake Poteriteri, Lake Hauroko and mountain ranges deep in Fiordland National Park. Both independent and guided walks are available on this track.

The magic of Milford Sound

Milford Sound is the most famous and accessible of the grand, glacier-carved fiords along the South Island's lower western coast. While it was named a 'sound', it's actually a fiord, because it was created by glaciers. A sound is a river valley that has been flooded by the sea.

The road to Milford is a wonderful alpine drive - allow plenty of time to stop and take in the photographic and walking opportunities along the way. Coach tours leave daily from Te Anau and Queenstown, if you'd prefer to let someone else do the driving. Scenic flights take off daily from Te Anau. Aerial views include the Southern Alps, Milford Track and Lake Te Anau. Scenic flights also connect with boat cruises on the sound.

Boats cruise the full length of Milford Sound to the Tasman Sea, pausing at various points to view waterfalls and marine life. Cruises leave from the main wharf at Milford Sound. You can also experience Milford Sound by sea kayaking, diving and a visit to the Underwater Observatory in Harrison Cove.

Into the deep heart of Doubtful Sound

The deepest of all the fiords, Doubtful Sound has ancient rainforest and abundant wildlife. Virtually untouched by man, the fiord is a wonderful place to visit. Single day and overnight cruises leave from Pearl Harbour at Manapouri, a short drive from Te Anau. The experience begins with a lake crossing, which allows you to see the beauty of Lake Manapouri and the West Arm Underground Power Station. A coach ride over Wilmot Pass takes you to Doubtful Sound where you'll board a launch for a cruise of the fiord. You have the option of a sea kayaking tour of the sound, if you'd like a more adventurous experience. Diving and fishing charters are another way to explore the fiord.