Diving Deep into Milford Sound in New Zealand

by | Mar 8, 2020 | Hiking, Travel

We took a deep dive into Milford Sound in New Zealand on an overnight cruise with Real Journeys.

Milford Sound - New Zealand

Exploring Milford Sound with Real Journeys

When researching where to visit on our trip to New Zealand, Milford Sound came highly recommended. Milford Sound is a fjord in the southwest of the South Island of New Zealand. What is a fjord you may ask? It is a long, narrow, and deep inlet of the sea between high cliffs. If you’ve been to Norway, Iceland, or Alaska, then you may have been to a fjord.

Milford Sound - New Zealand

Milford Sound is part of the Fiordland National Park and is one of the most recognized places in New Zealand. Do a google search of Milford Sound and you will be dazzled with images of verdant mountains shooting out of the brilliant blue water of the Tasman Sea. Milford Sound was first on our list of places to see in New Zealand.

Milford Sound - New Zealand

Getting to Milford Sound

Getting to Milford Sound can be a challenge. The drive from the closest town, Te Anau is 2 hours along a twisting road through the mountains. Given that we planned to head down from Wanaka, we opted for an overnight stay aboard Real Journeys Milford Wanderer. Real Journeys offers a few different options and the smaller Wanderer sounded perfect to us.

Wanderer - Milford Sound

We headed out fairly early to make the nearly 5-hour drive from Wanaka to Milford Sound. The first part of the drive was a breeze. Things don’t start to get interesting until you pass through Te Anau. Here the road runs through a valley with lovely mountain scenery.

Along the drive to Milford Sound

After a rambling through the mountains and trying to avoid getting run over by buses swinging wide on tight mountain curves, we found ourselves on the shores of Milford Sound. The vibrant blue skies and blissful sunshine definitely put a smile on our faces. We really lucked out on the weather during our visit. Milford Sound receives a lot of rain and is typically under a blanket of clouds.

Milford Sound - New Zealand

Boarding the Wanderer

We boarded the Wanderer around 4 pm and dropped off our bags in our cabin. The confirmation email mentions that each passenger is only allowed a single carry on. This is for good reason. The cabins are cozy. Not a lot of room for big suitcases and such. Given that we had packed light for our New Zealand trip, we had no issues with space.

Aboard the Wanderer - Real Journeys
Aboard the Wanderer - Real Journeys

Shortly after setting sail, we headed just across the bay toward Sandfly Point for a hike. Sandfly Point is the end (or it could be the beginning) of the Milford Track which is a 53 kilometer walk through the rainforest of the Fiordland National Park. While the name suggests that you will be swarmed by devilish sandflies, they were thankfully nowhere to be seen on our hike. A group of about 12 of us followed our guide on a short out and back trip along the Milford Track.

Milford Track
Milford Track

Sandfly Point and the Milford Track

Each step of our hike was filled with wonder. The magic of the rainforest enveloped us in its green majesty. While I attempted to get a few photos to share this beauty, I’m afraid they do not do this landscape justice. It is too damn awesome to capture.

Milford Track
Milford Track
Milford Track

Our naturalist guide was well versed in the local flora and fauna. He pointed out the variety of ferns and trees including the prehistoric-looking lancewoods and the mossy beech. We came upon a long rectangular box just off the trail. Our guide showed us that these are weasel traps. Evidently the Europeans brought along a host of non-native animals including rats and rabbits to New Zealand. In hopes of controlling the rat and rabbit population, someone had the bright idea to bring in weasels. Well, turns out that weasels love the eggs and chicks of native birds such as the kiwi. Since these birds don’t fly, they were easy pickings for the weasels. Conservationists have been working for years to try to eradicate the foreign animals in hopes of giving the native birds a chance.

Milford Track - weasels

Dinner and an evening of stars

After our hike along the Milford Track, the Wanderer set off for Harrison Cove. While we had been away, the crew was busy preparing a fantastic dinner which included basil soup, roast beef, and an apple flan for dessert. If your diet doesn’t include meat, the kitchen had you covered with vegetarian or pescatarian (fish) options. We ate as the sun slid behind the mountains and the sea in Harrison Cove. Our quiet evening consisted of a few beers and star gazing. It was incredibly peaceful and relaxing.

Dinner on the Wanderer
Milford Sound
Onboard the Wanderer

Morning tour of Milford Sound

We were up the next morning before sunrise. Once again the crew had been working hard and provided us with a tasty breakfast. You need fuel out here in the Milford Sound as the morning can be quite chilly. The Wanderer then proceeded to take us out for a visit to Stirling Falls. The plunging water creating its own wind storm.

Breakfast on the Wanderer
Stirling Falls
Stirling Falls

The Wanderer took us out to the mouth of the sound where it meets the Tasman Sea. You gain a renewed perspective on the calming effect of the surrounding mountains once you get out near the sea. We were happy when the Wanderer made it’s way back into the sound and away from the biting winds and rolling waves.

Milford Sound

Bowen Falls and Sea Lions

As we made our way back to port, we did a glancing pass by Bowen Falls. This is the highest waterfall in Milford Sound at 162 meters. We also were treated to a few sea lions getting ready to start their day.

Bowen Falls
Sea Lions

New Zealand allows you to experience so many different types of ecological zones and geographical features within a relatively short distance. You would have to travel across the world to see glaciers, a rainforest, and then drop into a fjord. In New Zealand, you can do it all within a few hours’ drive. Our visit to Milford Sound was just one of many dramatic and enchanting landscapes that we had the good fortune to experience during our exploration of New Zealand.


Milford Sound

We have a few more pictures from our visit to Milford Sound with Real Journeys.

Explore these links for more pictures from our entire trip to New Zealand

Be sure to read our other stories from our trip to New Zealand including:

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