Milford Sound

Trip Start Jan 01, 2008
Trip End Dec 29, 2008

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Sunday, June 15, 2008

We drive right to the end of the road through the stunning Fiordland National Park , we have our first sighting of the famous Milford Sound and have a look around the cruise operators to see which of them we will use.  Prices we had seen advertised were around $159 for 2 hours, although here at the visitors centre from where they depart, rates were considerably lower at about $65-80.  Its getting late in the afternoon and the very low cloud, the fog, the rain and the cold are putting us off a bit and we decide to pop back in the morning and hope that the weather clears by then.   

Milford Sound (named by an unimaginative welshman from Milford Haven who discovered it - some 50 years after Captain Cook missed it twice when mapping the shoreline) is a huge glacial fiord.    We choose to cruise with Mitre Peak Cruises as their boats are smaller at about 20 metres long compared to the larger boats which hold up to 400 passengers.  

For our first night around Milford, rather than drive back to the DOC campsites that we had planned to in the  National Park area, we are told of a place just 10 minutes away from the waters edge -  the only site in the National Park - and decide to stay there.    They were able to get the cruise discounted for their guests, so we  ended up paying $40 each for the Mitre Peak Cruise on Milford Sound.  

In the morning, it is still very cloudy and our boat with all  9 passengers, sailed right out to the lighthouse at St Annes Point, on the Tasman Sea, which is the nearest point to Australia (still 876 nautical miles away/7 days by boat).    There are usually 4 permanent waterfalls, but today there are literally hundreds of them due to the current rainfall.  The rainfall in the area is very heavy anyway, averaging between 7- 9 metres a year.  Over the last two days, we have had 23cm, although it is not uncommon for 70cm to fall in a single day.  Milford Sound is a huge fiord surrounded by mountainous rainforest  (3 million acres of uninterrupted rainforest), which makes you feel like you are in another world as you boat moves along. 

The water falls are amazing and really seem to tumble from the sky.  The low lying cloud means that we cannot see the tops of the mountains except for the occasional glimpse, which makes for a very atmospheric trip.  One waterfall, nearest the harbourside  (Lady Bowen Falls) is 162metres high and is powerfull enough to supply all the water and hydro-electricity for the town.    Our boat gets right up close to a couple of the waterfalls, nudging its nose into the spray so much so that we all congregate at the back of the boat or inside as the velocity of the water really does take our breath away. 

We are truly amazed at the beauty of Milford Sound (even in this weather) and loved the cruise.  Having failed to spot any penguins or dolphins, we do find some seals lazing on some rocks at a place called Seals Point. 

It has been a fantastic 2 hours on the water and as we get back to the beginning, we are asked if we would like to stay on board and go round again for free ?   (The captain says he is getting lonely with so few passengers) YES PLEASE ! So we stayed on the boat and did the trip again.  This time the cloud lifted a bit and it was every bit as good the second time round.    

Thankfully there was unlimited soup and hot drinks on board.  Due to the 5 hours that we ended up on board, these were much appreciated.  

On the way back after our cruise, we do stop in the Fiordland National Park at a DOC site -  a very beautiful setting at Henrys Creek, right on the Te Anau Lake with no sign of buildings/humans to be seen.  Just us and our van and the nicest view that you could imagine.  Totally peaceful.  It is the second largest lake in New Zealand and still at least a hours drive from Te Anau township.
For more on Milford Sound, try this link
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