Milford Sound on a clear day is among the most beautiful scenery in all of New Zealand. Unfortunately clear days are really hit and miss as Milford averages over 6 meters of rain a year. Woo! One year they had like 10 meters of rain. On a clear day, this along with Mt. Cook will be one of primary natural highlights of any trip to New Zealand. However, on a rainy foggy day, the entire mood of the region changes and often visibility is severally limited.
However, go, regardless of the weather as there is a chance you will hit a clear day. The drive to Milford Sound is beautiful in and of itself. One winds along an empty road through open fields and valleys, near lakes with empty shorelines, finally winding through fog kissed mountains – ultimately passing through Homer Tunnel at the top of the pass and dropping down the other side into Milford Sound. A large dirt parking lot is located near the entrance to the tunnel from which some short hiking trails lead to the snowfields. The actual tunnel is interesting – its very long and there is no electricity inside – near the entrance and exits water will be dripping from the rock above your head.
Some of the tallest waterfalls in New Zealand are located in this region; one can reach the base of these via a cruise boat. A cruise is highly recommended; they depart from the cruise wharf – at the end of the road. Visitors must park near the Milford Cafe and walk along a trail that leads next to the water’s edge – maybe a 1/2 km walk to the cruise departure point. Views of the sound can be spectacular from here. Before you turn in to the employee parking lot to walk to the departure building for the cruises, check out the small dirt path leading out to a small peninsula. If you have time we recommend walking down this path as there is a great photo spot at the end of the path with the sound of the waterfalls in the distance.
Be sure to bring a camera when you take a cruise to not only capture the surrounding vistas but perhaps wildlife as well. Fortunate visitors will experience dolphins jumping behind the wake of the boat.
Milford Sound Lodge provides budget accommodation – this is our recommended place to stay in the region, not only because it is only one of two places to stay in Milford Sound, but because it is clean and comfortable and visitors will meet people from around the world. Dorm rooms and singles are available. Shared cooking and dining faculties. This lodge is located next to the roaring Cleddau River – about one km from the Milford Cafe (popular dining spot in town). The property also allows people to camp and setup their small trailers/RV’s.
During our visit, the electricity was run until about 11pm and then turned off until 6am or 7am in the morning. This is because this hotel is on its own generator. Excellent shower facilities. Visitors can make cruise reservations from the small shop at this lodge – however be sure to have the person making the actual reservations call the cruise to verify their departure time and that they have space on the boat.
For more information, visit: www.milfordlodge.com
Milford Cafe serves lunch, sandwiches a variety of drinks and other snacks. Choose a table near the window for maximum viewing of the sound. This cafe is located next to the primary parking lots for visitors joining cruises. On a popular summer day this lot will quickly fill up by mid morning.
One last note, beware of those nasty little black buggers, called sand flies. They are particularly bad near the Milford Cafe and the waterfront in front of the cafe. They do bite and they have a tendency to try to land on your camera lens when you are just ready to take the picture.
Visit New Zealand’s Fjordland tourism website: www.fiordland.org.nz