To get to Milford Sound, you have to travel up a 75 mile long road which you then have to come back on as there is no other way out. This made me wonder whether it would be worth it, especially as we don’t usually enjoy very ‘toursity’ places. Our verdict... Milford Sound is DEFINITELY worth the drive, and the money!
Despite its name, Milford Sound is actually a fiord (carved by a glacier) rather than a sound (created when a river valley is flooded by the sea). The drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound is beautiful in itself and there is much to see on the way - we even saw a kea!
We opted to go for the only tour we could find that offered both a boat and kayak trip. It just so happened that this also included a free breakfast and a trip to the ‘Discovery Centre’. The floating centre was like an aquarium... only the fish are just the ones swimming past in the fiord! They sometimes see penguins, seals and even sharks through the windows which are 10m underwater. The aquatic life is quite unique there because of the cold water (the top layer is freshwater from the waterfalls and rivers and the sea water lies under this) and the calmness due to being in a sound.
The boat trip offered some fantastic views. We caught a glimpse of some penguins and seals. I watched from inside as we got up close to the waterfalls though!
We learnt about the tree avalanches they have there. There is no soil on the mountains and the forests growing there cling on to moss and lichen. This means that when one goes, often a lot of them will go! You can see the ‘scar’ on the mountain below where they had a tree avalanche five months ago...
The kayaking was an excellent addition to the trip and enabled us to get away from some of larger crowds of people on the boats.
Some tips if you’re planning a trip to Milford Sound. We had booked to go on one of the first boat trips of the day, mainly because these were the cheapest, but also because parking can be a bit of an issue (according to reviews). The only problem with this was that the lighting on the way there wasn’t as good (scenery-wise) as it would be in the afternoon. So to anyone else planning to visit Milford, our suggestion would be to stay at the Milford Sound Lodge campsite the night before (so that you can do the drive there in the afternoon and still get on the early boat trip the following day), then stay at Knobs Flat after that (a cheaper campsite than the main Milford one, but this should give you enough time not to rush the beautiful road and all the stop-off points on the way. We did it the other way around, staying at Knobs Flat on the first night. From the campsite you can do a short walk to a waterfall (photos below). Wild camping is prohibited along the Milford road so we can highly recommend Knobs Flat and Milford Sound Lodge. We also cannot recommend Southern Discoveries (the boat/kayak package people) highly enough!