Milford Sound is somewhere that we have always wanted to visit but its always saturated with tourists, and the only time I am ever off is public holidays so we have always avoided it. However, when Mark’s work’s social club decided to organise a trip including an overnight cruise, we grabbed the chance to finally go and see it.
You know somewhere is remote when the next nearest settlement is 115km away down the only road that leads in and out. One of the highest alpine passes in New Zealand, the Milford Road is often in the news, with landslides, avalanches and various other constant weather challenges making keeping that wee road open a full time job, I recon!
What is more, the Homer Tunnel – 1200m tunnel straight through the mountain to allow access to the very remote Milford village was hand carved back in the time when the only transport was horse and cart, is quite sinmply an incredible feat of Victorian engineering!
The Milford Track was originally the only access in, on foot. This all can be felt 1000 fold when you travel along this iconic and quite simply incredible road.
This camp site – although chilly and rather thin walled, is one we have stayed at before, but in a tent in warmer weather rather than a cabin. I felt like there were just curtains between the rooms the walls were that thin!
Breakfast in Te Anau, then on we went. From here there is a single road that goes to Milford. between May and November it is law that you have to carry snow chains, and the road is often closed due to bad weather during the winter.
We stopped at Mirror lakes on the way (as several of our group were.. lets say, liquid lunching and required frequent stops!) Very aptly named place I must say, and the wayway built around the trees is so typically New Zealand! Anywhere else in the world, they would simply chop the tree down!
The tunnel lights only seem to operate during the day time, which I assume means its closed at night. Remote just doesn’t seem to describe it sufficiently!
No photos or video recordings will ever do this place justice, you simply have to visit and have a look for yourself.
Mitre Peak (centre of the water) is an iconic picture of Milford. The mountains surrounding the fiord (because its a glacial valley not a river valley, so technically a fiord not a sound) are around 2000m high. The vegitation grows straight down the sheer cliffs right to water level. Soil is replaced by moss, which helps the trees stay in place. the angles they grow and cling at are incredible.
There has been a long drought season in the fiordland area and so the waterfalls are a fraction of their former selves. Look at the beds of the falls, and how wide they usually are, where small trickles currently flow. Everything looks dwarfed by the mountains, which are vast. 200m high falls look like a tiny trickle from a tap! The fiord is 300m deep, at its shallowest and 800m deep at its deepest. Its really hard to imagine that almost all the height of the mountain above you is also below you under water!
The captain put the boat right nuder a few of these falls (see the recording). This just shows how sheer the cliffs are even under water. we literally could touch the cliffs and feel the water land on us!
During the first evening we moored up and Mark went Kayaking while I went out in a tender boat out to the mouth of the Tasman sea. Nothing out there till you get to Australia, or Chile! The swell on the Tasman averages 3m, even when calm. Yep, it challenged my sea legs for sure!
However, I got a great picture of our boat, the Milford Mariner, from the tender boat!
Sunrise saw quite a different Milford, much more moody and cloudy. I’m thankful that this was not the scene on day 1, as my dreaded overnighter on the boat was mighty calm actually, and I cannot praise the food or the staff highly enough!
One final stop on the way home, to ‘The Chasm’.. however its name gave it a grander than reality appearance, I did feel a little let down! Its basically a river that has carved swirl like holes in the rock as it cascades down the valley!
Here is our Vlog of the weekend. I really struggle to get across the sheer awe and amazement at the scenery in Milford! So, do watch it right through to the end, even though its a bit long!