Anyone planning to spend time in New Zealand’s South Island should consider exploring the stunning natural beauty of Milford Sound. This incredible fjord is arguably New Zealand’s most popular scenic attraction, and there is no question that it deserves to be added to any travel itinerary. Use this guide to learn more about what to do in Milford Sound, how to get there, where to dine, and what the top attractions are in the surrounding area.
A History of Milford Sound
Before you arrive at one of New Zealand’s most breathtaking natural landmarks, it helps to have a better understanding of the area and its history. Prior to European settlement, this stunning fjord was a popular place for the Maori people. They understood the tidal patterns of the sound and were able to fish there successfully. In 1812, the sound was discovered by John Grono and named Milford after his home in Wales. It wasn’t until the 20th century that Milford Sound began drawing in visitors specifically to view the incredible size and beauty of the fjord. Many who saw it then as well as today agree with Rudyard Kipling, who called it the Eighth Wonder of the World.
Getting to Milford Sound
Milford Sound is accessible by several different means of transport. For a truly breathtaking view over the entire region, you might want to consider flying in on a helicopter tour. You can fly directly from Te Anau and even disembark for a quick look at the glacier up close. If you would prefer to set your own itinerary and spend a little more time exploring this amazing destination, driving from Te Anau takes just over two hours. The views on this short journey alone are astounding, and you will want to stop for pictures at landmarks like The Chasm and the Mirror Lakes. Renting a car can be easily done in order to give you some flexibility during your trip to Milford Sound.
Amazing Outdoor Recreation in Milford Sound
Thanks to the amazing beauty of Milford Sound, travellers typically want to spend as much time outdoors as possible. Thankfully, there are dozens of ways to enjoy with the beautiful natural scenery in the area. If you’re raring for a serious adventure, you might want to hike the Milford Track, which circles Milford Sound and takes an average of four days to complete on foot. For something considerably less intense, you might try kayaking for an afternoon, scuba diving to get an underwater perspective, or enjoying a relaxing cruise. There are even overnight cruises available for a unique accommodation choice.
Where to Dine and Drink in the Area
The options for dining in Milford Sound itself are quite limited. The only cafe available directly in the area is the Blue Duck Bar and Cafe, which offers a selection of meals, snacks and drinks throughout the day. In addition, many of the cruises include snacks, drinks or full meals depending on the cruise duration and price. In nearby Te Anau, however, you can enjoy a lovely meal at Redcliff Restaurant and Bar, Mainly Seafood or Fat Duck.
Top Attractions at Milford Sound
With so much natural beauty at Milford Sound, there is little need for big tourist attractions. Visitors will want to get a good view of Mitre Peak, spot a dolphin in its natural habitat, and take some photos of the many waterfalls surrounding the sound. The Milford Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory is worth a visit for children, but it is only accessible by certain cruises. Check the itinerary to ensure that you can stop at this interesting and educational museum. If you want to pick up some souvenirs of your trip, head to Milford Sound Lodge. This is the only real shop in the area, but it provides all the basics, as well as cute mugs, picturesque postcards and other charming memorabilia as souvenirs for your adventures.
Whether you just have time for an afternoon helicopter tour or you spend four days hiking the Milford Track, visiting the Milford Sound is an experience you’ll never forget. Breathtaking scenery makes it one of the most beautiful attractions in New Zealand. It should be a stop on every travel itinerary for the South Island.Image courtesy of darko82/flickr.com