When we started planning our New Zealand Road Trip there was one place I was absolutely determined to visit, and that was Milford Sound. Described as “New Zealand’s most stunning natural attraction”, I’d been told that it was an absolute must-visit when in the South Island, so Shane and I booked a ferry cruise through Jucy Rentals for what was set to be the sunniest day in Milford Sound that week.
A four hour one-way drive from Queenstown, Milford Sound is a fiord that is situated on the South West of the South Island and is made up of magical waterfalls, rainforests, and cliffs that tower over 1000 metres above sea level, namely the almighty Mitre Peak. The drive down from Queenstown and through Te Anau is long, but pretty epic. You really do feel as though you’re the only people on the planet, as the road winds through mountain ranges and across roaring rivers. It’s pretty amazing.
We took our camper van, although you can do a coach journey as part of the ferry cruise which departs from Queenstown and returns the same day, but we decided to stay at the Milford Sound Lodge — this is the only camper van park at Milford Sound, and was a pretty decent one in terms of facilities and cleanliness. It’s pretty cool to say that we’ve camped in a rainforest! Plus, as it was the off season it was a little cheaper and we pretty much had the place to ourselves, although I would definitely recommend booking in advance in the peak season.
We arrived at the shoreline with about half an hour to spare before heading on our cruise, and it was seriously the most stunning setting. I’ve never actually visited anywhere like it before, and it’s pretty much untouched. It is so remote that for centuries it was only reachable by boat, but despite there being a direct road to and from the fiord now, it still has a sense of mystery about it. It is now accessible via a tunnel through the mountains, which closes at dusk each day and this means that when other tourists leave, you have this beautiful place to yourselves.
Mountains tower above the glassy blue waters, and aside from a small campsite, harbour and visitor centre, it remains unspoilt. The landscape was carved out by glaciers and what I really loved is that it was actually discovered by a Welshman and is named after Milford Haven, a tiny seaside town in West Wales.
We took the ferry cruise in the afternoon and it was definitely one of my most unforgettable experiences. The tour takes you through the fiords and out onto the Tasman Sea, stopping along the way at rainbow waterfalls and stunning landmarks. It’s hard to believe places like this exist. We had a lovely smooth journey as the sun was shining, and we even made some friends with dolphins along the way! A pod decided to swim and leap alongside our boat, which was so incredible. I would say that a ferry cruise through the fiord is an absolute must-do if you’re ever in NZ, no matter what the weather as you won’t get another experience like it, but you can also kayak, take scenic flights and trek at Milford Sound.
After our cruise was up Shane and I stayed out until dark, walking around the shoreline, taking in the views, and gazing at the stars. There were lots of photographers snapping at sunset, but these soon dispersed in order to drive out of Fiordland before the tunnel closed. We then had the entire place to ourselves, albeit for a pesky New Zealand fur seal who kept bobbing up at the shoreline to say hello! It was so peaceful, and after what has been a pretty hectic few months it felt so lovely to finally feel at ease and relaxed.