Dramatic Milford Sound

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Our boat prepares to cast off for a 1 3/4-hour cruise in Milford Sound in New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park.

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I remember learning about the fjords of Norway when I was in about the third grade. They fascinated me more than any other land feature that year. More than oceans, deserts, mountains and canyons.

I wanted to see those tall peaks that plunged into narrow bodies of water.

And now I have.

But not in Norway. (One day I will.) This fjord was in New Zealand.

Milford Sound ticks all the boxes for beauty: glistening water, glimpses of glaciers,

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So beautiful! Three kinds of water: falls, sound, glacier. I see why my third-grade self was fascinated by fjords.

soaring trees, tall peaks that plunge into narrow bodies of water, and my favorite, waterfalls.

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We got so close to the waterfalls it seemed like we could reach out and touch it.

It had rained cats and dogs in the previous couple of days so there were most definitely waterfalls. Our little boat got as close as possible so that the spray cooled our faces.

I can most certainly recommend the boat ride that cruises down the fjord to the Tasman Sea. It’s the sort of restful adventure you need on vacation. But the four hour bus ride to and from Queenstown is for the birds. If you go this way — rather than taking a helicopter or plane — take a book, a charged phone or iPad, earphones and music, SOMETHING! that will keep you occupied on the very long journey. It’s a delight going down to the sound. So much to see. But headed back, the bus driver is on a mission to get home. And those four hours are l-o-n-g.

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On the way to the sound, there are a few stops, including one to Mirror Lakes. It’s quick but it’s lovely.

I have friends who flew and marveled at the experience. Got some extra change? It’s an extra $400 a person. Then go ahead and fly!

In retrospect, I’d go anyway I could. If only for the little girl I once was who fell in love with fjords.

Ⓒ Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman

Milford tunnel

One part of the adventure of getting there and back is going through the one-lane Homer Tunnel hewn by hand. That little house is the entrance. All the vehicles are waiting their turn.

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5 responses to “Dramatic Milford Sound

  1. Milford Sound is beautiful, but I think my favourite part was seeing the kea on the drive up! When I went, we neither flew nor took the bus; rather, we spent a couple of nights in Te Anau, and drove ourselves to Milford Sound and back one of the days to do the boat trip, since we’d rented a car to explore the South Island anyway. The drive to and from Te Anau is really cool, and there are lots of places to stop, walk around, and look at various natural wonders if you have the time. Unfortunately, Te Anau itself is awful, especially if you visit in the off season like we did, though it might be bearable if you stayed in a nice hotel (we stayed in the grimmest motel, and I couldn’t wait to leave!).

Let me know if you've been here or shared a similar experience. Thanks for reading!

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