The South Island is just unfair to the rest of the world. HOW can any other place complete with its beauty (and diversity)? There are mountains, glaciers, fjords, sounds, bottomless lakes, still rivers, rushing rapid rivers, coastline, native bush forest and rainforest. It just isn’t fair.
It is hard to describe Mildford Sound in words. It is just that jaw dropping beautiful. So, I am letting some pictures talk for me. We decided to stay at Te Anau to reduce our drive to just a couple hours. We wanted to have time to stop for additional hikes and we knew the road was single lane highway and could become delayed at any time.
Here are pictures from our ferry tour…
Here are some pictures of the rest of the day
Some cool facts
- Milford Sound is the wettest inhabited place in NZ. Rain creates new waterfalls and fills the air with a fine mist.
- Milford Sound sits within Fiordland National Park and is part of Te Wahipounamu, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- The water in Milford Sound is BLACK from tannins that wash off the forest floor. The water can be so serene and still that it reflects the towering mountains.
- Milford Sound is not a sound, but a fjord. Sounds are formed from a river valley and fjords are formed from glacial ice.
- Milford Sound runs about 15 km from the opening of Tasman Sea and sheer rock faces rise up above the water 1200 meters on both sides.
- The cascading waterfalls can reach a thousand metres in length. There are two main permanent waterfalls in Milford Sound: Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls. Lady Bowen Falls provides a source of both water and electricity for the residents of Milford Sound.
- Wildlife spotting is common in the sound with seals, bottle-nose dolphins and whales (along with a variety of birds).
- Mitre Peak is the iconic mountain of Milford Sound and is one of the tallest mountains in the world. It rises 1692 metres directly from the sea floor. It was named after its resemblance to a bishop’s mitre (head-dress).
- There’s only one road in……Highway 94 (AKA Milford Road). There is a tunnel on this road- Homer Tunnel. This area of NZ is remote- forget about cell phone service. And the 0.75 mile tunnel adds to the remote feel. It is a one-way tunnel, with hardly any lights, carved through a mountain. The tunnel wasn’t completed until the mid-1950’s.
- Milford Sound wasn’t “discovered” by the world until the 1800’s.
There are so many multi-day treks in NZ, I am not sure we will ever discover Milford Sound on foot. We had another full day at Te Anau, so headed off to hike part of the Kepler Track. This track is one of the many Great Walks in NZ. Ideally, one is able to spend several days along these treks but we settled for a day hike. Kepler is a 60 km loop trek unlike others that are point to point. We spent an afternoon wandering near streams and the Waiau River complete with a swing bridge.