Milford Sound

Milford Sound Photo credit: Shotover Media

One of the top travel destinations in the world, no trip to New Zealand is complete without visiting Milford Sound.

Technically a fiord, Milford was carved out by glaciers thousands of years ago. South West New Zealand was originally a mountainous region, with ice becoming embedded between the mountains during the last ice age. The glaciers ran from the upper mountains to the coast, gradually splitting and carving the rock to create the characteristic features of the fiord.

10,000 years ago, the ice began to melt and stunning flora and fauna began to develop and evolve in the region. Today, the area is known for its breath taking landscape and stunning diversity. Dolphins, seals and whales are often seen in Milford Sound.

Maori discovered Milford Sound around 1,000 years ago, searching the area for precious greenstone or pounamu. According to Maori legend, an atua (godly figure) named Tu-te-raki-whanoa carved the fiords with his mighty toki (an adze head, a tool and powerful symbol), called Te Hamo.

A number of companies operate boat tours and activities in Milford Sound. There’s something to cater to everyone’s tastes including guided nature cruises, kayaking and overnight cruises.

Visiting an underwater observatory is a must. New Zealand’s fiords are home to the world’s biggest population of black coral trees, there’s around seven million coral colonies and a plethora of fascinating marine life.

Milford Sound is subject to notoriously rainy weather, it’s part of what makes the landscape and wildlife there so unique. Huge waterfalls cascade into the fiord from the towering cliff faces, a spectacle unlike any other in the world. British writer Rudyard Kipling dubbed Milford the ‘eighth wonder of the world’.

Numerous companies operate bus tours from Queenstown to Milford Sound, via the Homer Tunnel. An impressive structure in its own right, it took almost 20 years to carve the tunnel through solid rock to create road access to Milford. The long drive from Queenstown, via Te Anau to Milford Sound is one of the most picturesque in the world, but it can be dangerous. Booking a bus tour is recommended.

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