When you think of Milford Sound I’m sure the iconic majestic Mitre Peak shot springs to mind as well as the towering cliffs that run either side of the narrow fiord.
It is important to note that your journey does start the minute you leave Te Anau. The Milford Road really is spectacular in its own right and really does add to the dramatic beauty that is Milford Sound.
Whether you choose to take the coach option from Te Anau or drive this stunning road independently you will become bewildered by what mother nature has to offer. If you decide driving yourself to Milford is the way to go, pick your cruise time strategically so you can make the many beautiful stops on the way in before your cruise or on the way home.
Don’t be fooled by what Google tells you. 120km will take you 2.5 hours to drive in the off season and up to 3.5hours (including trying to find a park) in the busy summer season and this doesn’t include scenic stops. If you ask me, my trip with the coach was a lot more stress free. Relax, take in all the sights and let someone else take the wheel. Being dropped at the terminal door on arrival as I watched car after campervan circle the car park then head out to park 15-30min walk from the boats had me hoping they had planned to park that far away. If you are driving during winter, keep an eye on the road conditions and chains must be carried.
The stops along the Milford road range from short or long walks and an abundance of photo opportunities such as Eglinton Valley that goes for as far as the eye can see, Mirror Lakes reflecting the surrounding mountains, Lake Gunn with a 45min loop track, Homer Tunnel carved out of solid granite and the Chasm where the water has carved it’s way to make an amazing rock labyrinth – to name a few. Having a local driver is key, they drive this road everyday and know the best places to stop at the best parts of the day.
On arrival to Milford, you’ll head into the main terminal building, find the company you will be cruising with and follow their directions for boarding your vessel. From the dock you will already see the famous Mitre Peak. It won’t disappoint! If the weather is clear you will be able to catch a glimpse of its 1,692m of beauty. The boat cruises out of the harbor and once again you will be blown away by the thunderous Bowen Falls and the sheer power it emanates. Milford Sound has no arms so you can see most of it from here as you start your loop around the magnificent vertical cliffs. The boats can pull up meters away from the rock faces as they continue deep below the fiords surface. If you’re feeling adventurous you can stand at the boats bow and feel the waterfall’s spray. Look out at the Tasman Sea as you turn around at the head of Milford Sound and back to the terminal.
Main differences to Doubtful:
- Beautiful drive through Fiordland National park- make sure to allow time to appreciate this!
- A lot more people. Various cruise companies operate in Milford Sound
- Smaller narrow Fiord
- Steeper more dramatic cliff faces
- Shorter cruises (1-2.5 hours)
- Underwater observatory option
So, which is best? I’ll let you decide but what I can guarantee for sure is mother nature really took extra time with Milford and Doubtful Sound.
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