Milford Sound sits within Fiordland National Park in the Southwest part of New Zealand’s South Island. Milford Sound is the highlight of Fiordland National Park and is the most popular tourist attractions in New Zealand.
Despite its name, Milford Sound is actually a fiord and not a sound. When it was discovered it was thought to be a sound because it has a large ocean inlet common to sounds which are formed when a river valley is flooded by the sea. However, Milford Sound was carved out by an erosion of ancient glacial ice making it a fiord.
The length of Milford Sound is approximately 16 Km (9.94 miles) from the head of the fiord to the opening of the Tasman Sea. The tallest peak in Milford Sound is 1692 m (5,550 feet) high and the depth of the fiord is up to 400 m (1,312 feet) deep.
On my visit to Milford Sound, our ship entered the calm waters of the sound in total darkness. Wanting to take advantage of every minute of my time in Milford Sound, I was on the deck well before sunrise so my first sight of Milford Sound was at dawn just before the sun peaked over the horizon.
The walls of Milford Sound are steep and as the sun rises the sunlight shines on the tops of the mountains first keeping the lower parts of the mountains in darkness. The sunlight separated by the darkness is striking in the photo below.
As the sun continued to rise over the mountains, the sunlight started to reveal the stunning natural beauty of Milford Sound. The photos below show the magnificence of the snowcapped mountain tops and forest clad cliffs that were partially lit by the early morning sunlight.
Once the sun was high enough in the sky, the full beauty of Milford Sound could be appreciated. Steep mountains rise up from the calm almost black water extending high into the sky. The rise of the mountains from the ocean to sky can be seen in the following photos.
One of the most lasting impressions of my experience in Milford Sound was the contrast between the smooth calm water and the rugged mountain top ridgeline. The mountain tops are pure raw nature. They are dusted with snow and from all appearances are practically untouched by human foot prints.
Milford Sound includes many peaks. The highest and most famous is Mitre Peak which reached 1692 meters above the sea level. Mitre Peak is shown in the following two photos.
Milford Sound is one of the wettest places on Earth with an annual rainfall of 6,813mm (268in.) and 182 rain days a year. The wettest months are September through December with an average of 16 to 18 days of rainfall in a month.
With that much rain there are certainly lots of waterfalls to see. Rain water comes gushing down from the rainforest into Milford Sound producing countless cascading waterfalls. There are two permanent waterfalls in Milford Sound:
1. Lady Bowen Falls – 162m (531 feet) high
2. Stirling Falls
A few of the other waterfalls that I saw are shown below.
One of the other notable features on the side of the mountains are what appear to be scars or scratch marks. These are long exposed rock surfaces streaking through the trees down to the water. These unusual features are caused by landslides which destroy the trees growing on the mountain side as large groups of rocks break off and slide down into the water. A few of these can be seen in the photos below.
Milford Sound is located in a remote part of the South Island with only one road leading into the fiord. The other way to reach Milford Sound is by airplane or by boat. At the end of the road and next to the airport is a small marina where charter boats provide tours of Milford Sound. The photos below are of the marina and one of the tour boats.
Visiting Milford Sound is a wonderful experience. The beauty of this pristine scenic destination is frequently listed as one of the most beautiful places in the world. Any trip to New Zealand should include a large amount of time in nature and visiting Milford Sound should be a “must-do” on the itinerary!