Our round the world trip (23): Milford Sound

Early starts and full days are now the norm and today – Day 24 (Thursday) – was certainly no exception: we left the hotel in the dark at 7.15 am and arrived back at 6.45 pm but, in the intervening eleven and a half hours, we had a magical time.

Our destination was Milford Sound which Mark explained is not actually a sound but a fiord – apparently a sound is a drowned river valley but a fiord is a drowned glacial valley. Half Welsh Vee was pleased to note that it was named after Milford Haven in Wales.

As the crow flies north-west from Queenstown to Milford Sound, the distance is not far, but there is simply no direct route. Instead you have to take a long U-shaped route, travelling south, then west, and then north. At least we made it and the weather was excellent – sometimes rock or snow avalanches near the sound cut off access or poor weather at the sound makes many features hard to make out.

We had a comfort break at Te Anau which is located at the bottom left of the U-route where the “Kiwi Country Cafe” has excellent facilities, including a shop where Vee & Roger bought more cuddly toys for the kids back home, but a very odd and unfriendly practice of charging more for take-away coffee than coffee in the cafe.

The rest of our route was through Fiordland National Park, a huge expanse covering 1.25 million hectares or 3 million acres. We passed along the side of the wonderfully scenic Lake Te Anau which is the second largest in New Zealand and twice the depth of Loch Ness in Scotland. We took the Milford Road due north which eventually goes through the 1.2 km Milford Tunnel, both of which were competed in 1954. Along the way, we made five stops to admire the stunning scenery and take great photographs.

One halt was at Mirror Lakes. These are not lakes, rather ponds or tards – but, boy, are they mirrors. The absolutely still water reflected perfectly the vegetation, the mountains, and the clouds to enable us to take pictures which looked like professional posters. Another stop was at The Chasm where the Cleddau River plunges through a narrow gap 22 metres deep in a location of verdant rainforest housing noisy kea birds. Everywhere we were so high up that the clouds skirted around the middle of the peaks and created fabulous scenes reminiscent of “Lord Of The Rings”.

It was a hard road to navigate, with repeated hairpin bends, but our driver Darryl negotiated the route with great skill as well as adding to the commentary with sardonic humour. He ensured that we arrived at Milford Sound exactly on time for the 1 pm departure for our hour and a half cruise on the sound complete with packed lunch.

The boat took us all along the west side of the long sound past Mitre Peak standing at 1,682 metres, turned round once it reached the head of the sound at the Tasman Sea, and proceeded all down the east side of the sound including the Stirling Falls. On the early part of the cruise, we were accompanied by a pod of bottle nosed dolphins swimming and jumping in formation alongside the boat. On the late section of the cruise, we sailed very close to a rock where New Zealand fur seals were sunbathing. It was a brilliant trip – and it took our photo count for the holiday to 1,000.

Afterwards two of our group took a flight back from Milford Sound to Queenstown, but the rest of us had to face a long drive back with only one brief rest stop. The return was made palatable by the showing of a film about a New Zealand racing hero called Bert Munro (“The World’s Fastest Indian”). After such a long day, Roger & Vee – accompanied by Andrew – ate dinner at the hotel.


  • Nadine Wiseman

    Hello Roger

    I’m glad you are both enjoying your holiday.

    All those winding roads – not for anyone prone to travel sickness, I can tell you from experience!

    I guess you’ll be going to the restaurant on the top of the cliff near Queenstown, via cable-car? We went to a conference dinner there some years ago.



  • Roger Darlington

    Hi, Nadine. I plan to go there on our last night in Queenstown, not to eat but to see stars!


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