Milford Sound, one of those places that call to the imagination! Before coming to New Zealand, we had no idea what the highlights were. But we did know the iconic image of Milford Sound, as we came across it on Instagram and in travel magazines. So no doubt we wanted to go over there and see it for ourselves during our travels on the Southern Island. The best way to explore this amazing area is by booking a cruise. It is the only way to truly take in the beauty of nature here. That is how we ended up with Cruise Milford.
The easiest way to explore the region is staying in Te Anau, a little city right next to a beautiful lake. From here, it is a 2,5-hour drive up the Milford Highway to Milford Sound. But you won’t be bored along the way so it may take you more time than calculated. There are different stops to explore the stunning nature, from waterfalls to breathtaking views. The journey is equally as beautiful as the destination. Once we reached Milford Sound, we parked the car and walked up to the jetty where the boats leave. Like we said before, you don’t have to take a cruise. You can see the famous view from ashore. But you will be missing a huge part of this sound. You won’t see all its beauty, the waterfalls and just the pleasure of being on a boat amid this breathtaking nature.
One big unstable factor of your visit will be the weather. Milford Sound is a place where it rains a lot, it is one of the wettest spots in New Zealand. So there is a good chance it will be cloudy or raining when you visit. But don’t despair. You might not get the picture that is published everywhere, but your experience will be equally as good or even better. The more it rains, the more waterfalls come down the huge cliffs. Milford Sound truly is an experience, regardless of the weather or day you are coming!
When you arrive at the jetty, different cruise operators have their office. You can buy your tickets there, although it is wiser to book ahead. When we were doing our research for our cruise, we quickly came across Cruise Milford (check out their website here). Thousands of people visit the Sound every day, so you can easily be caught up in a very touristic happening.
Cruise Milford however, is a smaller company, with a smaller boat. Which gives a much more personal touch and feel to the cruise than going along with one of those big vessels. Another thing to consider is timing. A lot of the tour buses arrive for the boats leaving at 1 pm, so if you avoid that, your experience will be much more genuine. Cruise Milford has a tour at 10.45 am, 12.45 pm and 2.45 pm. Sometimes they organise an extra tour at 8.45 am. Be sure to inform if you would like to book that one.
Once we arrived, we looked for the Cruise Milford office, smoothly checked in and walked up to the boat. It is advisable to arrive 20 minutes before departure time. On board, we met the very friendly staff. During our cruise, they were very helpful, answered our questions and pointed out nice spots in the fjord. We were offered coffee, tea, water and delicious cookies during our entire cruise which was a big hit with our kids of course (and daddy as well 😉). Our cruise took about two hours.
The cruise took us all the way up the Sound until we reached the open Tasman Sea. Milford Sound is a part of Fiordland, one of the big regions in New Zealand. Fiordland has different sounds, all formed over the ages by glaciers. Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound are the most accessible and known ones.
Going up and down the sound, we saw some fantastic views, beautiful cliffs, stunning scenery and a lot of waterfalls. When we were there, it wasn’t raining, but luckily there are a few waterfalls that go one all year round. The boat of Cruise Milford actually goes so close to them, that if you want to, you can stand under the waterfall. We didn’t try it, although the kids wanted us to. But one of the friendly girls of the crew happily showed us! Luckily she wore a raincoat and trousers, as she was soaking wet! I am glad we didn’t listen to our kids 😊. Then the sun came out, and we saw the rainbows in the fog of the waterfalls!
In Milford Sound, it is possible to spot different species of wildlife. Sometimes dolphins, but you have to be lucky then. They travel between the sounds, looking for fish. So every week or twice a week, they pay Milford Sound a visit. We didn’t see them, but we spotted seals! You can see them very easily from the boat, while they are resting on the rocks, having a little sun bad.
The oat of Cruise Milford has one of those beautiful old wooden steer wheels in the steering hut. The captain was so friendly to let our kids experience to be a sailor for a minute. Something they very much appreciated! And then sadly, our cruise came to an end. But we had a lovely time!
After a lovely trip up and down Milford Sound we arrived back at the jetty. We absolutely enjoyed our tour with Cruise Milford and can highly recommend it. The crew was great and gave us lots of information on the sound and its wildlife. The boat is big enough, without being huge which gives it a very cosy and comfortable feeling. We didn’t feel like just another tourist. You can easily sit outside or hide for the waterfalls or rain inside. And let’s not forget the delicious cookies accompanied by some coffee, tea or water! It was a great day out! And just when you think your day is over, you can drive back through one of the most beautiful parts of the country along the Milford Highway!