With spectacular waterfalls, dramatic sheer cliffs, lush rainforest and piercing blue water, New Zealand’s Milford Sound is the pinnacle of natural beauty.
Nestled on the south west of New Zealand’s South Island, Milford Sound’s dramatic primeval landscape is a particularly special creation of nature.
Subsequently it comes as no surprise that a visit to this secluded piece of paradise is a highlight for both New Zealanders and international visitors alike. Consistently rated as one of the most beautiful places in the world by travel writers and publications, it was judged the world’s top travel destination in a 2008 TripAdvisor survey. Rudyard Kipling also once described Milford Sound as the ‘eighth natural wonder of the world’.
The most recognised fiord in the region, Milford Sound runs for approximately 16km from the open Tasman sea to the head of the fiord. Close to a million tourists visit every year to marvel at the geological forces that during the Ice Age created sheer cliffs which plunge into the fiord at depths of 100-450 metres.
Despite the proliferation of natural elements which are each striking in their own right, many believe that Milford Sound’s crowning jewel is in fact the impressive Mitre Peak. Rising up to 1,693m, the prominent mountain actually consists of five individual summits and looks particularly magnificent when it stands proud snowcapped in winter.
While some argue that the two hour journey to Milford Sound taking the alpine Milford Road from Te Anau (119km) is the best way for the region to unveil its beauty, it is in fact flying from Queenstown that offers a breathtaking and unrivalled vista that only can only be experienced at altitude.
Milford Sound Scenic Flights offers the best of both worlds with its fly-cruise-fly combo package which lets you absorb the sheer scale and beauty of the landscape from both the sky and on the water.
Elbowing for a good vantage point is never a problem with this reputable tour operator as every passenger gets their own window seat on the plane. The perfect solution for those arguments about who is going to sit in the aisle seat!
Departing from Queenstown, the flight to Milford Sound offers a distinctive advantage by offering unobstructed views of the other picturesque lakes, mountains and fiords in the World Heritage Fiordland National Park.
Once you arrive at Milford Sound, a leisurely two hour boat trip lets you soak up the scenery from up close and explore all of the nooks and crannies of the fiord. On a fine day, the mirrored surface of the water reflects the surrounding majestic peaks leaving you with an indelible and unforgettable image.
The region’s unique eco-system makes Milford Sound one of the wettest places in New Zealand – raining 182 days of the year. The result of this weather pattern is a breathtaking underwater environment which supports many thriving marine wildlife including seals, penguins and dolphins which can often be seen from the cruise. Milford Sound also sustains the world’s biggest population of around seven million black coral trees, some of which are up to 200 years old and form a majority of the lush rainforest which surround the fiord.
During periods of high rainfall, a deluge of temporary waterfalls bore down from cliff faces, creating a magical spectacle along the fiord and the Milford Road. There are also two permanent waterfalls year-round; Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls.
On the return leg back to Queenstown, the flight path takes you over Sutherland Falls and shimmering glaciers of Fiordland’s National Park before cruising back over the Southern Alps and Lake Wakatipu.
Milford Sound is named after Milford Haven in Wales while the Maori name is ‘Piopiotahi’ which means a single piopio, a now extinct thrush-like bird. This dates back to a Maori legend about when Maui attempted to gain immortality for mankind. When he died as a result, it is alleged that a piopio flew to Milford Sound in mourning.
A visit to Milford Sound will leave you safe with the knowledge that you have experienced one of the most pristine and naturally beautiful destinations in the world.
Where is Milford Sound?
295km from Queenstown (4 hours 15 mins drive time)
121km from Te Anau (2 hours 15 mins drive time)
Milford Sounds Scenic Flights (Fly-Cruise-Fly)
Duration – approximately 4 hours (prices vary depending on season)
For more information visit www.milfordflights.co.nz