We had originally planned to spend the day leisurely making our way
from Wanaka to Te Anau which takes about 3 hours. We were going
to stop in Queenstown and some other spots along the way, but the day
before we had heard a weather report that indicated a storm system was
moving in and Friday was going to be rainy. Our original plan
called for a cruise on Milford Sound on Friday. Milford Sound was
one of the major activities that had caused us to want to go to New
Zealand and weather would play a major factor in our enjoyment of
it. We woke up to sunshine and all agreed, we would hop into the
van and drive straight through to Milford Sound and try to get on a
cruise. The drive from Wanaka to Milford Sound is about 4.5 hours
which was the last thing that Tyler wanted to do after spending quite a
bit of time in the van the day before. He basically fell asleep
in the van the night before and woke up in the morning and we got back
in the van for the long drive. Needless to say he wasn't very
excited about it and it was probably the worst he behaved on the trip.
I did have enough time in the morning to notice a beautiful sunrise on
the mountains and run out and grab a couple of quick pictures.
The mountains across Lake Wanaka
We drove for a couple of hours to get to Te Anau and stopped to grab a
quick bite to eat at a pie shop. We called to make sure we could
still get tickets for a cruise that day and once we found out that we
could, we started the drive to Milford Sound. We were in a hurry
to get to Milford Sound to make the upcoming cruise, so we didn't stop
to take any pictures along the way. I will say this, the drive
from Te Anau to Milford Sound is fantastic and one of the most scenic
roads we drove on in New Zealand. That also equates to not making
the best time on it. We did get to the cruise terminal on time
and were able to get tickets for the cruise that was leaving in about
15 minutes. We had just enough time to get ready before it was
time to board the boat. The tour tickets were $152.50NZ for the 3
of us. There are several different cruise providers with various
different tour operators. We chose one of the smaller boats
because they claimed they could get closer to the sights, but I'm not
really sure that it makes any difference. We did learn some
interesting facts on the tour including the fact that Milford Sound is
actually a fjord and not a sound. There are many fjords in the
area that are labeled sounds, but they decided to name the national
park Fjordland National Park. Apparently the people that
"discovered" the sounds didn't have a good grasp on the difference
between a fjord and a sound. For your reference, a sound is
formed by running water like a river, while a fjord is formed by
Aboard the boat waiting to start the tour
The first major sight that you see upon leaving the cruise terminal is
Bowen Falls. This is quite an impressive and large falls and it
sets a high mark for the scenery right at the beginning of the
cruise. Unfortunately, due to the time of day and the lighting
conditions, I had a hard time getting many good pictures from our
cruise, but I posted a bunch anyway because the scenery is so amazing
that even bad pictures are fun to look at. You can't really get a
feel for the scale of if from pictures, but it is 528 ft tall.
After we got past the falls, we turned around to the front of the boat
and saw these views.
Spectacular views from the very start of the cruise
We got started on our way down the sound and got to just relax and
enjoy the scenery and the gorgeous weather.
Us enjoying the scenery
In addition to Bowen Falls, there is another large waterfall that you
get to see on the cruise, Stirling Falls. Stirling is not as tall
as Bowen Falls, it is "only" 508 ft tall. I was able to get a good
picture of another boat by the falls, which helps you to see that
actual scale of the falls.
The scenery never quits on this cruise. I have to say it is the
single most spectacular place I have ever been to in my life. I
think my parents might agree with that too, and they've been to a lot
more places than I have.
More views in Milford Sound
We even got to see a few fur seals. At this point in the trip,
fur seals weren't as exciting since we had seen so many of them already
in New Zealand.
Fur seals on the rocks
The tour continued out towards the mouth of the sound.
More views heading out to the ocean
Everyone was having a great time soaking up the sun and the views.
Enjoying the cruise
The cliffs gradually started to get smaller as we neared the mouth of
Almost to the ocean
We when finally made it out into the ocean, there were some great views
looking back toward where we had just been.
I couldn't stop myself from taking lots of pictures of the islands and
the mountains that you can see from the ocean.
Views near the mouth of the sound
This shows the mouth of the sound from just a little ways out in the
ocean. Notice how hard it is to tell that it is even there.
It was amazing how close you had to be to the inlet of the sound before
you could actually tell that it was there. It disappeared quickly
you left the area. It is very narrow compared to how far it
Mouth of Milford Sound
While the boat was spending a few minutes turning around, someone on
the ship noticed a shark out in the ocean. This was the first
time I've ever seen a shark out in any ocean, but unfortunately we
didn't get to see much of it and it was pretty far away. It
quickly swam below the surface and we never saw it again.
Like I said, I took lots of pictures.
Tyler and me at the bow
We turned around an headed back towards the cruise dock.
Thin, but tall, non
On the way back, we were promised a much nicer view of Stirling Falls,
our captain did not disappoint.
Stirling Falls ~ 508ft tall
Looking in towards the cruise ship docks. I can't really describe
how massive these peaks actually are, without a reference point in the
picture your eyes just don't comprehend the scale of everything.
Did I mention that the captain promised us a better view of Stirling
Falls? How about actually going under it? We didn't
actually get to the main stream of the falls, but we were definitely
under the spray. We had to run inside to get under the glass or
we would have been soaked. In the last picture you can see some
kayakers that headed up right under the falls. I would love to
come back some day and do a kayak tour in the area. It must be
Stirling Falls up close and personal
We were getting near the end of the cruise and they told us some more
information about the peaks in the area. Mitre Peak at 5522ft is
the world's tallest sea cliff. It drops more than a mile from its
summit straight down into Milford Sound. Clearly at this point
I'm running out of adjectives to describe the area. I can't
stress this enough, but if you ever go to New Zealand, please book a
Milford Sound cruise!
Some of the largest peaks in Milford Sound
At the end of the cruise, we got a few more views of Bowen Falls.
Bowen Falls ~ 528ft
It was hard to get off the boat, I wanted to stay on and immediately go
on another cruise. Since they made us get off the boat, we got
back in the van and headed back towards Te Anau. We took our time
on the way back and stopped at a few places. The first place we
stopped at was called The Chasm. It is a neat little area with an
interesting rock formation formed by a river. It is only a short
loop hike from the parking lot and well worth the stop if you have the
The lush foliage was a drastic change from the mountains and water of
Views along The Chasm trail
The road between Te Anau and Milford Sound goes through a long one way
tunnel called the Homer Tunnel. Be prepared to wait for the
traffic light there, but we got lucky and didn't have to wait very long
in either direction. Driving down the road, we saw a nice little
waterfall on the side of the road. We stopped and got out to take
a closer look. The water was a beautiful blue.
Waterfall on the side of the road.
We made it back to Te Anau and had dinner at a neat little fish and
chips trailer near the lake. We check into our room for the
night. We had a 3 bedroom cabin at the Birchwood Cottages
which very affordable at $170NZ for the five of us. The day
didn't work out exactly as we had originally planned, but the great
weather we had at Milford Sound more than made up for the changed
itinerary and long drive.
Continue to Day 12
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