The Majesty of Milford

When people talk of Milford Sound, they often describe the rain, the waterfalls, and the utterly spectacular scenery. When Hung, Markus and I visited the area, we didn’t have the rain, nor many of the waterfalls. Instead we had stunningly clear and sunny weather (a rarity for a place that receives over 7 meters of rain /year) and such amazingly scenic, glorious views of the peaks and surroundings that it really is hard to convey with simple pictures. This is a place that, even though pictures look fantastic, being there is the only way to actually experience the simple majesty of the area. That being said, I’ll do my best with what I took, which was far too many pictures. :)

Getting into Milford Sound is part of the fun. To get there you follow a winding 120km road that cuts through the grand mountain passes. After the first 40km of driving, you start getting the sense you are heading somewhere special.

Being carved by glaciers, the drive for the first part is remarkably flat. That ends about half way into the drive, and things get mountainous and windy.

By the time you are at the Homer Tunnel, sharp mountain peaks have closed in all around.

You have a bit to wait at the tunnel at times (15 minutes!).

The surroundings are just stunning though, so a chance to hop out of the car and snap photos is always welcome.

Once you pop out the other side of the Homer Tunnel, you are just continually treated to beautiful view after view, from small rivulets making their way down the side of cliffs to great open scenery.

We made a quick stop before making it to Milford Sound itself – good to rest my overworked, smoking brakes and to stretch the legs on a short walk to a chasm.

Then, we came to the Sound. Pictures give you an idea, but standing on the shores…it really is something.

Hung and Markus were on a cruise and kayak tour of the Sound, while I stayed behind on land. I’d be walking the Milford Track in March, so I’d get plenty of time with the scenery in a couple of months. Instead, I took a short walk around the wharf and beach area for more pictures.

At that time I had my lunch and retired to the sole café in the area (not really a town here, just a boat launch and hotel) to relax. Less than 30 minutes later, I had decided I’d likely never get a clearer day on the water, so I too hopped on a cruise around the Sound. Everyone said you can’t really appreciate the Sound until you are on the water, and I wanted to find out. Luckily, there are numerous times and boats to choose from, so getting  on the water wouldn’t be an issue.

Shortly before 2pm, I was on a boat headed out onto the Sound, enjoying the stellar sunshine.

And true to word, only 5 minutes in I was thankful I decided to do this trip. The surroundings are just amazing.

Mitre Peak, the most well-known of the peaks in the area, while in view from shore, crept closer and closer, absolutely towering over the water.

Across the Sound was a saddle and waterfall that we’d get a closer look at on our return.

Looking back a ways, and upwards at times. It’s hard to tell scale, but the peaks feel absolutely immense in how they shoot straight up out of the water.

Eventually the winding passage gave way to open ocean.

From the ocean side, you can hardly spot the entrance to Milford Sound at all. When Capt. Cook sailed this area of New Zealand, he didn’t actually discover Milford sound, instead sailing straight on by.

Even closer to the entrance, amongst the shallower tourquoise waters, you are hard pressed to tell that a large opening of water is present.

But it is indeed there.

Returning to see Mitre Peak towering up once again.

One of the two waterfalls still going in the dry weather.

You can just barely make out a group of kayakers at the very bottom of this picture. Hung and Markus was amongst them.

Pretty nice scenery to kayak in!

We passed the 2nd waterfall, near the boat launch, before ending our 2 hours on the Sound.

Having been out there, I can confirm that being on land is nothing compared to being on the sound itself. Just staggering the heights of the peaks that shoot up from the water. I really hope that on one of my 2 or 3 next visits (going to be a common stop for me!) that one time it’s absolutely *pouring* rain. This is one of the few outdoor things that is supposed to be even better with rain, and I want to see the hundreds of waterfalls cascading down off those gigantic peaks. Time will tell if I get to see that or not. Still, I certainly can’t complain of the gorgeous weather we had for a day trip into the Sound. It’s rare to get that kind of weather there, and I’ll take it any time!

On our drive back, there were a couple of cheeky Kea parrots causing mischief outside the Homer Tunnel. These birds are awesome. One decided to take a liking to my car, and its rubber sealing.

Another bird found some stickers on someone’s car interesting and wanted a souvenir. These birds are downright hilarious to watch, they aren’t overly afraid of humans but LOVE to pull at things with their beak.

Returning back to Te Anau, tired from an excellent day, I enjoyed another stellar sunset.

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