Milford Sound sits within Fiordland National Park in the southwest of New Zealand’s South Island.
The length of Milford Sound is around 16 kilometers (9.94 miles) from the head of the fiord to the open sea, and in places is up to 400 meters (1,312 feet) deep. It is the only fiord in New Zealand that is accessible by road which takes you through a one way tunnel, through the belly of the hill. As you wait for your turn to enter the tunnel, look out for cheeky Kea birds - they are well know as "the clown of the mountains", are very curious and are notorious for pulling rubber parts off cars.
The whole location is surrounded by steep cliffs and dense rainforest, making it practically unspoiled - a piece of untouched paradise. In fact, the entrance to Milford Sound was so well hidden from view from the open ocean that in the 18th Century even the famous explorer Captain Cook managed to miss the entrance to the fiord not once.... but twice!
Rain, hail or shine (okay, maybe not the hail), Milford Sound is truly mesmerising with its beautiful surrounds, dark waters and magnificent waterfalls. It’s often referred to as the 8th wonder of the world and it’s not hard to see why. In 1990 Milford Sound, along with the rest of Fiordland, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The west coast of the South Island is notorious for its high rainfall, and Milford Sound is no exception. It rains, on average, 182 days a year. It is the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand, and also one of the wettest places in the world. And guess what, we managed to get an especially wet day!
Thankfully, when it’s pouring with rain, the waterfalls that surround the fiord are at their best. As the rain increases, the waterfalls reach their peak and the water thunders down the face of the cliffs. Some of the falls start so high up, they never hit the water, instead the water is carried away by the wind and dispersed into mist.
Now you may have noticed that I keep saying fiord instead of sound. Early European settlers named this place Milford Sound – but this isn't the case. Despite its name, Milford Sound is not a sound at all, but actually a fiord.
What’s the difference you ask? A sound is formed when a river valley is flooded by the sea and a fiord is created by the erosion of a glacier. As the ice melted in Milford, it left behind lakes like this which met the rising sea to create the fiord.
It’s hard to think that fifty million years ago, this whole area was actually at the bottom of the sea! The land gradually shifted and raised due to movement between tectonic plates. Two million years ago visitors to Milford Sound would have been standing on dry land - a totally different landscape to what you see today.
You can visit Milford Sound on a day tour or stay the night. The boat cruise is a no-brainer but there are a number of other activities on offer, including scenic flights, kayaking and even scuba diving.
If you are wanting a particular weather condition, I would recommend staying a couple of nights in order to have the best chance of this. I've seen it in the wet with the waterfalls at their best - I now want to see it on a clear, winters day with snow on the peaks.