Do you know what people love to say about Milford Sound? That it’s the Eight Wonder of the World. And you’re absolutely right when you say that a lot of other places around the world get that exact same name. However, after visiting Milford Sound on a Milford Sound Cruise with JUCY I absolutely get where it’s coming from. And you know? Those people in New Zealand are right. Milford Sound is one of the best known fiords on the South Island of New Zealand and it is absolutely breathtaking. Not to mention the road towards Milford Sound.
We explored both the North Island and the South Island in New Zealand completely on our own. But when we arrived in Queenstown, we didn’t feel like driving our own van anymore for some days. After driving for thousands and thousands kilometers on curvy roads and in the mountains, we preferred to book a tour rather than driving up Fiordland on our own. It was especially Daan his wish, after driving the whole time. So we decided to join a Milford Sound Cruise with JUCY Cruise. A day trip that took us from Queenstown to Milford Sound and back in twelve hours. But what an amazing ride it was.
On a freezing cold morning in the city centre of Queenstown we were waiting on our coach to join the JUCY Vista Tour. With this tour you actually drive towards Milford Sound in a glass roof coach, so you can enjoy the surroundings even more. We were still a bit sleepy when we hopped on the coach, but the weather was looking great and we looked extremely forward to our day. Milford Sound was one of the places in New Zealand we definitely wanted to visit. And after spending seven months in this incredible country, the day we would visit the fiord was finally there.
Fun fact: the straight line distance between Queenstown and Milford Sound is just 70 kilometers but you have to drive at least 280 kilometers to actually get there. Blame the mighty Southern Alps for it, because you have to drive around them. (Don’t blame them too hard as they are stunning to see along the way.) Our first stop on our tour was Te Anau and after a short break there, we made our way to Milford Sound by driving the Milford Road.
I knew that the road to Milford Sound is known as a road with amazing scenery. But nothing could prepare me for the real beauty of it. Somehow I was so surprised. It was just stunning! We made a first stop along this way at Eglinton Valley, a beautiful valley created by glaciers a long time ago. If you are a fan of Lord of the Rings, you might recognize it from The Fellowship of the Ring!
Our second stop was at the Mirror Lakes. After a failed attempt to visit the reflective water of Lake Matheson one week earlier, we were lucky this time. You could see the reflection of the mountains really clear in the water. It looked awesome! Our next stop at Monkey Creek was also incredible. From this point the mountains are getting even more impressive and we saw more and more snow on top of them. I can tell you: driving around in a glass roof coach is so worth it. We almost got an extra passenger on board at Monkey Creek: a kea. But the bird decided last minute to stay behind in Fiordland.
The road to Milford Sound is not easy to drive, you will notice that especially after Monkey Creek. This road gets closed often due to snowfall and avalanche danger in winter and spring. A few times we passed three week old avalanches that nearly touched the road. You also have to drive through the impressive Homer Tunnel to actually reach Milford Sound. This tunnel is a 1.2 kilometer long tunnel built under the Darran Mountains. It wasn’t really easy to build this tunnel. They literally had to find a way through granite.
The tunnel is built 945 meter above sea level and from there its just 18 curvy kilometers to reach the harbor to take a Milford Sound Cruise. So I might not have to explain you how it feels to drive that road. But at the moment you get out of the tunnel and you see the mountains again? Mind-blowing I would say.
Read as well: How to buy a backpacker car in New Zealand
It was getting close to 1 pm when we reached the harbor of Milford Sound. We were definitely not the only ones who wanted to see the mighty fiord that spreads out until the Tasman Sea. The fiord itself has a length of 16 kilometers, with depths of 450 meters and the highest peak around 1.692 meters. Pretty impressive I would say. Most of the peaks are around 1.200 meters. If you imagine sailing underneath them while being on sea level, you might get an idea of how impressive it actually is.
We got on board of the Queen of Milford – a great boat to explore Milford Sound with – got a great lunch and found a spot next to a window. We straight away regretted our seat as the best way to enjoy Milford Sound is definitely outside. So we finished our lunch and walked upstairs to the upper deck to have a 360 degrees view of the fiord. From here we enjoyed the steep rocks, the waterfalls, the snow-topped mountains and all the green everywhere. The day before we went to Doubtful Sound, another fiord close to Te Anau. For a moment I was afraid that Milford Sound would be some kind of repetition from the day before. Maybe even a disappointment after seeing Doubtful Sound. But that was not the case at all (how could I even have thought that!?), as it was really impressive and an adventure on its own.
We sailed for almost two hours through Milford Sound. And those two hours went by so incredibly fast. In two hours we sailed towards the Tasman Sea and back. And we were so lucky. It often happens that clouds are covering the fiord partially, but at the moment we were there it was pretty sunny (the clouds came in exactly when we finished the tour!). The sun was shining on all the rocks, the water and the trees. Sea lions where sleeping and playing on the rocks. And if you are lucky you can even spot some penguins and dolphins.
The Queen of Milford made her way through the fiord on a slow pace and got so close to the rocks. It even got really close to a waterfall, which was a beautiful experience. Way too fast we found ourselves sitting on the coach again on the way back, and we enjoyed the Milford Road for one last time. This Milford Sound Cruise with JUCY was an incredible New Zealand experience for us.
I wrote this article in collaboration with JUCY Cruise. JUCY is an awesome company that organizes cruises to Milford Sounds. They also have hostels and car rentals across New Zealand, Australia and the United States.
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