Milford Sound – A Must Do?

Milford Sound is one of the top things to see in New Zealand. It is a fiord set on the southwest coast of the South Island and part of Fiordland National Park. Even with the popularity getting to Milford Sounds is not an easy feat. We were coming from Queenstown and the drive was around 4 hours. There are some tours that you can book into which include a bus ride there but then a flight back to Queenstown to lessen the travel time. The saying goes that you should see Milford Sound twice – once while sunny and the other when it’s pouring rain. We had a beautiful, sunny, clear day for our trip. There were no complaints for our luck with the weather, however I do understand how going whist it’s raining would also be ideal – this would create hundreds of cascading waterfalls throughout. 

The best way to access Milford Sound is via a boat cruise. There are a number of cruises throughout the day or you can do an overnight cruise as well. There’s options to kayak, dive, and hike in the area. I was most surprised by how massive Milford Sound was – it wasn’t just a body of water, but a body of water enclosed by massive surrounding walls. These “walls” or cliffs and valleys were a result of the movement of ancient glaciers. There’s a section of the land where airplanes are not permitted to fly above and the area has been restored to pre-human interaction. Two permanent waterfalls flow regardless of the weather. One of these waterfalls, Lady Bowen Falls, is 162 meters high and provides water and electricity to the surrounding area. 

I really liked Milford Sounds, but common to the reoccurring theme of the South Island I felt like I didn’t have enough time here. I don’t think the trip we made out to Milford was particularly worth it.  If you have a lot of time and want to dedicate a full day to coming to Milford then go, but if you are limited I think this is one activity you could skip. Checking the weather and road conditions before going is very important. A few weeks after my trip here everything was flooded.

Accommodation – Gunn’s Camp

Rather than driving all the way back to Queenstown we stayed at Gunn’s Camp for the evening after visiting Milford Sound. Originally this camp was built for the married workers making the Hollyford-Okuru Road back in the 1930s. Their website says “modern comforts left behind” and that is totally accurate. There’s no cellphone service or wifi and we had to pay for the stay with cash. During the day the camp is powered sunlight and a generator, which is then shut off at 10pm. That means no electricity or power once it’s off. The showers were also heated by fire.

We were assigned two cabins – one held 12 and the other 6, but then the cabins were split in half so even though there were 6 people in my cabin the room only held three. We had a group dinner this night and then played cards until the generator turned off.

Would I recommend a stay here? Maybe if you really wanted something different and remote, but it wasn’t my favorite spot.

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