Milford Sound Cruise: a tick off the bucket list!

As we sit by the shores of Lake Wakatipu, sipping whisky, and listening to the lulling sound of waves lapping the beach, we reflect on the past three days. It is crazy to think that we left Christchurch so recently, yet here we are, packing in the adventures! In just three days we have seen and done so much; driven over a thousand kilometres, climbed a mountain, swam in glacial pools, AND ticked an item off our Kiwi Bucket List!
When in Milford Sound, booking a cruise is the logical thing to do. They can be a bit pricey (we used to get a deal – great when you are places mid-week and flexible on times). Some people say you are better to simply do a hike – I disagree. If possible, do both; the surrounding tracks can be challenging, but the views rewarding (unfortunately all we saw were clouds from the top of he Gertrude Saddle Track!) where as a trip on one of the boats really gets you among the action. No better way to see the ‘eighth wonder of the World’.

We opted for the morning cruise. Most of the companies depart at around 8:55am, then periodically throughout the day until around 5pm. Prices start at roughly NZ$45. (Check out Jucy)

The air was chilly, and I was glad to have made a dash back to the car for an extra hoodie – but the light was nice, a beautiful day just waiting to bloom.

Having arrived early, we didn’t need to hustle for a good position. We were rewarded with great views of Mitre Peak and Bowen Falls as we set off from the wharf.

Mitre Peak, Rahotu. It is the iconic image of New Zealand’s South Island. When you catch sight of it, with its unique and easily identifiable shape, it is easy to see why. At 1692m, it is one of the World’s tallest mountains to rise directly from the sea bed, its sheer faces creating a spectacular part of the Sound.

I was almost too engrossed in photographing this looming feature to notice the falls to my right.

Bowen Falls, the taller of only two permanent waterfalls in Milford Sound, crashes 161m down to sea level from the valley above. It is rather stunning.

From there, the boat (The Maiden of Milford) nosed her way further out into the sound. We were overtaken by several other vessels, but as our guide, Fijord, said “I’m going to stop here just because I can. What’s the rush?” A seal here, a bird there, the spot where a budding trickle waits for the rain to become a full-blown waterfall, there was much to point out.

The talented skipper navigated us expertly up to the rock face (something I am pretty sure he could do in his sleep by this point) and those right at the bow could brush their fingers against the cold crystalline. If ever you partake in such an activity and are asked if your jacket is waterproof. “Yes.” “I suggest you put your hood up.” listen to the captain and put your hood up. If he has chosen to dunk you under a passing waterfall, trust me, he won’t miss.

The entertaining commentary was a perfect balance of interesting facts and silence, interspersed with commands to ‘get outside and get wet because it is a beautiful day’!

A thorough dousing under Stirling Falls (second permanent waterfall coming in at 146m) finished the cruise off nicely. We disembarked shortly after, a little soggy, but truly satisfied with our experience.

Don’t listen to the Debbie downers who say not to bother, Milford Sound is a breathtaking and unique part of the World, and a two hour cruise helps show off its best side. If, like us, you are on a budget, keep an eye out for deals, and the other eye on the weather. I promise you won’t regret it.

Milford Sound Cruise Tips:

  • It may be a sunny day, but take layers, including a WATERPROOF coat!
  • Although we cannot vouch for other times of day, the morning cruise offered nice lighting and still plenty of time for other activities or travel.
  • Take a camera and a GoPro/phone in a waterproof case… something for under the waterfalls.
  • The bow (front) of the boat is where the action is, but you must not be afraid of getting wet!
  • If you have lovely, expensive camera gear that you want to keep safe, the back of the boat offers a good vantage point.
  • Put your camera down every once in a while, and sit back to enjoy the views!

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