Rudyard Kipling called Milford Sound the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” I have to agree. If you are visiting New Zealand’s South Island, you absolutely must make time for a cruise through one of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever visited. It’s a journey in itself to get there, but one that is well worth the effort, and one that will leave you with beautiful memories to last a lifetime.
Starting from Queenstown early in the morning, I hopped on the bus only somewhat prepared for the long, 4 hour ride. I was tired and more than a little disappointed it was raining. Shortly after we started our journey on SH94, one of the most scenic highways in all of New Zealand, I promptly fell asleep. After a short nap I woke up to find myself in Fiordland National Park. Fiordland is the local name for the southwest corner of New Zealand’s South Island, a World Heritage Site containing 13 fjords and covering 4,800 square miles. Although all of New Zealand is beautiful, driving through the Park is an experience that will awaken all of your senses. Lush green, moss covered forest and crystal clear turquoise waters blanket the landscape and cause oohs and aahs around every turn. We stopped along the way to explore a few picturesque locations, including Mirror Lakes, Knobs Flat, Monkey Creek and The Chasm, making the journey almost as enjoyable and mind-blowing as the destination.
Finally we arrived at the terminal and I caught my first glimpse of Milford Sound while waiting to board the cruise. Rocky cliffs towered high above inky waters and seemed to swallow the oncoming ships into its misty depths. It was a scene from a far away land that only existed in movies or fairy tales. I had never seen anything more beautiful. My excitement was at an all time high as I boarded this ship that would take me deeper into this fairy tale land.
The hour and a half cruise was a breathtaking journey filled with cool, misty air and the smell of nature unspoilt. Around every corner we encountered vibrant green trees clinging to the steep, rocky cliffs that climbed high into the sky.
Every now and then a waterfall would come into view and I thought this must be the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen. But I was wrong. Every next sight was better than the last. And the mist from the rain just added to the mystery and illusion of this magical place. I regretted my earlier grouchiness and thanked my lucky stars that it was raining.
Before making the journey, I had seen countless photos of this stunning place. Every photo I saw made me want to come and experience it even more. But truth be told, after visiting, every photo now pales in comparison to the actual experience of standing on the top deck of the ship, mist swirling around me, trying to hide my camera from the rain but not even really caring about the photos because in the end I was blown away by the beauty of this surreal place. A place that cannot be captured by a photo – although I tried, believe me, I tried. It’s a place that has to be experienced to fully understand. A visit will have a lasting impact on you forever. It’s just one of the many reasons I fell in love with New Zealand.
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