Milford Sound Cruise
A cruise around Milford or Doubtful Sounds (actually, fiords) is one of the must-do's in New Zealand. I found a decent deal for the Milford Sound on bookme.co.nz website so that was the one I was going to do. Three German hitchhikers I picked up the day before on my way to Te Anau decided to join me, so off we went in the wee hours of the morning.
Te Anau To Milford Sound
We decided to go for the first sailing at 9am to avoid the hordes of tourist buses that get there for 11am and 1pm cruises. Even though Milford Sound is just over 100km away from Te Anau, our drive took us two hours through the mountainous terrain. While on the way, the weather did not look promising with low overcast turning into dense fog up high, but we pressed on. We made a quick stop at the Mirror Lake (more of a pond) to snap a few pictures of mountainous reflections before the ducks distorted the surface.
Real Journeys Cruise
Getting there about forty minutes before our departure left us a bit of time to wonder around the cruise terminal. There were about five different companies operating the cruises with Mitre Peak having the smallest boat and departing first. The Real Journeys boats are the biggest, theoretically fitting up to 416 people, but we had about 60 for our morning departure. With two decks of seating plus a deck below and an observation deck above, there was plenty of space. Coffee and tea were provided free of charge as well as some good commentary by the captain throughout the cruise. This is another benefit of the early cruise - the only commentary was in English while they have up to five different commentaries going in different languages during the day for all the tourist busses.
The weather improved only a bit so we were still dealing with a pretty low overcast, which is actually the norm for the sound. A few curious facts mentioned by the captain:
- Milford Sound is 15 kilometers/9.5 miles long and up to 327 meters/1000 feet deep
- At the narrower passage, the winds may reach up to 180 kilometers per hour/111 miles per hour
- Twenty separate ice ages have carved out the Milford Sound
On the way back, the weather improved quite a bit so we were able to stop at a few more look out spots, walk around at Chasm to see some cool rock carvings made by the river, and hike around to lake Gunn. Something to consider for the future is that there is absolutely no food, drinks, gas stations, or ATMs between Milford Sound and Te Anau so we were quite hungry and thirsty by the time we got back. We also stopped at the Mirror Lake again, but the reflections were not nearly as impressive as they were in the morning.