While planning for my visit to South Island in 2018, I had wanted to stay at least a night or two in the Milford Sound area, but I had to choose between that or a visit to Stewart island, another place that was a priority. So I balanced both by choosing a day trip to Milford Sound from Te Anau and an overnight on Stewart island.
I actually overslept the morning of my Milford Sound tour, due to jet lag and having forgotten to turn on the alarm on my phone. I woke up to knocking on my cottage door at the hostel I was staying at in Te Anau. Quite disoriented, I opened the door not quite understanding why there was someone knocking on my door. A flustered woman said that my tour bus was at the gate to pick me up. I asked her if she could ask them to wait a few minutes for me to get ready. She said she would convey the message but they might not wait. True enough, minutes later, when I made it to the road, I didn’t see any bus. They had left. Terribly disappointed since I was only in Te Anau that day and I had very much wanted to visit Milford Sound, I decided to walk to the Southern Discoveries office and check if there were other options. The staff on duty was the same one that I had met the previous evening, when I had stopped by the office to clarify whether I would be picked for the tour from my hostel or whether I had to come to the office. She calmly replied, “no problem”, when I had explained what had happened. She checked what other tours were going to Milford Sound and when I found out there was one leaving in 2 hours, I was really happy. Without any fuss, she issued me my tickets and asked me to be at the office in two hours. That interaction, the calm and professional manner of the staff member with the right touch of courteous and kind made me like the Southern Discoveries tour operators even before my tour had started.
I decided to get my caffeine fix for the day and went to the nearby Miles High pie shop for an apple pie and coffee.
This time, when the coach bus came along, I was ready and I settled into my seat at the end of the bus to enjoy the scenic drive.
The bus driver stopped the bus in Eglinton Valley and suggested we take a short walk along the boardwalk and admire the views. While there were lots of people on our bus and other buses, since people kept walking, it didn’t feel as crowded as it actually was.
I guess the best way to explore Fjordland National Park would be to have your own vehicle to drive through and where you could take time to hike along some walking trails off the road. The driver did stop at a few points along the way, as photo stop points, but with just enough time to stretch your legs, take in the view for a moment, click some photos and get back on the bus. So at the Tutoko suspension bridge, we didn’t have time to walk down the forest trail to see the chasm waterfall. To reach Milford Sound in time to embark on the Milford Sound cruise was the key factor that prevented us from having much time at the stops but at least, we stopped at some points along the way.
The driver/ guide was also recounting stories along the way of places we passed and the story about how Thomas Gunn swam the river to reach the nearest settlement to get assistance for survivors of a helicopter crash was impressive.
We made it in time for the Milford South lunch cruise and I had a quick lunch so that I could go out onto the deck and enjoy the landscape we passed.
Starting with a view of the Mitre Peak, the cruise was a beautiful experience of Milford Sound.
Despite the cold, I stayed outside through almost the whole cruise, not wanting to miss the sense of happiness I felt whenever I am out on a boat and on water and can smell the sea air around me and the feel of the wind and water lashing against my face. Only during the last segment of the cruise, I decided to go in for some hot coffee.
The return drive to Te Anau was uneventful, without any stops along the way, nor any story narration. I ended the day with a lovely walk around the waterfront in Te Anau.
Milford Sound is a must visit place for any traveler to the South Island.
What was your experience of Milford Sound, if you have been there?