The famous fjord, the greatest site in New Zealand, an 8th Wonder of the World…call it what you want, Milford Sound lives up to its good name. We drove into Fjordland National Park at night and all we could see was the silhouettes of massive mountains, faintly lit by a starry sky. The next day held high hopes for our kayaking expedition through the Sound and hikes through the gorges, forests, waterfalls, and lakes. We pulled into Deer Flat campground, put our $12 in the honor box, picked a spot on a river bend, had a glass of wine and sweet dreams of the adventure to come.
Sunrise revealed the mountains around us, the teal hue in the river, and a thick beech forest. We had to meet our kayak outfitters Sea Kayak Fjordland at 9am but we couldn’t leave before we had a hearty meal in this camper’s heaven.
Driving the Milford Road made us feel like we were in toy car, dwarfed by 5,000-foot peaks. Our mouths were agape the entire ride as we ascended to the Homer Tunnel. Until it was completed, the only travel options to reach the sound were the four-day long Milford Track or a boat along the coast…both options are still available, if time is on your side.
It was raining as we drove towards the mouth of the fjord, which you would think would be a shame, but this is what brings thousands of waterfalls to life. Trickles and cascades emerge from the rock face and draw your attention to the mountain’s rich texture, vegetation, and ever-changing landscape.
We skidded in to the Sea Kayak Fjordland orientation as our guide was describing our upcoming trip into Milford Sound. “It’s going to be ‘sweet as’,” he said numerous times. That is Kiwi slang for something so awesome, it has no comparison. As we began our four-hour paddle between the majestic mountains, hanging glaciers, and gushing waterfalls…we realized his choice phrasing.
In just 15 minutes on the water we arrived at Lady Bowman Falls. Watching the raging river drain into the sea and feeling its power push us backwards, inspired us to paddle harder, get closer, and bask in its spray.
The Fjordland mountains are young and still have growth spirits that regularly set off earthquakes and tree slides. Trying to cling to the cliff, trees spread their roots into every small crevasse until their weight or a jolt sends the rock, tree, and everything in its path crashing down.
We stopped for lunch on a beach and our first “Milford Blue Cloud” appeared. More “blue clouds” appeared, then a rainbow, then a double rainbow stretching from one edge of the fjord to the other!
We could have marveled at Milford Sound all day but there was sooo much more to see of Fjordland National Park. Our kayak guide gave us few suggestions to make the most of our time and The Chasm was at the top of his list. A ten-minute tramp brought us to this powerful waterfall, churning from pool to pool, smoothing the rocks into deep bowls.
We’d heard about the infamous “Cheeky Kea,” a big parrot-like bird with a mischievous penchant for chewing the rubber off car windows, breaking in, and eating the upholstery. We thought this sounded ridiculous, then we saw it happen. Thankfully the owner saw it too and promptly shooed the brazen bird away.
On our way out of the park, we snuck in a few more hikes and made countless photo stops. You’ll have to see our Milford Sound slideshow for all the gems, but we had to share this one from Mirror Lake. This water is so reflective here that they printed the sign upside-down to prove it. A park ranger somewhere is still patting himself on the back for this one.