The weather forecast was not good for today but we still wanted to see Milford Sound and Peter was very anxious to do a little of the famous Milford Track hike (tramp.)
It is a long drive and when we left Te Anau, the sky was still a light grey. By the time we reached the Sound, it was definitely a darker grey and the rain was beginning.
I confess I wimped out on the “hiking in the rain” agenda and sweet-talked Peter into taking a Milford Sound boat cruise (yes, another one.) It ended up being a good call because shortly after the boat departed, the rain started in earnest. Fortunately the outdoor area on the boat was covered by a roof so it didn’t matter all that much (there were two lovely indoor lounges but sitting inside makes me very seasick, so I’m definitely an outside rider!)
Milford is very different to Doubtful. For one thing, there’s a hopping tourist business at the entrance to the Sound. There is a tour boat terminal with about 6 docks and parking for up to 60 tour buses! And yes, there was always at least one other boat visible out on the water.
And once you get out into the sound, it’s also very different to Doubtful. The Milford channel curves around and about so the views are more contained than the long views down Doubtful. With Milford, it is hard to see beyond the very steep granite cliffs that rise so high immediately at the water’s edge. So there are not the deep views inland over varying mountain ranges that we saw with Doubtful.
Despite all that, Milford Sound is more dramatic. It’s hard to understand why, but certainly the sides of the Sound are much closer together, much higher and very much steeper than Doubtful. So you feel more like the landscape is on top of you, that you can actually reach out and touch it. And the significantly misty weather today also added its own drama to the scene!
Due to its narrow curving structure, Milford Sound is much less visible from the Tasman Sea than Doubtful. In fact, when our friend Captain James Cook sailed by, he didn’t even notice it went inland. He thought it was simply a sandy beach along the shoreline, and noted his map accordingly. No-one was ever the wiser until almost 50 years later when another explorer went by and was accidentally blown inland and discovered the Sound! He named it after the town in England near his home.
It rained constantly through most of our Tour but there was an upside to that. During a rainfall, and apparently only when it’s actually raining, the sides of the cliffs are covered with long, thin, incredibly picturesque waterfalls. Today we saw many of them. (The other upside is that we weren’t out hiking and soaked to the skin!)
Peter was able to give me 3 of his Milford pictures for this post. Enjoy!
Mitre Peak which overlooks the entrance to Milford Sound.