Visiting New Zealand for the first time is never complete without a cruise along Milford Sound. Widely recognized as one of the most beautiful places in the world, it was on top of our must-visit places in New Zealand. Contrary to its name, Milford Sound is actually a fiord! It’s narrower than a sound and it was created by a glacier. So does that mean climate change created fiords? I don’t really know…
Our New Zealand trip was made possible by our InterCity FlexiPass. Basically, it’s a pass that lets us use any of the InterCity buses including their Sightseeing Tour Routes, which has a Milford Sound Day Trip from Queenstown! Our return bus journey was facilitated by AwesomeNZ, and the actual cruise was done by Jucy. Only the return bus ride was included in our FlexiPass so we had to purchase the cruise as an add-on when booking the trip online. Since our pass was hours-based, a total of 10:25 hrs was deducted to it. Then, the add-on for the cruise cost us NZD 75.00 per person. Total cost (bus + cruise), if we were to convert the hours on the FlexiPass (NZD 8.36~ per hour), would approximately be NZD 162.00 per person.
Queenstown to Te Anau
The journey started at 7:00 AM in Queenstown. Along the way, we got to enjoy stunning views of the landscapes of Fiordland National Park. The first stop was Te Anau to have our morning snacks and board more passengers. When booking this tour, you can choose to start either from Queenstown or Te Anau.
Our next stop was along the road near the filming location of “Misty Mountains” from Lord of the Rings, Eglington Valley. I didn’t watch it so I don’t know if it’s true, but all I cared about was to go down the bus and see the mountains outside. In front of us was a never-ending stretch of yellow grass (? or some sort of grain plant) and running alongside it is a snow-capped mountain range. The mountains have dark green trees from the bottom that abruptly stop a quarter of the way, and it’s all snow and rocks from there. It was so beautiful in a way that the trees look so healthy and the snow looks so clean. Definitely a great place to begin our journey.
Along the road, we would drive by lakes and the guide would tell some backstory about it and that they mirror the landscape around us, especially on a clear day. But one lake that is consistent in mirroring the views was our next stop, appropriately called “Mirror Lakes”. A short section on the road-side of the lake has a wooden trail with multiple viewpoints. We were dropped off at one side, and when we exit the other side of the trail, the bus would be waiting for us. The trail was quick, max 15 minutes with lots of picture opportunities. The last viewpoint is where you would want to stay longer though. It has the clearest water and the best, unobstructed, view of the mountains beyond.
Glass Ceiling Bus
There were a couple more stops with great views, but the most noteworthy in this part of the journey was the see-through ceiling of our bus! As we got closer and closer to the mountains, we could appreciate the glass-ceiling more because it showed us a panoramic view of the outside. There are moments when we were so close to the mountains that all we see on the bus windows are rocks or trees. But when you look above instead, the snow-capped peaks are showing off against the clear bright sky.
After going through the quarter-mile-long Homer Tunnel, I was unprepared for the view of Cleddau Valley. It was hands-down the best landscape along this bus ride to Milford Sound. I can’t even describe it properly, I was just overwhelmed and in awe.
Start of the cruise
After the long but visually pleasing 6-hour bus journey, we finally arrived. The ride was just half of what we’ve seen, and at this point, my expectations were high for Milford Sound.
While coming down the bus, the guide handed us our cruise tickets. There really wasn’t any time for waiting, because after taking a toilet break, we were already boarding the boat.
We went straight to the open, top part of the boat for the views. There were no food vouchers on our tickets, so we had to buy our own snacks in there. We got our food and ate them quickly in the first 3 minutes of the ride, so we could have the rest of the time just enjoying the views and taking pictures.
The route of the boat was kind of in a circular path, so we cruised along one side of the fiord and went back by the other side. Considering that, I’d highly suggest you take in everything and capture them as much as possible because you might not be able to, on the way back.
The highlight of the cruise was when the boat went almost directly under Stirling Falls. It was a very cold and windy day, but we went in and got close to the railings to get a splash of some glacier water. I think the guide said that the water of that falls has healing powers or something. I forgot the exact thing, but it was along those lines. Maybe that’s why I didn’t get cold after getting wet there, haha!
Before we knew it, the cruise was over. 1 hour 45 minutes of pure amazement. It went by so fast because we were constantly seeing something interesting. There were no boring moments, we were enjoying every bit of it. We would have wanted more time, but still, it was enough for us to fully appreciate Milford Sound and realize it is truly one of the most beautiful places on the planet.
Back to Queenstown
The ride back was pretty much the same, except for the stopovers. We only made stops for toilet and food breaks. But the mountains and lakes were still there and they were still as stunning as the first time we saw them. We also watched the movie “The World’s Fastest Indian” about a New Zealander with a really fast Indian motorcycle. It was fun, and it gave us a little peek of small-town life in New Zealand. Since there were fewer stops, we arrived at Queenstown in no time.
Day Trip Itinerary
- 7:05 AM – Depart Queenstown
- 9:40 AM – Te Anu stopover
- 10:33 AM – Eglington Valley
- 10:46 AM – Mirror Lakes
- 11:08 AM – Toilet stop
- 11:27 AM – Lake Gunn
- 12:02 AM – Another stopover along the road
- 12:30 PM – Cleddau Valley
- 1:10 PM – Arrive at Milford Sound
- 1:20-3:05 PM – Milford Sound Cruise
- 3:15 PM – Depart Milford Sound
- 5:00 PM – Te Anu stopover
- 7:35 PM – Arrive at Queenstown
Even though the cruise was just a fraction of the day, it was totally worth the long journey. The landscape was unbelievable and the weather was great throughout. If I were to describe Milford Sound in one word, it would be: Peaceful. It was just so, beautifully, amazingly, unbelievably, insert-another-adverb-ly… peaceful.