Sounds of New Zealand
Love astounding scenery? New Zealand is a place for you!! Milford Sound has been on my list of places to go for years, and then I found out about Doubtful Sound and had double the pleasure.
The best way to see the sounds is from the water, and there are many companies who are more than happy to take you out on a cruise, either a 2 hour scenic or nature cruise, or if you’re a big spender, an overnight on Doubtful, including a gourmet meal. Since I’m on a budget trip, I took the day cruises, one on each of the sounds.
Milford is definitely the more dramatic of the two, with major wow-factor. They’re both a bit hard to get to, more than slightly off the beaten track, but getting there is half the fun! You can stay back in Queenstown and take a flight or a bus, stay out at Milford if you can get a room, or you can stay in tiny Te Anau and drive out to the cruise terminal. It takes about 2 hours without stopping from Te Anau, which is hard as there are several scenic stops and hikes along the way.
I opted to go on the earliest cruise at 9am as I’d heard it was less crowded, less expensive, and most importantly, better light for photography, which meant leaving at 6:30 to arrive for an 8:30 boarding, and left the scenic stops for on my way back.
It rains over 300 days a year there, so there’s a good chance you’ll get a rainy day, which means the waterfalls will be pouring buckets. Otherwise, a sunny still day means mirror-perfect reflections. I was lucky and had a little of both. The morning out on Milford sound featured deep cobalt water, mountains shrouded in mist mirroring themselves, and bright orange kayaks paddling past giant waterfalls. It was cold on the upper outer deck, but I’d layered up, and it was worth it to see the spectacular beauty of this place.
The Milford Track is a famous 6 day hike, and I would have loved to have done it, but it’s so popular and limited that you have to book at least 6 months in advance, and be prepared to open your wallet as it’s $2000 to go on the guided tour. Otherwise, you can save some money, book the huts yourself, and lug all of your own food in.
On the drive back to Te Anau, where I stayed 3 nights in the YHA hostel, I stopped to see a chasm & waterfalls, walk across a swing bridge, and take a few short hikes. Below are a few photos. Can you believe the colors of the water?!
There are also plenty of places to stop for a scenic picnic!
Doubtful Sound is even harder to get to, so I opted to take the bus to the cruise there and leave the driving to somebody else. I’m always meet interesting people on these excursions, and this time was no exception. Neil & Jacqui are from Wales, but have a house they’re fixing up in Bulgaria and plan to spend 6 months there. They’ve invited me to visit if I end up their way!
Doubtful is the bigger of the sounds, with more gradual hills surrounding it. It was less dramatic, but also beautiful, and we saw an island of fur seals frolicking on the rocks.
Check the weather and dress accordingly. It was summer when I was here, and I still had on a base layer, shirt, fleece, rain jacket, jeans, rain pants, gloves, and a wool beanie hat. Don’t like the cold? Me either, but it was totally worth it.