Milford Sound is a fjord in the south west of New Zealand’s South Island, within Fiordland National Park and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site.
It has previously been judged the world’s top travel destination in an international survey (the 2008 Travellers’ Choice Destinations Awards by TripAdvisor) and is acclaimed as New Zealand’s most famous tourist destination. Rudyard Kipling once called it the eighth Wonder of the World.
Milford Sound runs 15 kilometres inland from the Tasman Sea at Dale Point – the mouth of the fiord – and is surrounded by sheer rock faces that rise 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) or more on either side.
Among the peaks are ‘The Elephant’ at 1,517 metres (4,977 ft), said to resemble an elephant’s head and ‘The Lion’, 1,302 metres (4,272 ft), in the shape of a crouching lion. Lush rainforests cling precariously to these cliffs, while seals, penguins, and dolphins frequent the waters and even whales can be seen on occasions.
Milford Sound sports two permanent waterfalls all year round – Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls. After heavy rain however, many hundreds of temporary waterfalls can be seen running down the steep sided rock faces that line the fiord. They are fed by rainwater drenched moss and will last a few days at most once the rain stops.
The beauty of this landscape draws thousands of visitors each day, with between 550,000 and 1 million visitors in total per year. This makes the Sound one of New Zealand’s most-visited tourist spots and also the most famous New Zealand tourist destination, even with its remote location and the long journey from the nearest population centres.
Almost all tourists going to the Sound also take one of the boat tours which usually last between 1–2 hours. They are offered by several companies, departing from the Milford Sound Visitors’ Centre. There is also the option of extended overnight cruises on Milford Sound.