Milford Sound Boat Tour – Real Journeys

Milford Sound Boat Tour – Real Journeys

Milford Sound Boat Tour Real JourneysOur day down at Milford Sound was one of the most epic out of all our time in New Zealand. We woke up early and explored a few places on our way to Milford Sound. We then went on a fantastic boat tour along the Fiord before spending the rest of the day exploring the area on various hikes. I am sooo glad that we went on a boat tour as it was a brilliant way to see the area. The tour we chose was called a Milford Sound Scenic Cruise with Real Journeys. This was partly because we also booked our trip to the Te Anau glowworm caves with the same company, so we were given a 20% discount for booking both tours at the same time.

Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist destinations, so if you visit here, expect it to be busy! We stayed quite nearby at Te Anau Downs, so we figured it would be easy to arrive early before the crowds. Lots of people come here as a day trip from Queenstown, which is almost 4 hours away.

This post was not sponsored in any way. I just really enjoyed our trip, so want to share the experience.

Milford Sound Scenic Cruise – Real Journeys

Time: The tour was 1 hour 40 minutes
What’s included: There is a large boat with comfy seats and huge windows. We ignored the main lounges and spent all our time on the top deck in the open air. They provide free tea and coffee, but you have to pay extra if you’d like them to provide lunch.
Cost: NZ $80.00 (although we were give 20% off because I booked two tours through the same company)
What to bring: Waterproofs! Milford Sound is one of the wettest places in New Zealand so you’ll need a good coat if you plan to stay warm!
Where: The tour starts at the Milford Sound Cruise Terminal. There is parking pretty nearby if you arrive early. This was all pretty full by the time our cruise was over.

Our cruise started at 9:00am after a really rainy night. Rain had continued to pour on our drive down to Milford Sound, so I was quite worried that we wouldn’t get to see anything. But, once we parked and walked out to the Milford Viewpoint, the photo above was the stunning vista that greeted us. Not bad eh!?

Milford Sound Boat Tour – So fun!

This was our boat, the Milford Monarch. It was huuuge, and because we opted for a tour early in the morning, it was quite empty. Most people seemed to want to stay in the warm cabin, so we had the top deck and views almost all to ourselves. There are several different companies running tours in Milford Sound. They all seemed similar, although we could see the boat next to us was far more crowded on the top deck. I’m pretty sure you can have fun whichever company you choose.

I instantly fell in love with the view of Mitre Peak rising out of the mist.

Weather in Milford Sound

I had seem some beautiful lush, green photos of Milford Sound under pretty blue skies, and initially that is what I was hoping to see. However, as we got closer to our arrival in the Fiordland National Park, the weather forecast looked worse and worse. I even considered cancelling our tour as it looked like the weather would be truly awful. Luckily, when I spoke to locals about it, they all said that Milford Sound is actually best seen in the rain, or at least soon after rainfall. This is because many of the amazing waterfalls are only temporary. After heavy rainfall, in addition to the glacier-fed massive waterfalls, hundreds and hundreds of smaller temporary waterfalls line the steep cliff edges.

Cascade Range

Here are some examples of the temporary waterfalls. Some of these were already drying up before our return journey, so they really don’t last long! If you plan to visit Milford Sound on a wet day, you’ll love it! It looks like the mountains are decorated with white pin stripes!

Fairy Falls

Our boat went right up close to Fairy falls so we had an amazing view staring up at the almost vertical wall of mountains. Some of the smaller boats went right up and dipped their bows under this waterfall! We ended up pretty soaked just by getting close to it!

I did attempt to take a soggy selfie right up close to Fairy falls, but it was soooo wet that my photo didn’t come out! This second attempt is from further away. Once I’d had time to wipe my screen!

Fiords vs Sounds?

What is the difference between a Fiord and a Sound? We learnt on our previous boat tour on lake Te Anau that Sounds are created by rivers and rising sea levels, so they are normally wider and shallower than fiords, which are created by glaciers. So, Milford Sound is actually a Fiord. The glaciers that created this landscape must have been ginormous!

Copper Point

This is the narrowest part of the fiord. This means it can get pretty windy at that point! Warm air from further up the fiord starts to rise, so cooler air from out in the ocean rushes in to replace it. Even on this cool morning, we were blown around at that point in the cruise! These photos were taken from Dale Point where the fiord meets the Tasman sea.

The steep cliffs really were amazing for long waterfalls! I am not sure if this temporary waterfall even has a name, but it was so, soo pretty! We spotted it just before we reached Seal Point.

Seal Point

As you can probably guess from the name, Seal Point is where the local seals like to hang out. There is one large rock with plenty of room for big-moustached seals! If you look carefully at the smaller rocks surrounding the point, they were full of sleeping seals too!

Stirling Falls

Stirling Falls was one of the most impressive sights on our Milford Sound Boat Tour! This waterfall is fed from a glacier further up the valley; So you’ll get to see this even on a sunny day. It has a huge 146 m drop from a u-shaped, hanging valley between two huge mountains. Again the Milford Monarch (our boat) took us up close.

We got reeeeally wet! I had to hide my camera under my waterproof coat as we got close to the waterfall as it was just so soggy! Once we realised it would not be possible to take photos, we just enjoyed the experience! Just be ready for this part! That glacial water is really chilly. I couldn’t even open my eyes close to the waterfall as there was so much wind and water blowing everywhere!

While we got completely soaked at the top of the boat, we noticed a man getting even more of a watery deluge down in the bow! So, once the boat tour moved onto calmer waters, I ran down to explore that too. It is pretty fun to be in the bow down close to the water, but I wasn’t quite tall enough to see much. Our Milford Sound Boat Tour’s best views were from above.

Amazing Mist

The other really fun thing about seeing Milford Sound on a rainy day was the amazing misty views! There was so much water in the air that all the mountains kept being surrounded by interesting, ever-changing misty shapes. Milford Sound is one of the wettest inhabited places on earth. Rain falls for around 200 days per year, with 6700 mm falling annually. No wonder the forest we explored near here was full of moss!

I loved zooming in to see how the mist highlights the trees at the edge of the mountains.

Harrison Cove

This is the only natural harbour in the fiord. It looks like if you’d like to explore the area at a more relaxed pace, you can take a kayak tour around this cove. This is one of those places that looks completely different if you see it on instagram! There are some days when the water looks all azure-blue, rather than grey!

You can also see the amazing, million year old Pembroke glacier towering above the cove. Mount Pembroke is 2,015 m, so it is the tallest giant looking down over Milford Sound. It was partially hiding in the mist from us, but you can still see that it is beautiful.

So, that was basically the end of our Milford Sound Boat Tour. Somehow the rain held off for an hour, so we had only been soaked by waterfalls, rather than rain! In that short time, many of the temporary waterfalls had started to dry up! So our return journey displayed more misty views, rather than waterfall views.

Bowen Falls

Real Journeys left the best for last! Although we could see the cruise terminal and the end of our trip, the Monarch turned towards Bowen Falls to show off one more amazing waterfall! Bowen Falls has an epic drop of 162m. To put that in perspective, Niagara falls is only 51m high! The village at Milford Sound collects all of their power and drinking water from Bowen Falls. So, as we stopped off for a cup of tea, we must have drank from this epic waterfall!

This really is not bad for a final view from a boat tour!!

I hope you like the look of this Milford Sound Boat Tour! If you have plans to visit Milford Sound and you are concerned that it looks like the weather might be all rainy, still go! Seriously! This is one amazing place where it will be brilliant, no matter what the weather throws at you!

If you are interested in our other adventures on the way to Milford Sound, you can read more about them here:

Milford Sound Boat Tour Milford Sound Boat Tour Real Journeys

54 thoughts on “Milford Sound Boat Tour – Real Journeys

  1. I’m not sure I would have lasted out on the deck as long as you, Josy! Those falls are truly amazing, though. Especially the temporary ones, knowing they aren’t there for everyone. I’m with you, it pays to get up early!

    1. The whole tour was less than 2 hours, so we couldn’t quite bear to put glass between us and the prettiness. I was quite cold by the end of the tour, but we fixed that by stopping for a cuppa!

    1. That was the wettest place we visited…but to be honest, NZ wasn’t too soggy while we were there. i think they might have ha d a drought this summer as in some areas (like near Wanaka) everything was golden, rather than green!

  2. New Zealand is so stunning, and I have to admit that your pictures are way more beautiful than any I took, even though we had blue skies for most of our day. I didn’t realize that the rain created the waterfalls though, so you guys definitely got a treat. I am absurdly jealous.

    1. At first I wanted to see blue skies and bright blue water…when you went it must have been amaaaazing for things like kayaking!?

      I did really love the misty, atmospheric version though!

    1. Oh no!! I really hope someone else like you and me that is considering cancelling due to rubbish weather, sees photos like this and decides to go.

      I was really not sure that we’d have a good time in the rain, but in the end I LOVE the dramatic cloudy/misty views!

      It’s a good excuse for you to go back next time! 😉

    1. Lol yes!

      I also found it useful to wear a skirt with leggings. It don’t retain much water, so I was happy to go hiking right after this soggy tour!

  3. So fun to relive my trip to Milford Sound through your post! One of the most special places on earth, it actually brought me to tears which says a lot!

    1. Aw Maloney thank you so much! You have just made my afternoon!

      Did you make it to Milford Sound in the mist and rain as well, or did you get sunnier weather!?

  4. Oh my goodness, the landscape is stunning! I just love seeing places from the water view, it gives you a whole new perspective. It sounds like you all had a fabulous day!

    1. Thanks Michelle!
      It was amazing (and that was just the morning!) We did a few hikes after this, but it was just too much to squish into just one post!!

  5. Beautiful post and pictures! Milford Sound is on my bucketlist and sounds like the boat tour is a nice way to cover the place. Thanks for sharing this <3

    1. Yay! Thanks Mayuri! I hope you have similarly epic weather when you go (or sun. I guess sun would be pretty too!!)

  6. Milford is such a beautiful place. I loved your photographs of waterfalls and landscape with clouds. I love these kind of peaceful and natural places. I hope to visit it sometime in future 🙂

    1. Thanks Sapna!

      Although, I don’t know if I could count Milford Sound as peaceful. It *was* lovely, but it was easily the busiest place we visited in NZ. There are sooo many people there to see the nature, that it becomes marginally less natural! It still looks amazing, you just need to expect noises from people and cruises, rather than peaceful silence.

  7. Such a scenic cruise tour!! Just a my favorite kind of destination. Every photo is so so amazing!!!! If I really could visit some day!!!

    1. Thanks Nafisa! I hope you can too!
      It took us yeeeears to visit NZ, even though i wanted to since I made Kiwi friends back in 2002(!) The best places are worth the wait 😉

    1. It would look stunning when the surrounding mountains have a sprinkling of snow! I think sometimes the road to Milford Sound is closed off due to snow, ice, avalanche risk. You’d have to be lucky to get the snowy views when the road is open! 🙂

    1. You would love it! Plus, you flew as far as SA, so it wouldn’t be tooooo long a flight for you!

    1. We did a teeny bit of both, but they seem soooo different. I love the volcanoes in the North but LOVED all the hiking (and boat trips) in the South. Do you think you’ll go back?

  8. Wow I had no idea about the difference between a Fjord and Sound. Love reading these small fun details. Also since NJ is high on my list I am saving this detailed post! PS: Love the misty photos… I think the mist added a dimension to your photos 🙂

    1. Thanks Richa!

      I wasn’t expecting it to be so amazing in the mist, but it really was stunning! I hope you can make it to NZ too!!

  9. This looks like so much fun! I think it’s always great to do boats tours because you get to see the places from a different perspective! Your photos are beautiful, I can’t imagine how amazing it looked in real life

    1. Thank you Kathrine!!
      You’re right, however much I try, photos can never capture just how epic the scenery is! NZ is sooo pretty <3

    1. Oooh that is so cool. I suppose natural scenery does not change that much and it *is* the rainiest part of Kiwiland!

    1. Yaaaay let me help you plan Susie! We were only there for two weeks, but I can tell you all the best things we did. For me, Milford Sound and Mount Cook were the best two places!

  10. How long is the entire cruise from start to finish?? I would certainly be interested in drinking tea made from glacier water haha! (We used to go swimming in glacial lakes but my brother and sister kept getting ear infections, so that was nixed, unfortunately 😑)

    1. Our tour was only 1 hour 40 minutes, but there were quite a few longer options that spent more time by each waterfall.

      Eep did the infections come from all the minerals in the water?

  11. Wow. Those pictures are fabulous. I too like your picture of Mitre Peak rising out of the mist. It makes me think of dragons and warriors and elves and all things fantasy!

  12. You capture some of the most beautiful landscapes, Josy – well done! Also, I had never even pondered the difference between fiords and sounds, but now I will never forget. Thanks for teaching me something interesting today – I’m going to share that one with my kiddos. 🙂 Wonderful post!

    1. To be honest I had only heard of Fjords in Norway, so I learned about Sounds for the first time on that holiday!!

  13. Milford Sound is truly exceptional and a must visit place in New Zealand, Josy. Your post brought back so many wonderful memories. Those views are unforgettable!

  14. You were fortunate the rain held off. We had a glorious summer day in February but one of the workers at the Milford Sound Lodge mentioned it had rained solid for every day in January. It’s the luck of the draw it seems. Despite the overcast conditions, your photos capture the beauty of the Sound.

    1. Thanks Anne!

      We did feel very lucky, especially considering the forecast! I didn’t mind the overcast conditions in the end- I quite love the way the mist hangs above the islands and valleys. It is such a beautiful area!!

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