Blue Skies and Waterfalls at Milford Sound

Remember that time I took a magical scenic flight from Queenstown to Milford Sound? Well, the flight was just half of the fun: sandwiched in-between was a boat cruise around Milford Sound. Flying over Fiordland yielded some pretty wow-worthy views, but I was eager to get up close to the fiord walls and waterfalls.

 

queenstown scenic flight

Flying into the sound with Air Wakatipu was just magical. We landed and headed immediately to the boat terminal, which was swarming with tourists waiting to hop onto one of the many cruises offered around Milford Sound. Somehow the uber-touristic nature of this place had absolutely no impact on my enjoyment of it. Yes, you will see several other tour boats out there when you are, taking the same route, seeing the same sights – but the scenery is amazing enough to distract you from this fact. Other people and other vessels floated in and out of my consciousness during the 1.5 hour trip, but for the most part it felt like it was just me and the sound having a very intimate meeting (or reunion, I should say – we first met 10 years ago!).

milford sound cruise

milford sound cruise

milford sound nz

“Whoever says that Milford Sound is better on a rainy day is kidding themselves,” a Queenstown local assured me the night before my Milford excursion. Milford Sound is the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand and one of the wettest locations in the whole world, seeing rainfall at least half of the days out of the year. Needless to say, encountering sub-optimal weather conditions is pretty standard here. No wonder most of the photos of Milford Sound you see are all gray and moody!

We had fantastic visibility on this sunny day, but if I’m honest: it was a challenge to do it justice in photos around high noon. I feel like most of my shots ended up a bit washed out and not as lush-looking as I experienced in person.

milford sound cruise

milford sound tour

milford sound tour

milford sound tour

To their point, you need water to make waterfalls – and during the summer dry spells, many of the falls Milford’s famous for often aren’t flowing. So your best case scenario is to tour Milford Sound just after it’s rained, on a sunny-ish day. It’s almost pointless to say that because really, we have zero control over what the weather ends up doing. If nothing else, just make sure you set expectations accordingly depending on what time of year you visit New Zealand.

milford sound tour

milford sound tour

milford sound boat

milford sound nz

You’re pretty much guaranteed to spot seals hanging out on the rocks in Milford Sound. Dolphins are also known to frequent the waters here, but not quite so often. If you’ve ever been in close proximity to these guys, you know that seals absolutely STINK. So, you know, maybe breathe out of your mouth when you pass by them.

seals at milford sound

When you first set out into the sound, there’s a big waterfall you can glimpse from afar, toward the right. On our way back to the terminal, we got up close to it. I love how it looks completely different from every angle.

milford sound waterfall

milford sound

milford sound

milford sound nz

Thank you to Air Wakatipu for hooking me up with the Milford Sound Fly-Cruise-Fly excursion. Note that all opinions expressed here and elsewhere on this blog are my unbiased own, and are uninfluenced by any gifts or incentives I may receive.

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Photos From Milford Sound

Lindsay Buckley is the photographer and travel blogger behind Frugal Frolicker. She's a New Yorker currently based in Sydney, Australia, documenting outdoor travel experiences Down Under and beyond. Follow along with Lindsay's travel photography on Facebook and Instagram, and be sure to sign up for the monthly Frugal Frolicker newsletter!

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  • eddcope

    Hi Lindsay,
    I was just wondering, what camera ands lens combination do you use please?
    Would you recommend a zoom / telephoto lens in New Zealand?
    Kind regards,
    Edd

    • I use a Canon 5dIII with the 16-25 and 70-200/2.8 lenses. I love both of these for traveling and hiking and would highly recommend both a wide angle and a telephoto!