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Milford Sound Is One Of The Top Tourist Attractions In What Country?


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Guenna Valdes



Milford Sound is one of the top tourist attractions in New Zealand, a country renowned for its natural beauty and stunning landscapes. Located in the Fiordland National Park on the South Island, Milford Sound is a breathtaking fiord surrounded by towering peaks, lush rainforests, and cascading waterfalls. It is often referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” and is a must-visit destination for nature lovers, adventure enthusiasts, and those seeking tranquility in a pristine environment.


Known for its dramatic scenery and untouched wilderness, Milford Sound attracts visitors from all over the world who come to witness its awe-inspiring beauty. The combination of the sheer cliff faces, mist-shrouded mountains, crystal-clear waters, and abundant wildlife creates a magical and enchanting atmosphere that is unlike anywhere else on Earth.


Not only is Milford Sound visually stunning, but it is also teeming with an incredible diversity of flora and fauna. From the majestic southern beech forests to the curious seals and playful dolphins in the water, there is an abundance of natural wonders to discover in this remote and pristine location.


Whether you choose to explore Milford Sound by taking a leisurely cruise, embarking on a thrilling kayak adventure, or trekking along one of the many hiking trails, there are endless opportunities to immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of this iconic New Zealand destination.


In this article, we will delve into the natural beauty of Milford Sound, the wide array of activities and attractions available, and the efforts taken to preserve this precious ecosystem. So, grab your camera, pack your sense of adventure, and get ready to discover the enchantment of Milford Sound.


Overview of Milford Sound

Milford Sound, located on the southwest coast of New Zealand’s South Island, is a world-renowned fjord known for its exceptional natural beauty. Carved by glaciers over millions of years, Milford Sound is characterized by its steep cliffs, deep blue waters, and abundant wildlife.


With a length of 15 kilometers and depths reaching up to 300 meters, Milford Sound is the most accessible of New Zealand’s fiords and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. It is part of the larger Fiordland National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site that covers an area of over 1.2 million hectares.


The striking beauty of Milford Sound has earned it several accolades, including being named the “eighth wonder of the world” by Rudyard Kipling. Its pristine and untouched landscapes have captivated the imagination of travelers and photographers, making it one of the most iconic and photographed destinations in New Zealand.


Despite its name, Milford Sound is actually a misnomer, as it is technically a fjord, not a sound. The difference lies in their formation – fjords are carved by glaciers, while sounds are formed by rivers. However, the name has stuck, and Milford Sound has become synonymous with picturesque scenery and unparalleled natural vistas.


The weather in Milford Sound is notoriously unpredictable, with frequent rain and mist adding to its mystical allure. The rainfall in this region is among the highest in New Zealand, creating hundreds of temporary waterfalls that cascade down the cliffs after heavy rain. These ephemeral waterfalls, combined with the misty atmosphere, only enhance the dramatic beauty of the fiord.


Exploring Milford Sound offers a range of activities and experiences for visitors. From scenic cruises that allow you to immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring surroundings to kayaking adventures that take you up close to the resident marine life, there are plenty of ways to embrace the natural wonders of this enchanting destination.


Next, we will delve deeper into the stunning natural beauty of Milford Sound and the experiences that await those who venture into its pristine wilderness.


Natural Beauty of Milford Sound

Milford Sound is renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty, which seems almost otherworldly. The fiord is surrounded by towering granite cliffs, dense rainforests, and snow-capped peaks, creating a dramatic and awe-inspiring landscape that captivates visitors.


One of the most captivating features of Milford Sound is the play of light and shadow on the landscape. The interplay of sunlight with the mist and clouds creates an ever-changing and ethereal atmosphere that adds to the sense of the fiord’s mystique. It is a photographer’s dream, with every turn offering a new angle and a new opportunity to capture the magical beauty.


The fiord is also home to an abundance of wildlife, both above and below the water’s surface. Several species of dolphins, including bottlenose and dusky dolphins, frequent the waters of Milford Sound, delighting visitors with their playful antics. Fur seals can often be spotted basking on the rocky outcrops or bobbing in the water, while penguins can be seen darting through the waves.


One of the iconic landmarks of Milford Sound is Mitre Peak, a majestic mountain that rises sharply from the water. It is one of the most photographed mountains in New Zealand and serves as a symbol of the fiord. The peaks surrounding Milford Sound are often dusted with snow, creating a stunning contrast against the dark waters and deep green forests.


Waterfalls are another outstanding feature of Milford Sound. After heavy rainfall, numerous temporary waterfalls cascade down the sheer cliffs, transforming the landscape into a magical wonderland. One of the most famous waterfalls is Stirling Falls, which plummets nearly 150 meters down the rock face. The sight and sound of these cascades are truly mesmerizing.


Exploring Milford Sound by boat or kayak allows visitors to fully immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the fiord. As you glide through the tranquil waters, surrounded by towering cliffs and lush vegetation, you can’t help but feel a profound sense of awe and wonder at the magnificence of the landscape.


Next, we will delve into the wonders of Fiordland National Park, the larger protected area that encompasses Milford Sound and offers even more natural treasures to discover.


Fiordland National Park

Fiordland National Park, located in the southwestern corner of New Zealand’s South Island, is a sprawling wilderness of untouched beauty. Covering over 1.2 million hectares, it is the largest national park in the country and a UNESCO World Heritage site.


The park is known for its rugged mountains, deep fiords, pristine lakes, and ancient forests. It is a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, offering countless opportunities for exploration and adventure.


At the heart of Fiordland National Park lies the iconic Milford Sound, a jewel in the park’s crown. However, the park encompasses much more than just Milford Sound. There are 14 other fiords in the park, including Doubtful Sound and Dusky Sound, each with its own unique beauty and charm.


Fiordland National Park is also home to some of New Zealand’s most spectacular waterfalls. Aside from the well-known Stirling Falls in Milford Sound, there are countless other cascades that can be discovered along the park’s hiking trails and scenic drives. These waterfalls, fed by the region’s abundant rainfall, are a testament to the raw power of nature.


The park’s diverse ecosystems support an array of plant and animal species, many of which are endemic to the area. Ancient, moss-draped beech forests dominate the landscape, providing a habitat for native birds such as the kea, New Zealand’s only alpine parrot, and the tui, known for its distinctive song.


Fiordland National Park is also a sanctuary for endangered species like the elusive kiwi, which is often heard but seldom seen due to its nocturnal nature. Visitors may be lucky enough to glimpse these remarkable creatures in their natural habitat.


The park’s hiking trails are a major draw for outdoor enthusiasts, offering both short walks and multi-day treks. The world-famous Milford Track, a 53-kilometer route that takes hikers through some of the park’s most stunning landscapes, is considered one of the finest walks in the world.


Whether you choose to explore by boat, on foot, or by air, Fiordland National Park promises a truly immersive and unforgettable experience in one of the most pristine and untouched natural environments on the planet.


Next, we will explore the incredible marine and wildlife found within the waters of Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park.


Marine and Wildlife

Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park are teeming with diverse marine and wildlife, making them a paradise for nature enthusiasts and wildlife lovers alike. The pristine waters of Milford Sound are home to a variety of marine species, while the surrounding rainforests provide habitat for a myriad of land-dwelling creatures.


A highlight of visiting Milford Sound is the opportunity to encounter marine mammals in their natural environment. Dolphins, including bottlenose and dusky dolphins, are frequently spotted frolicking in the fiord’s waters, delighting visitors with their acrobatic displays. If you’re lucky, you may even have the chance to witness them riding the bow waves created by boats.


Seals are also a common sight in Milford Sound and can often be seen sunning themselves on rocks or swimming in the water. New Zealand fur seals are the most prevalent, with their distinctive dark brown coats and curious expressions. These charismatic creatures provide endless entertainment and photo opportunities.


For bird enthusiasts, Fiordland National Park is a paradise. The park is home to a variety of indigenous bird species, including the kea, the world’s only alpine parrot known for its mischievous and intelligent nature. The tui, with its melodic song and iridescent feathers, is another native bird commonly seen and heard within the park.


A visit to Milford Sound would not be complete without glimpsing the iconic Fiordland crested penguin, known locally as the tawaki. These charismatic and elusive birds breed in the region and can occasionally be spotted near the fiord’s shores or on some of the nearby isolated islands.


Underneath the surface of the water, an entire ecosystem thrives. Divers and snorkelers can explore the vibrant underwater world, with a chance to encounter a variety of colorful fish, sea stars, and other marine invertebrates. The crystal-clear waters offer excellent visibility, making diving in Milford Sound an extraordinary experience.


Preserving the delicate balance of Milford Sound’s ecosystem is of utmost importance. The waters are protected and managed to ensure the long-term viability of marine life, and strict regulations are in place to limit human impact on the environment. Visitors are encouraged to be mindful of their actions and to follow responsible eco-tourism practices to safeguard the region’s fragile biodiversity.


In the next section, we will be exploring the stunning waterfalls that make Milford Sound a truly captivating natural wonder.


Waterfalls in Milford Sound

One of the most enchanting features of Milford Sound is its abundance of waterfalls. After heavy rainfall, the steep cliffs that surround the fiord transform into cascading ribbons of white, creating a mesmerizing spectacle that adds to the magic of the landscape.


The waterfalls in Milford Sound are a result of the region’s exceptionally high rainfall, which averages around 6,412 millimeters per year. As rainwater cascades down the sheer rock faces, the effect is both breathtaking and humbling, creating a symphony of rushing water and mist that fills the air.


One of the most prominent and awe-inspiring waterfalls in Milford Sound is Stirling Falls. Plummeting a staggering height of nearly 150 meters, it is a magnificent sight to behold. The sheer force of the water creates a thunderous roar and a fine mist that envelops the surrounding area.


Another remarkable waterfall in Milford Sound is Bowen Falls, which can be seen near the entrance of the fiord. With a height of 162 meters, it is the highest waterfall in the region. During heavy rainfall, countless smaller waterfalls emerge from the cliffs, creating a dazzling display of nature’s power.


What makes the waterfalls in Milford Sound even more captivating is their ephemeral nature. Due to the consistently changing weather patterns, many of these waterfalls are temporary, appearing only after rainfall. They can vanish just as quickly as they appear, making each sighting feel all the more special.


Visitors to Milford Sound have the unique opportunity to experience these breathtaking waterfalls up-close. On a boat cruise or kayak tour, you can venture close to the base of the falls, basking in the mist and feeling the raw power of the water as it crashes into the fiord’s depths.


Capturing the beauty of the waterfalls in Milford Sound requires more than just a camera; it requires an appreciation for the ephemeral and a connection to the raw forces of nature. The sights and sounds of these cascades will leave a lasting impression and create memories that will stay with you long after you’ve left this magical place.


Next, we will explore the various cruises and tours available in Milford Sound, offering unique perspectives and opportunities for exploration in this stunning destination.


Cruises and Tours

Exploring Milford Sound is best done through a variety of cruises and tours that allow visitors to fully immerse themselves in the grandeur of this natural wonder. Whether you prefer a leisurely boat cruise or a more adventurous kayak tour, there are options to suit every preference and travel style.


Boat cruises are the most popular way to experience Milford Sound, offering a comfortable and scenic journey through the fiord’s majestic landscapes. These cruises range from small vessels to larger, more luxurious boats, with knowledgeable guides providing information about the region’s geology, wildlife, and history.


During a boat cruise, you’ll have the opportunity to sail close to the towering cliffs, marvel at the numerous waterfalls cascading down the rock faces, and witness the abundant wildlife that calls Milford Sound home. Some cruises even offer the chance to spot dolphins, seals, and penguins, adding an extra element of excitement to your experience.


For a more intimate and adventurous perspective, kayaking tours are a fantastic option. Paddling through the tranquil waters of Milford Sound, you’ll feel a deeper connection to the surrounding nature and have the freedom to explore hidden coves and get up close to the resident wildlife.


Kayak tours are suitable for all skill levels, with experienced guides providing instruction and ensuring your safety throughout the journey. The peacefulness and serenity of gliding through the fiord in a kayak provide a truly immersive experience, allowing you to appreciate the incredible beauty of your surroundings at your own pace.


In addition to cruises and kayaking tours, there are also scenic flights available for those seeking a bird’s-eye view of Milford Sound and the surrounding landscapes. Helicopter or light aircraft flights provide a unique perspective on the grand scale of the fiord, showcasing its rugged cliffs, deep valleys, and stunning waterfalls from above.


Whichever type of tour you choose, it’s important to book in advance, especially during the peak travel season, to ensure availability. Additionally, be sure to check the weather forecast before your visit, as the weather can change rapidly in this part of the country, and it can greatly affect the visibility and overall experience.


As you embark on your chosen cruise or tour, prepare to be captivated by the magnificence of Milford Sound. The combination of the majestic landscapes, the awe-inspiring waterfalls, and the enchanting wildlife will leave an indelible impression on your heart and mind.


Next, we will explore the various hiking and walking trails available for those who wish to explore Milford Sound on foot.


Hiking and Walking Trails

Milford Sound and its surrounding areas offer a wide range of hiking and walking trails, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the stunning natural beauty of the region. From short walks to multi-day treks, there are options available for all fitness levels and time constraints.


One of the most famous and iconic hikes in the area is the Milford Track. This 53-kilometer trail takes hikers on a journey through diverse landscapes, including lush forests, alpine meadows, and crystal-clear lakes. It is known as one of the world’s greatest walks and offers an unparalleled experience of Fiordland’s wilderness.


For those with limited time, the Key Summit Track is a popular option. This 3-hour return hike takes you to a panoramic viewpoint where you can marvel at the surrounding mountains and valleys. The trail winds through beech forests and offers the chance to spot native birdlife along the way.


Another short but rewarding walk is the Lake Marian Track. This 2-hour return hike takes you to the stunning Lake Marian, nestled amidst towering mountains and ancient rainforests. The trail can be challenging in some sections, but the reward of reaching the picturesque alpine lake is well worth the effort.


If you’re looking for a longer adventure, consider the Routeburn Track. This 32-kilometer track connects Fiordland National Park with Mount Aspiring National Park and offers breathtaking views of valleys, waterfalls, and mountain peaks. The full hike usually takes around 3-4 days, but there are options for shorter sections or guided walks if desired.


It’s important to note that hiking in Fiordland National Park requires careful planning and preparation. The weather can change rapidly, and the trails can be challenging and remote. It’s recommended to research the trails, carry appropriate gear and clothing, and be aware of safety precautions, such as informing someone of your hiking plans.


Guided tours are available for those who prefer a more structured and informative experience. These tours are led by experienced guides who provide insights into the region’s flora, fauna, geology, and history. They also ensure your safety and offer a wealth of knowledge about the surrounding landscapes.


Whether you choose a leisurely stroll or a multi-day trek, hiking in the Milford Sound region is a truly extraordinary experience. The pristine wilderness, dramatic landscapes, and the peacefulness of being immersed in nature make it a memorable adventure that will leave you in awe of the beauty that surrounds you.


Next, we will explore the accommodations and facilities available in and around Milford Sound, ensuring that you have a comfortable and enjoyable visit to this breathtaking destination.


Accommodations and Facilities

While Milford Sound itself is a remote and secluded destination, there are a range of accommodations and facilities available to ensure a comfortable stay for visitors. Whether you prefer the convenience of on-site lodges or campsites, or the luxury of boutique hotels, there are options to suit every traveler’s needs and preferences.


Within the immediate vicinity of Milford Sound, there are limited options for accommodation due to its remote location. The Milford Sound Lodge is the primary lodging choice, offering various types of accommodation ranging from cozy chalets to powered campsites. The lodge provides a unique opportunity to stay in close proximity to the fiord, surrounded by spectacular natural beauty.


For those who prefer a more luxurious experience, there are several boutique lodges and hotels located further afield, within a reasonable driving distance of Milford Sound. These establishments provide exclusive accommodations in stunning natural settings, with exceptional amenities and services.


Facilities in Milford Sound itself are limited due to its remote location, but basic necessities are available. There is a visitor center that provides information about the region’s history, geology, and wildlife, allowing visitors to gain a deeper understanding of the area. Additionally, restroom facilities and picnic areas are available for visitors to enjoy during their time in Milford Sound.


It’s important to note that as Milford Sound is located within a national park, visitors are encouraged to be mindful of their environmental impact and practice responsible tourism. This includes proper waste disposal, respecting wildlife and habitats, and adhering to any regulations or guidelines provided by park authorities.


Due to the popularity of Milford Sound as a tourist destination, it is recommended to book accommodation well in advance, especially during peak travel seasons. This ensures you have a place to stay that suits your preferences and allows you to fully enjoy your visit to this remarkable natural wonder.


Next, we will explore the conservation and preservation efforts in place to protect the unique ecosystem of Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park.


Milford Sound Conservation and Preservation

Milford Sound is not only known for its stunning natural beauty but also for the efforts taken to conserve and preserve its unique ecosystem. Recognizing the importance of this pristine environment, several measures have been implemented to ensure its long-term sustainability.


As part of Fiordland National Park, Milford Sound is protected under strict conservation regulations. These regulations aim to safeguard the delicate balance of the ecosystem, preserve the biodiversity, and maintain the natural integrity of the land and water. Visitors are encouraged to adhere to these regulations, which include guidelines for waste management, protecting wildlife and their habitats, and minimizing human impact on the environment.


The Department of Conservation (DOC) plays a crucial role in managing and overseeing the conservation efforts in Milford Sound. They work diligently to monitor the health of the ecosystems, implement sustainable practices, and educate visitors about the importance of responsible tourism.


One of the key conservation initiatives in Milford Sound is the preservation of the marine environment. Strict guidelines are in place to regulate boating activities, including restrictions on speed, noise, and approach distances to wildlife. These measures aim to protect the resident marine mammals, such as dolphins and seals, and minimize disturbances to their natural behavior.


Efforts are also underway to control introduced pests and protect the native vegetation and birdlife within the region. Predator control programs, including trapping and bait stations, are in place to ensure the survival of endangered species such as kiwi birds and takahe. These initiatives help maintain the natural balance of the ecosystem and protect the endemic species that call Milford Sound home.


Education and awareness are integral to the conservation and preservation efforts in Milford Sound. The DOC provides information to visitors about the fragile nature of the ecosystem, encouraging them to tread lightly and leave no trace. Interpretive signs, visitor centers, and guided tours offer insights into the unique flora, fauna, and geological formations, instilling a deeper appreciation for the region’s natural wonders.


Collaborative partnerships between the DOC, local communities, and tourism operators are also vital in promoting sustainable practices in Milford Sound. Together, they strive to strike a balance between providing unforgettable experiences for visitors and ensuring the long-term protection of the environment.


By prioritizing conservation and preservation, Milford Sound can continue to inspire and awe future generations, while maintaining its status as one of the world’s most extraordinary natural wonders.


Lastly, we will conclude our exploration of Milford Sound, reflecting on its unparalleled beauty and the memorable experiences it offers to all who venture into its realm.



Milford Sound, nestled within the stunning landscapes of Fiordland National Park, is undeniably one of the top tourist attractions in New Zealand. Its unrivaled natural beauty, characterized by towering cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and abundant wildlife, leaves visitors in awe and rejuvenates the spirit.


From the moment you set foot in Milford Sound, you are enveloped by its ethereal atmosphere and captivating scenery. The interplay of light and shadow on the dramatic landscapes, the sound of rushing waterfalls, and the sight of playful dolphins and lounging seals make for an unforgettable experience.


Exploring Milford Sound offers a range of activities and adventures. Whether you choose to cruise along the fiord’s pristine waters, paddle through tranquil bays on a kayak, embark on a scenic flight to witness the grandeur from above, or hike on one of the many trails, you will be enchanted by the untouched wilderness.


While immersing yourself in the natural wonders of Milford Sound, it’s important to respect and appreciate the conservation efforts in place. The delicate balance of the ecosystem relies on responsible tourism practices, which include minimizing your environmental impact and following the guidelines set out by the Department of Conservation.


Milford Sound is not just a destination; it’s an experience that stays with you long after you return home. Its untouched beauty and raw grandeur etch themselves into your memories, reminding you of the incredible wonders of the natural world.


Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, an adventure seeker, or a lover of tranquility, Milford Sound offers something for everyone. Allow yourself to be captivated by its natural wonders and the feeling of connection and awe that comes from being in the presence of such unparalleled beauty.


So, pack your sense of adventure, your camera, and an open heart, and embark on a journey to Milford Sound. Discover the magic of this remarkable destination, and let its natural wonders sweep you off your feet. Be immersed in the enchantment of New Zealand’s breathtaking fiord and create memories that will last a lifetime.