Milford Sound, the enchanting fjord
Located in the south-west of the South Island, Milford Sound really amazed me. I woke up at 5:30am on the first of January but I don’t regret it at all. It is rare to be able to admire a fjord. It’s a mountain valley covered by waters when the glaciers melted at the end of a glacial period. Consequently, the valley bottom is under the sea. At its deepest, Milford Sound valley can go down to 400 metres under water.
Going to Milford Sound: a surprising road and accessible walks
Anyone who wants to reach Milford Sound has to be patient as the fjord is quite far away from the busy cities. Most of the visitors come from Queenstown and need 4 hours drive passing through Te Anau to reach the fjord. The road between Te Anau and Milford Sound is magnificent. The last 30 kilometres are stunning! I was already so impress, and I didn’t see the fjord yet! The mountains along the two sides of the road are absolutely dramatic!
The road between Te Anau and Milford Sound can be done in 1:45 hour but you might want to take more time to be able to stop at the view points and enjoy some walks. As for me, I stopped to stroll on “Mirror Lakes” and “The Chasm” walks.
“Mirror Lakes” is a very short walk as it takes only 5 minutes to walk through it. It is not the most interesting walk but you can still see the mountains and the landscape reflection in the lake surface. It is entirely accessible. It is possible to do it in a wheelchair without any help.
“The Chasm” really deserve taking the time to visit it. This walk is wheelchair accessible and it is easy with a person pushing in the steep parts. Some parts of the path are made of gravels and others are boardwalks. Often there is a small sill to go from the gravels to the boardwalks but it really worth it. Waterfalls are impressive. The flow is important and the cascades vertically fall between surprisingly shaped rocks. These rocks are so smooth and some of them seem to have sharp edges. It is like if they were honed but unfortunately, as it was so rainy, I don’t have any picture to show you. I guess you will have to see by yourself!
Cruise and accessibility
I was so surprised by the road landscape gigantism that I was even more enthusiastic and impatient to discover Milford Sound. I was about to see a fjord for the first time of my life! To discover it I chose to enjoy a two hours cruise in the fjord waters but it also possible to visit it kayaking, flying in an helicopter or walking the famous Milford Track, one the 9 New Zealand Great Walks. This 53 kilometres hike starts at the head of Lake Te Anau and ends at “Sandfly Point” in Milford Sound. If you choose the Milford Track you will walk through mountains during four days, crossing suspended bridges, observing lakes and glaciers. You will even see the tallest New Zealand cascade, Sutherland Falls, reaching 580 metres high. People say that this hike is worth it and since it is a really famous one, don’t forget to book campsites or huts many months ahead.
As for us we chose to sail with “Go Orange” because it was the less expensive. Unfortunately nothing was accessible, nothing at all. It is impossible to embark for a person who cannot walk as there are three steps and a sill to enter in the boat. Once inside things are not getting any better. It is impossible to access the medium or high floor as there are stairs. Moreover the aisles are too narrow for a wheelchair to pass. As I can walk short distances and climb a few steps I succeeded to enjoy the cruise but it is clear that there is no point to book it for a person who cannot walk at all. According to information I found, “Real Journeys” company seems to provide the best accessible conditions. Still I am not sure that will be enough so I invite you to call them and inform them about your condition before booking anything.
If you can walk even just a bit : go for it! Milford Sound is an incredible experience. Landscapes are awesome and worth the effort. The terminal is fully accessible. There are adapted car park and sanitary facilities and there is no steps as there are ramps. In addition, the 10 minutes walk from the car park to the terminal is lovely and fully wheelchair accessible except for the small sill at the very beginning.
Milford Sound, an impressive and gigantic landscapes
Wow! That’s the first word coming to my mind when I think about Milford Sound. Those calm and imposing landscapes made me feel emotional. The mountains are so impressive. Their walls raise until hundreds metres despite their verticality. Vertiginously high! The highest summit “Mitre Peak” rise to 1,692 metres. We feel so small near it!
I was also surprised by the dense vegetation growing on these though reliefs. There are a lot of tree on some hills.
Animals don’t seem to be afraid of these dramatic landscapes neither as it is possible to see dolphins and seals in the fjord. We saw seals but unluckily dolphins stayed hidden in the sea.
This time we were less lucky and instead of a sunny day we got a cloudy sky at the beginning and rain during the last 45 minutes. Indeed, the New Zealand fjord area is well-known to be one of the most rainy in the country. So going there means high risk of rain but it is also what make its charm. Foggy curtain makes the panorama mysterious and the rain supplies the many waterfalls.
As a woman from Brittany I don’t fear rain so I decided to stay outside in order to admire the hills and the waterfalls. A few minutes later, while we were at the front of the boat and the boat was doing a U-turn in the Tasman Sea, a wave bigger than the others hit the bow. We didn’t see it coming! Franck and Baptiste were just a bit wet but I was completely soaked on my right side. We had a good laugh about it! So refreshing!
Anyway, even if I got soaked, Milford Sound is still one of my best New Zealand memories. A love at first sight!
You want to travel all around New Zealand? Find many ideas of awesome destinations in north island and south island in my other articles as well as wheelchair accessibility tips.