Think of Milford and Doubtful Sounds as metaphors for life. The grandiose fiords are world-famous for their size and striking appearance. But they didn’t start out that way.
Sometimes, the key to creating something grand is by making small steps every day. Over time, these subtle changes will lead to something magnificent.
You don’t have to look far to see this proven right in your own life. The very ground you walk on was shaped and shifted over millennia. Land masses broke from super-continents to form the places you call home.
It was small steps like these that formed Milford and Doubtful Sound, the “Eighth Wonders of the World”.
See why New Zealand’s most beautiful places are two can’t-miss destinations on your next trip to Kiwi country.
Both Milford and Doubtful Sound are in a region of New Zealand known as Fiordland National Park. The nearly 5,000 square miles of New Zealand’s south-west tip contains some of the most quintessential and incredible landscapes in the world.
When you think about New Zealand and the amazing scenery it’s known for, you’re probably thinking of two things: the rolling, grassy vistas that were popularized in movies like The Lord of the Rings, and tall, steep peaks, shadowed by mist, rising above calm waters below.
The latter is Fiordland. And by far the two most visited places in Fiordland are Milford and Doubtful Sound.
Over the course of millions of years, shifting tectonic plates caused tall rock formations to reach out from beneath the sea. As the earth continued its slow-motion crash on to itself, sharp peaks reached high in to the air.
During the ice age, glaciers formed and began to move. Inch by inch, they slowly began to erode rock and sediment, forming the narrow-tunnels found in Fiordland today.
Small steps. Big changes.
Sometimes it’s the journey. Other times it’s the destination. When it comes to Milford Sound, it’s both.
The scenic drive out from Queenstown is like a “best-of” tour of New Zealand’s pristine landscapes. You’ll drive along winding roads that hug Lake Wakatipu, a turquoise-blue, glacier-fed lake.
Stop along any of the pull-outs and viewing points along the way and you might recognize the vast expanse of water, rimmed by mountains. On the big screen, it served as the backdrop for Middle Earth in several scenes of The Lord of the Rings.
As you enter New Zealand hill country, tall mountains give way to grass-covered, wavy hills and colorful lupins line the highway.
This scenic highway is precisely why Milford Sound is New Zealand’s most accessible and most visited site in Fiordland.
Tip: Want to skip the traffic on the way back? Go for a Milford Sound Cruise and Scenic Flight. Return from your Milford Sound cruise in style on a scenic plane journey back to Queenstown
Every year nearly 600,000 tourists come to Milford Sound, taking advantage of the highway leading there. This makes it easy to take a day trip from the populous city of Queenstown, or a quick stopover if you make your base in Te Anau.
And it’s easy to see why once you arrive. Although you could argue that the word “epic” is a bit overused in travel writing, there is no better way to describe Milford Sound.
The tall, steep crags jut out of the water, peaking high overhead. It’s home to the tallest peak in Fiordland, Mitre Peak, reaching in to the sky nearly 6,000 feet. It’s the iconic landscape that single-handedly has attracted visitors from across the globe.
But an increase in visitors also means an increase in the number of boats cruising the Sound to accommodate them. On Milford Sound, you’re in the company of a number of different tour boats, operators and cruise ships, all looking to see the same sites that you are.
However, this doesn’t mean you’re going to be surrounded by raging party-boats – but nothing beats the ambiance of feeling alone on the water, a mere speck among rocky skyscrapers towering overhead.
If silent ambiance is your prime objective when visiting a natural wonder, look no further. Doubtful Sound is the slightly less popular younger brother to Milford Sound. It doesn’t have quite the same name recognition, it’s a little bit harder to get to and the peaks aren’t quite as tall.
But being a little more out of the way proves beneficial to the unmatched ambiance found at Doubtful Sound.
Access to Doubtful is limited to a ferry ride over Lake Manapouri. You won’t find the rows of coaches, buses and cars that cover Milford. Instead, a very limited number of boats cruise through the beautiful fiord.
This makes Doubtful Sound a slightly more solemn excursion, if you’re looking for a true “one-with-nature” type of experience.
The rocky cliffs that arise from Doubtful Sound apex at a round crest, as opposed to Milford’s angular, jagged peaks. Soft, green ferns and forest cover much of the mountainous rises and foggy mist often rests like pillows in the treetops.
But the main attraction at both Milford and Doubt Sounds isn’t what you see, but what you hear.
The Sound of Silence
Much like the world’s other natural wonders, Milford and Doubtful Sound have the power to leave you speechless. If you’ve ever been to the Grand Canyon, you’ll know that upon reaching the rim, there’s a distinct shift that happens upon arrival.
All the usual chatter that fills the parking lot on the way of families swapping stories of the road and siblings arguing over who won the “License Plate Game” seems to disappear.
Looking in to the void that the Earth created renders an eerie hush where you could almost hear a pin drop all the way in the valley below.
Maybe it’s the overwhelming sense of your place on the planet, or maybe no one wants to be the sole person to break the silence and ruin the mood. In any case, it’s an experience that’s unique to witnessing something so grand that an entire crowd can be left short for words.
At Milford and Doubtful Sounds, you’ll feel that same majestic sound-of-nothing from the “valley” itself, on a “sound of silence” cruise. You’ll cruise through the giant fiords, craning your neck to take in the enormous rock formations, standing tall around the still water.
As you reach a center point in the great fiord, the captain of the ship turns off the ship. Then, all you’re left with is the soft babble of water and the call of birdsong. But the Captain didn’t call for silence.
They didn’t need to.
Visit Milford and Doubtful Sounds
Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound are the crown jewels of Fiordland. Let us plan your Fiordland adventure. Whether you’re up for a scenic drive from Queenstown or a ferry ride in to the unknown, it’s a trip that you’ll never forget.
Want to start planning your trip now?
Phone us Toll Free on 1-888-359-2877 (CT USA, M-F 8.30am – 5pm) and speak to one of our expert Destination Specialists today.
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Tags: Doubtful Sound, Fiordland, Milford Sound, New Zealand, Queenstown, river cruise, sound of silence cruise, te anau, things to do in new zealand