Milford Sound is one of 14 fjords lying within Fiordland National Park and Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site. It is one of the world's top travel destinations, acclaimed as New Zealand's most famous attraction. It attracts more than 550,000 visitors every year. Rudyard Kipling called it the Eighth Wonder of the World.
It runs 15km inland from the Tasman Sea and is surrounded by sheer rock faces rising 1200m on either side. Towering peaks add to the drama. The Elephant is 1517m high and Lion Mountain, 1302m. Lush rainforests cling to the cliffs, while seals, dolphins and penguins frequent the waters.
Most tourists take boat tours, but hiking, backpacking and canoeing are also pursued. There is an underwater observatory in one of the bays that provides viewing of black coral, usually only found in much deeper waters.
There is another way to admire this special place and that's from above. Heliworks operates numerous scenic helicopter flights from Queenstown, mainly heading to Fiordland and the Southern Lakes. So adept is the company, it has provided aerial filming services to major international films including X-Men, King Kong, Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Highly experienced pilots fly Squirrel helicopters, complete with leather seats for comfort while you appreciate the scale and beauty of the fiord system. They fly over and around Milford Sound and there is one landing at Earnslaw Burn, a lake area at the edge of a glacier.
To see it all up close, join a Real Journeys Nature Cruise, which travels 19km along the sound and out to the Tasman Sea in a two-and-a-half-hour adventure. The senses get a work-out you can see the wonderful mountains, hear the waves and smell the bush from the bow of the boat. There are often sightings of seal and penguins that have returned and started nesting. Bottlenose dolphins occasionally go into the fiord as well.
While the boats are fully motorised, they were designed to look like traditional trading scows, with white sails raised, weather permitting. They give you the feeling the very first European explorers must have had and have the advantage of being able to get close to the fjord cliffs and waterfalls.
Stirling Falls flow year around, and it's said that if you stand underneath them long enough, you will look 10 years younger! No one knows for sure just how long that could take.
Unlike the park's walking tracks, cruises operate year round.
Milford Track is closed for walkers throughout winter and most of spring as melting glacial snow can cause avalanches.
Milford Sound, a fjord in the south-west of New Zealand's South Island.
Real Journeys Nature Cruises start at $83 for adults and $20 for children. The two-and-a-half-hour (two hours in winter) cruise takes you the full length of Milford Sound with a specialist nature guide. Coach/flight connections are available from Queenstown. Coach connections from Te Anau incur an additional cost.
The Heliworks "Fiordland's Finest" two-and-a-quarter-hour flight costs around $860 per person. They include pick-up from your accommodation. Flights are subject to weather conditions on the day.
Europcar has car hire starting at $35 a day.
Best Western is offering two nights' stay for the price of one at selected properties throughout New Zealand. This is valid for stays until December 21, 2008 and the first 100 callers will receive a bottle of wine and chocolates. Blackout days apply and this offer is subject to availability. Quote "Getaway New Zealand".
Air New Zealand has special fares to Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin or Hamilton. You'll have to be quick they are only available until 11.59pm September 27, 2008 AEST and conditions apply.
One-way fares from:
- Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne $229
- Adelaide $359
- Perth $509
Prices correct at September 25, 2008.
For further information
Heliworks Queenstown Helicopters Ltd
Queenstown International Airport
Tex Smith Lane
Ph: +64 3 441 4011
Fax: +64 3 441 4012
Town Centre & Mokonui Streets
Te Anau 9640
Ph: +64 3 249 7416
Ph: 1300 131 390
Ph: 1300 WESTERN
Tourism New Zealand
Air New Zealand
Check out our celebrity Getaway blog or our photo gallery for more Getaway adventure pics.