Milford Sound: The Best and the Worst

December 6, 2017

The Expectations

To say that I was looking forward to seeing Milford Sound is an understatement. Before and while traveling through New Zealand, we made a rough plan of what we wanted to see based on recommendations from the Lonely Planet and from a few friends and family members who travelled and lived (or still live) here. They all had various tips for what to see and do, and the ONE thing these recommendations had in common was to go see Milford Sound. So my expectations and excitement for it were, to put it mildly, rather high.

The Reality

We arrived in Milford Sound in the evening, to not so great weather. We had booked a spot in the only campground that is close to the sound, so that the next day, early in the morning, both Daniel and I could explore the sound in our preferred ways: I had booked myself on a two-hour cruise, while Daniel was doing a six-hour dive trip into the sound.

But, on the morning of our planned activities, we woke up to miserable weather. It was foggy and raining
and you could barely see 20 m in front of you, let alone be able to admire the mountains surrounding the sound. I had already paid for my cruise, and I couldn’t cancel it without losing all the money. Daniel didn’t want to cancel, as he figured out that, for seeing stuff under water, the weather above the water is not that important.

I had booked myself on the first cruise of the day, going out at 9 AM. Since at 8.30 you could see almost nothing through the fog, I tried to salvage what I could and rebooked myself on the next cruise, which was going out at 11.15, in the hope that the weather would improve. This cruise was more expensive, but hey, you pay for hope. By 11.00, the weather still wasn’t any better, so I rebooked myself again on a later cruise, in the same hope. And again the ticket was more expensive. To make a long story short, I ended up paying double for my cruise ticket and still seeing almost nothing. The one good thing though was that the waterfalls in the sound had a lot of water, so they were pretty impressive to see. Here is what the cruise looked like:

Daniel had a much better time on his dive trip. He saw interesting fish, corals, and the rock walls of the mountains under water. But of course, he also didn’t see anything of the supposedly impressive landscape in the sound.

That being the situation, we decided to give it a second chance on the next day. We couldn’t stay the night in the same campground, as it was booked out, so we drove about an hour away from the sound until we found a campground with available places. And the next morning we woke up to better weather, so we decided to drive back to the sound and hope for better views of it.

This time, the hope was justified. The weather turned out very good and we could still get tickets for a cruise later that day. And this time, the sound lived up to its reputation:

Highs and Lows


  • Finally being able to see the beautiful Milford Sound, after all, and actually being able to do the cruise together with Daniel. In general, we try to give each other the space to do what we want, even if sometimes that means doing things separately. On our first day in Milford Sound, Daniel got to do the dives he wanted to do. On the second day, things worked out in a way that allowed us to explore the sound together.


  • I don’t remember the last time I felt so frustrated as on our first day in Milford Sound. At first, there were the high expectations and excitement. But then, waking up to the awful weather, postponing my cruise twice, constantly waiting and hoping for the weather to get better, the increasing price of the ticket, and finally still not being able to see almost anything on the cruise! I had expected Milford Sound to be one of the absolute highlights of our whole trip to New Zealand, and instead it seemed, on that first day, to be the biggest disappointment of our whole trip! Of course, the great weather on the second day and the fact that we were still able to see it changed all that, but the first day was probably the lowest point for me of our whole trip through New Zealand so far.
  • Daniel’s dive turned out to be dangerous for another reason than you may think. The goggles that he got from the dive center still had some soap left on them when he used them for his first dive, so that soap got in his right eye. The dive took about 45 minutes, so for all that time, his eye way exposed to the soap. His eye got quite red and we haven’t been able to reduce the redness and irritation yet. Although I’m carrying a small pharmacy with me, it doesn’t contain any solution for cleaning the eyes, so we’ll have to buy some when we get to the next town. In the meantime, I’m worried about his eye still being very red and itchy, more than 24 h after the dive…

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