Located on the northern end of Fiordland National Park, Milford Sound is a natural wonder with spectacular landscapes and scenery. It is a narrow inlet of the sea between steep cliffs that seem to rise suddenly from the water.
Many million years ago, the Milford Sound inlet used to be a valley. The water from the melting glaciers filled this valley making Milford Sound a fiord. It is similar to the fjords of the northern hemisphere. The South Island of New Zealand has fourteen such fiords and Milford Sound is the most popular among them. It was named a “Sound” because the English language did not have an equivalent name for the fiord at the time it was named.
Milford Sound is approximately 10 miles long and has a maximum of depth of 1300 feet. The entry to the Milford Sound inlet is at the Tasman Sea.
Most tourists to Milford Sound go on a boat cruise, which takes about one and a half to two hours. From the cruise terminal, the boats travel along the left side of the fiord until they reach the ocean, and then they turn around and travel along the right side of the fiord to return to the terminal.
As you cruise along the fjord, you can see many awe-inspiring peaks that suddenly rise from the water. Most cruise boats stop at the Stirling Waterfalls and Seal Rock, where you can watch fur seals bathing in the sun.
Fresh Water Basin
Fresh Water Basin is a bay in front of The Milford Sound Wharf. It is named Fresh Water basin because the water here is mostly fresh water because of the inflows from the rivers.
Iconic Mitre Peak
This beautiful peak is the iconic landmark of Milford Sound. You see this peak as you start the cruise. With a height of 1692 meters (5550 feet), Mitre Peak is an awe-inspiring sight.
It is named Mitre Peak because of its profile resemblance to mitre, a ceremonial headdress of Bishops. In the Maori language, it is called Rahotu.
Sindbad Gully is a U-shaped valley located next to Mitre Peak. This is what you see as you the start boat cruise from the Milford Sound cruise terminal.
Sindbad Gully is home to many native species that include Sindbad skink, whio, kiwi, and mohua. The valley shields native species from predators, such as rats.
The image shows the peak known as The Lion, one of the distinctive and easily identifiable peaks in Milford Sound. This peak got its name because of its shape, which resembles a crouching lion. At the far end on the left side of the image is Stirling Falls.
With a height of 1300 meters (4265 feet), The Lion is an imposing sight as the cruise boat enters Milford Sound.
This peak also got its name because of its shape, which looks like an elephant. The Elephant and The Lion face each other with Stirling falls in between. This peak is 1517 meters high.
Copper Point is on the other side of Stirling Falls and it got its name because of copper veins on the nearby peaks.
Cliffs and mountains near Copper Point
The peaks in Milford Sound have two major waterfalls, which are: Stirling and Bowen.
With a height of 162 meters, this is the highest waterfall in Milford Sound. It was named after Lady Elizabeth Bowen. In the Maori language, it is called Hine Te Awa, which means Girl on the River.
The image below shows another beautiful view of Bowen falls.
With a height of over 150, Stirling Falls is the second highest fall in Milford Sound. It was named after its discoverer Captain Stirling. In the Maori language, it is called Wai Manu, which means Cloud on the Water.
Stirling Falls in Milford Sound, New Zealand
Seal Rock is one of the spots where the Milford Sound cruise boats stop and is very popular with the tourists. The image below shows a colony of fur seals sunbathing on Seal Rock. These are adolescent males driven by their fathers from the family. Once they are old enough, they go back to start a new family.
The large slanted flat surface of this rock is ideal for seals to congregate as a group and socialize. The low side of the slanted surface enables the seals to lift themselves onto the rock, and the high side prevents the water from flowing on to the surface.
Fur seals basking in the sun on Seal Rock in Milford Sound, New Zealand
The image shows the entrance to this inlet from the Tasman Sea.
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