New Zealand is by far the most beautiful country I have ever visited. It’s a place that Derik and I both fell head over heels in love with, and a place that sends a ping of sadness through my heart when I think about how far away it is from us now. During our time in New Zealand, cruising Milford Sound was at the very top of my bucket list. Strangely, I spent an entire year wishing to visit, and it didn’t happen until our last two weeks there.
We went on an amazing comprehensive New Zealand tour with Haka Tours, and I knew the opportunity to book a cruise with Jucy to Milford Sound would be in the runnings of ‘things to do while on tour.’ It was either that or spend a day in Queenstown (which is equally as amazing for first-timers), and since Derik and I had already visited Q-town countless times during our year, we opted for the 13+ hour tour of the Sound…even though 85% of that was going to be sitting in a bus (5 hours there and 5 hours back) as we drove to the remote southwest corner of New Zealand.
The day began before light, early enough not a single coffee shop or convenience store was open to buy anything for the road. We were a bit worried because we had been told to BRING FOOD for the road, or we weren’t going to get any all day. Luckily for us, the first “bathroom break” stop we took in the tiniest of towns, also had a grocery store a few blocks down from the restrooms. Derik and I, champions at speed-walking, shuffled our way down to the store and bought some premade sandwiches and crackers to get us through the day.
The drive was beautiful, and our Jucy coach bus was comfortable enough to snooze on and off throughout the morning. To get to Milford Sound, a drive through a mountain pass is required, and we eventually got to a point on the road where all vehicles were required to put on snow chains. Our bus driver worked fast, but we still had about a 20 minute wait; so we all piled outside and began eating, throwing, stomping, and photographing the snow (naturally) while he fitted the tires with their chains.
Once back on the road, the scenery morphed into something most people only see in magazines and calendars: rugged, white mountains, glacier blue rivers, low-hanging, misty clouds, and of course the fresh powdery snow. It was a feast for the eyes, and every which way to look out of the bus was magnificent.
Before we knew it, we were back down on the other side of the mountain pass, and right on the edge of the Sound. It looked exactly like the pictures I had seen before, and I was kicking myself why Derik and I hadn’t ventured down to Milford ourselves previously in the year. I would have loved to stay a night or two and explore the area on my own, but instead we were shuffled off to the dock, and right on to our boat.
There were surprisingly a ton of people on board (for the off-season this seemed weird), and TIP FOR YOU: if you want a good view, immediately sit down outside…preferably in the front of the boat. It was freaking cold, but the boat did have free coffee, and Derik kept me supplied with a nice warm cup during our hour and a half cruise.
As we were headed back to the dock, a couple of bottle-nosed dolphins appeared out of nowhere and stuck around in the boat’s wake for about 60 seconds before they headed back out to sea. I literally got one picture (and it’s not good at all) of them because I had already put away my camera. Imagine the panic and chaos of the moment as I fumbled through my camera bag (with frozen fingers) trying to get my camera back out. HA! Oh well. At least there’s blurry evidence.
All in all, we had an amazing time cruising Milford Sound. If you’re ever in New Zealand, please consider this a “must-do” because it’s truly one of the most beautiful locations on earth.
Are you going on a cruise? Bring:
CASH – for on-board purchases…just in case you forgot to pre-buy a lunch like we almost did.
CAMERA – Obviously. Don’t forget the extra batteries. I would recommend a wide angle lens, and zoom lens for those lucky dolphin encounters!
RAIN COAT – It’s often wet and misty in Milford, but if you do have an absolutely perfect “blue sky” day, the waterfalls may get you wet.
SNACKS – Because….10 hours without eating is a long time. You can save yourself a bit of money if you buy your lunch and snacks ahead of time at a grocery store, instead of the inflated food pricing on the boat.