A visit to Milford Sound is actually a visit to a fjord, which gives a better sense of the magnitude of the landscape. It also happens to be more accurate. I had been looking forward to this portion of my journey ever since arriving in NZ, and it didn't disappoint. By purchasing this add-on to my Kiwi Experience tour (included in The Whole Kit & Caboodle option), I saved myself a seat, inflated last-minute prices, and frustration down the road.
The journey started in Queenstown, first stopping in Dunedin and then Invercargill. These were fast stops, long drives, and honestly...kind of boring days up until Milford Sound, known as the 8th wonder of the world.
From Queenstown, it's 3 1/2 to 5 hours to Dunedin, depending on your route. Once there, I'd suggest a long enough stay to explore the coast. At a certain point, a city is a city, and this one's claim to fame is the steepest street in the world (although, I think Baxter and others in Los Angeles has it beat).
The coast boasts the famous albatross colony, little blue penguins, and Tunnel Beach, but sadly, I didn't see any of this. We arrived late and had an early morning the next day, so fitting a side trip in was more than I could figure out. Spending a little time planning an additional day would allow full appreciation of the area.
Exploring the catlins coast meant exchanging the quick 2 1/2 hour inland trip from Dunedin, for a 12 hour stop-and-go experience along the southern coast. One of the stops was to pause for some sheep herding.
Our first official stop was at the stunning Nugget Point:
Then we got up-close and personal with some sea lions at Cannibal Bay:
And took short walks to Purakaunui and McLean Falls:
Finally, we braved the rain at Curio Bay. This area has wildlife galore: dolphins, sea lions, and the famous yellow-eyed penguin. After 45 minutes in cold, sideways rain, Papa Penguin finally returned to his young with food. He may only look like another rock, but believe me, there was a wiggly, jumping, yellow-eyed penguin over there.
We arrived in Invercargill around dinner time, fell asleep, and continued on to Milford Sound the next morning. A nice nod to the area is the movie, The World's Fastest Indian.
All of that bad weather finally passed, clearing the way for a fantastic view of the fjord.
Milford Sound, along with Doubtful Sound are incredible areas to experience the majestic beauty of this country, and if you reserve ahead and have time, you can be one of the few people allowed to walk the Milford Track (guided or unguided), one of the great walks available in NZ. The drive into the area was one stop after another of beautiful sights.
Our guided boat ride took us through the Sound to the Tasman Sea, and back. Complimentary tea and coffee were offered, along with rain jackets. A pricy-but-handy cafe is also on board to keep your stomach settled while taking in this spectacular scenery.
A 4 hour bus ride returned us to Queenstown, and then it was on to stargazing at Lake Tekapo and a very hot walk to Mt. Cook.
Southern Links and Ideas:
Map from Queenstown to Dunedin, Invercargill, Milford Sound and back to Queenstown.
Dunedin: Albatross colony, Little blue penguins, and Tunnel Beach
Catlins coast includes: Nugget Point, Sea Lions, Purakaunui and McLean Falls and Curio Bay.
Milford Sound is gorgeous and a real highlight.
Milford Track is part of the great walks
Doubtful Sound is a nice alternative, I've heard.