About Milford Sound

Bounded by steep cliffs and dense rainforest, Milford Sound is by far the best known of all of the fiords in New Zealand, and the only one that can be accessed by road. Rain or shine, Milford Sound continues to captivate even the most experienced traveller. At the pinnacle of Milford Sound is the iconic Mitre Peak - standing a proud 1,692 metres above sea level, it is certainly an impressive sight to behold.  It is approximately 16km from the head of the fiord to the open sea, which means visitors can comfortably travel the length of the fiord to open ocean and return on one of the many cruise options. Milford Sound by Jo@net, on flickr.

  • Milford Sound History & Legend

    Māori are believed to have discovered Milford Sound more than 1,000 years ago, returning seasonally to the fiord to collect precious pounamu (also known as greenstone or jade). These treks from the east used traditional pathways across passes such as MacKinnon Pass on the Milford Track. In Māori legend, Milford Sound was formed by Tu-te-raki-whanoa, an atua (godly figure) who shaped the Fiordland coast. Chanting a powerful karakia (prayer), he carved the towering rock walls with his adze.

  • The Māori name for Milford Sound, Piopiotahi, refers to the piopio, a long-extinct native bird said to have flown here in mourning at the death of legendary hero Maui. In 1912 European settler John Grono landed there and named it Milford Sound, after Milford Haven in Wales. Tales of the region’s untouched beauty began to spread - British writer Rudyard Kipling declared it ‘the eighth wonder of the world’. Today Milford Sound is New Zealand’s most famous attraction and frequently tops lists of the world's most beautiful places.

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  • Flora & Fauna

    The underwater environment in the fiords is one of the most intriguing and unique in the world. This is not only because of the beautiful natural environment and the marine reserves that exist here, but also because of an interesting effect of the high rainfall in the area. As rainfall drains through the lush forests, it becomes stained with tannins until it is the colour of strong tea.The fiords support the world's biggest population of black coral trees - about seven million colonies, some of them up to 200 years old.
  • Geology

    Milford Sound, located at the northern most end of Fiordland National Park on the South Island of New Zealand, is a national icon. In places as much as 400 metres deep, celebrated for its pristine landscapes, and remote and rugged beauty, it is actually a fiord, rather than a sound. A river formed valley subsequently flooded by the sea is called a sound, however, Milford Sound was formed by the erosive effects of a glacier and is more correctly a fiord.
  • Named after its resemblance to a bishop’s mitre (head-dress), Mitre Peak is a prominent peak on the south shore of Milford Sound. Rising 1692 metres, seemingly sheer above the Sound, the summit actually consists of five closely grouped individual peaks. Milford Sound. Rising 1692 metres, seemingly sheer above the Sound, the summit actually consists of five closely grouped individual peaks.
    Image below:Road to Milford, by BriYYZ, on flickr.
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  • Climate

    With a mean annual rainfall of 6,813 mm on 182 days a year, a high level even for the West Coast, Milford Sound is known as the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand and one of the wettest in the world. Rainfall can reach 250 mm during a span of 24 hours. The rainfall creates dozens of temporary waterfalls (as well as a number of major, more permanent ones) cascading down the cliff faces, some reaching a thousand metres in length. Smaller falls from such heights may never reach the bottom of the sound, drifting away in the wind.