We’d been driving through farmland for the better part of two hours. It was beautiful, but it was a little monotonous. The first field of sheep was charming, but by the 17th, it had gotten a little old. But the landscape was changing, stacking up more and more trees in the green fields so slowly as to be imperceptible. We rounded a wooded bend in the road, and outstretched before us was a wide valley floor full of long, yellow grass, a river snaking lazily through, and mountains framing our view as far as the eye could see.
Of course, we had to pull off the road and frolic, the wide open field was just begging for it.
We were midway on our journey to Milford Sound, a butt-aching 4 hour drive from Queenstown. What we didn’t know at this point was how many more natural wonders this drive had in store for us. Soon, we were whizzing past lakes, rivers, and countless waterfalls. We began gaining altitude, with glacier and snow-covered peaks looming all around us. Mother Nature had given the region a cold snap and some condensation, which meant there was enough snowmelt to create double the usual number of waterfalls down the mountain sides.
We stopped outside of a one-lane road that had been blasted through 2 kilometeres of solid rock mountainside, the area draped in a surreal cloak of mist from the hundreds of waterfalls that surrounded us. After passing through the mountain, we slowly made our way down a harrowing series of switchbacks to the valley floor on the other side. The piece de resistance awaited us through a grove of pine trees: Milford Sound.
We stood at the water’s edge, astounded by the natural beauty in front of us. Across the water, shrouded by mist, rose the peaks of the fjords of the Sound. far to the right, a waterfall violently voided a river a water, casting more mist into the air and giving the view a surreal tinge. It was a painting that only the masterful hand of nature could have created.
We reluctantly left after an hour or so of exploration so as not to be driving back twisting mountain road in the dark, certain that this had been worth every monotonous minute and every aching butt cheek.
If you’d like to visit Milford Sound, I’d recommend self-driving instead of taking a bus tour. You can stop as you please along the way, and aren’t beholden to a specific itinerary. There are plentiful cruises around the sound, though we opted to save our money as the (free) view from the visitor’s center was incredible enough, and we’d been told that that cruises aren’t really that great. There isn’t much to do in the area to warrant an overnight stay, but if you want to break up the drive, there are accommodation options at the visitors center and about 5 km. away.