Still riding off the high from sky diving, we decided to take it easy the next day and stick to land and water travel. We signed up for a full day trip to the Milford Sounds via the Kiwi Experience bus. The Milford Explorer Pass included round-trip bus transport from Queenstown to Milford and a 2 hour scenic cruise through the sound, including lunch (NZD$159).
The Kiwi Experience was a hop-on hop-off tour company that focused on backpackers looking for flexible itineraries. It was similar to Contiki in that it attracted young, solo travelers but it seemed a bit more budget since their accommodations were usually in hostels rather than hotels. Most of our neighbors staying at the Base Discovery Lodge were Kiwi Experience travelers.
We departed from Queenstown in the early morning, and it took 5 hours to drive to Milford. We took a brief breakfast stop at Te Anau, which lies approximately halfway on the route between Queesntown and Milford. The town sits on the eastern shore of Lake Te Anau in Fiordland, which is the largest lake in the South Island. We saw the most legit rainbow spanning over the lake here; it was the first time I had ever seen both ends of rainbow.
We continued our journey through Homer Tunnel in the Fiordland National Park, New Zealand’s largest national park and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Milford Sound is actually a fjord located within the park, which is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides, created in a valley carved by glacial activity.
Along the winding road, we stopped to check out the Mirror Lakes and the Chasm. We followed a wooden footbridge on a nature walk to the Chasm, which is a spot along the Cleddau River where the watercourse disappears between a narrow, rocky chasm.
We then boarded our Red Boat Cruise for a scenic 2-hour boat ride through the sound. We cruised through the serene waters as we passed soaring peaks and rushing waterfalls. Milford Sound is a spectacular sight to see, and in an entire country of natural beauty, it is one of New Zealand’s most well-known attractions.
Milford Sound receives a lot of rain, as it did on the day we visited, and it actually made the scenery even more pronounced with the flowing waterfalls. It is recommended to visit the Sound on both a sunny and rainy day as the scenery is very different and amazing. Definitely bring a waterproof jacket and an umbrella of some sort, as we got absolutely drenched standing outside trying to take pictures during our cruise.
After the cruise, we explored Milford’s Discovery Centre and Deep Underwater Exploratory until we made our way back to Queenstown. Later than night, we went on a bar crawl that included World Bar, Lone Star, and Buffalo Club with our new Kiwi Experience friends. I also ran into some of my Contiki Australia travelmates, as some had continued onto New Zealand with Contiki while others went the independent route like me.