Day 9: June 6th – Cruising Milford Sound & Tramping through Middle Earth

WE SLEPT IN (Home Alone style)!

We were supposed to be at the Milford Sound harbor for a cruise starting at 9:45 and…we didn’t make it. I guess we didn’t just turn into early morning people like we thought we had.

The Milford Sound Lodge

When we arrived at the harbor, we met a couple that was trying to figure out which cruise they were going to go on. The couple was a girl from Maine, living in NZ and a Kiwi, named Zhoel. They lived up near Coromandel, on the North Island, so were giving us some ideas for things we should do if we make it up that far. We tossed around cruise ideas and after toiling a long time, decided on the smallest boat, a nature cruise with Mitre Peak Cruises.

Before moving on, I want to back up a little bit. We missed the cruise we intended to go on, that we had found for a super good price on BookMe ( It’s this really great deals website, similar to Groupon, where you can buy discounted tickets to different activities. We checked it ALL the time…when we had WiFi or phone service, that is. But anyway, don’t miss out on BookMe if you go to New Zealand or Australia. So many activities!


After we decided on our cruise, we had a little time to kill, so we went out to see The Chasm.  There was a ton of water crushing through this stream, which formed holes in all the rocks.

We kept calling it The orChasm…because we’re mature.

There was a scary ghost mask face rock (like in the movie Scream), and huge cauldrons with big holes.

Look for Gollum’s glowing eyes, protecting his Precious…

Then we went back to the Foreshore Walk, right by the Milford Sound harbor. Oh, fa sho! There were super beautiful views of the Sound and the boat docks. Photos just don’t do it justice.

Finally it was time to head to our cruise.


It was a small boat, we were the third and fourth people in line, and made our way straight to the front of the boat…and…no one else did…except for one guy.

Once we got going, more people came out there but it still never really got crowded. Hello, Milford Sound!

We learned about the history of the Milfy Sound. Some fun facts:

  1. Rudyard Kipling called the Milford Sound the “Eighth Wonder of the World;”
  2. Receiving an average of 21 FEET of rainfall per year, Milford Sound is the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand, which makes us pretty lucky that we had a sunny day;
  3. The fiord remained undiscovered by European sailors until 1812, because from the Tasman Sea, the entrance to the fiord just looks like a large bay, and sailors were afraid to get too close to the cliffs.
Milford Sound entrance from Tasman Sea

The cliffs are all composed of minerals valuable in mining – copper, iron ore, and other rockin’ minerals.


People catch abalone, crayfish and other shellfish in the Sound.

There are tons of waterfalls when it has been raining, but our cruise day was sunny. There hadn’t been any rain in the past few days when we were there, so it was nice for being on the water but not great for the visual effects, apparently. We enjoyed the blue sky and turquoise water, though!

We cruised all the way out to the Tasman Sea, past St. Anne’s Point. Certain times of the year you can see whales and penguins around that area. Not today, unfortunately!


Yesterday, a group saw dolphins in the Sound. Jealous! They live on the coast, so there are never any guarantees that you’ll see them enter the Sound.

We did see a few young seals laying out on the rocks. So cute! The boat got up really close. I don’t think they appreciated that.

The views in general were just amazing. Jo stayed out on deck when we went up to a waterfall, Lady Bowen Falls.


We talked to a couple American guys who had been doing some serious adventure traveling–skydiving near Lake Matheson, bungy jumping at Nevis (another bungy site near Queenstown), and The Skippers Canyon Road, which sounds absolutely terrifying. It’s so dangerous that your rental car insurance won’t cover you if you choose to drive on that road. NO THANK YOU.

We also met Nick, who told us to basically cancel any other plans we had for the next day and that we absolutely couldn’t miss Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo. Well, okay, plans for tomorrow made!

He lives up near Auckland. He is actually going to the NZ All Blacks Rugby game in Auckland, so Jo was asking him for advice on how we could get some tickets. Jo got his digits, so we will plan on getting in touch with him when we get up to Auckland, at least to grab a beer after the game.


We left the cruise, and the beautiful Milfy Sound…(please don’t Google that).


…aaaaand back through the Homer Tunnel…

…en route to the Key Summit, part of the Routeburn Track. And just so we’re on the same page, in New Zealand, you don’t “hike,” you “tramp.”

The Key Summit was a 3 hour return (there and back) tramp, and we didn’t even start until until 4:30, so we knew we’d come down after dark. We brought headlamps and supplies. The tramp was challenging–very uphill, but it felt great.

This was SO WORTH IT! Absolutely GORGEOUS! Straight up Middle Earth.

The reward at the top was spectacular. There were mountains all around. The entire landscape was breathtaking.


We watched the sun disappear behind the mountains, leaving our Middle Earth in darkness.


We got our gear ready for the dark descent…

…and headed down. We drove on all the way back to Queenstown.

We made a pit stop to replenish the Car Bar, and rolled into our campsite nice and late. It was, once again, a crazy drive. The roads were windy, mountainous and frosty (the Kiwis prefer frosty to icy), and we had a thick layer of fog to contend with.

What a FANTASTIC day!


7 thoughts on “Day 9: June 6th – Cruising Milford Sound & Tramping through Middle Earth

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