During our stay in the South Island – I was adamant that we had to get down to the Milford Sound. And I definitely wanted to include a cruise.
We had to take a bit of a detour to do the Milford Sound. As our backpacking trip we were looping clockwise around the South Island. It meant that we had to travel down to Te Anau, and then do the tour as a day trip from there. We then travel back up to Queenstown to continue up the West coast of the island.
So we were based in the lovely little Te Anau for a few days, with the plan to do a day trip to Milford Sound on the first day and then a hiking day on the second.
The Tour Package
After a bit of research/looking for a deal, we decided to do the Milford Sound Eco Tour – which I’d found online for $99 dollars each. (Which was I think a snip. This was one of the more expensive thing we wanted to do during our backpacking trip, along with Hobbiton!)
I’ve had a look and it’s now called Jucy Zest and has gone up to $109 NZD. (Which right now is about £56, so not too horrific.) Jucy predominantly do car and camper-van rentals in New Zealand. So you’ll quite regularly see their familiar green and purple coloured cars and vans driving around the country.
The tour started out in a small coach/bus. It was much smaller than I’d anticipated.
They helpfully picked us up right outside our hostel in the morning. Which was a good plus as we had an early-ish start. The group was small but a real mixed bag. There were couples, a mother daughter pair, and a family of 6 from America, so the chatter in the bus was unusual! The bus was a bit old school, a little rickety and not like the big air conditioned comfy coaches we’d been using via Intercity. But I liked the small group size and more intimate feel.
We took route 94 North up past Lake Te Anau. and through the lush Fiordland to the Sound. Stopped off att Lake Gunn for a look.
At Gertrudes Valley lookout we pulled over briefly for a stop to look at the snow capped mountains. And here we met our first Kea. Kea are gorgeous large parrots native to the South Island of New Zealand, and are a lovely distinctive green colour. They’re also the worlds only alpine parrots. Nowadays Kea are uncommon and are classified as Nationally Endangered. They used to be hunted for bounties, as they were accused of preying on livestock. From the 70’s they have been protected, however for various reasons they are still in decline.
Kea are curious and very intelligent. The cheeky chap we met was unafraid and came very close. We were told he/she was looking for food, but were discouraged from feeding them as it can encourage them to rely on humans and not hunt for themselves. At one point it hopped inside the bus for a little look around! Very sweet.
At this point we saw a very light dusting of snow and some ice still on the ground. As we were heading into spring it had mostly melted by the time we arrived. But we discovered for the family of Americans, who had their children with them, it was the first time they’d ever seen snow! So we hung around a little while longer while they had a little look. (It wasn’t the best example of snow to be honest, it was pretty brown and slushy but they were excited.)
The Homer Tunnel
We then drove through the Homer tunnel. which is an interesting structure in itself. Cut through the Darran Mountain range, the tunnel takes highway 94 through the range towards the Milford Sound. The tunnel was originally single lane, so now operates with a traffic light system during high season. But we were told during winter and spring there is a risk of avalanche at either end of the tunnel, so the traffic lights aren’t used during these periods.
After getting through the tunnel we meandered down to the Cruise terminal. We hopped off our bus, (after having picked up our lunch ticket) and made our way over to the cruise boat.
We finally hopped on our Jucy cruise boat, joining other tourists who had driven themselves to the Sound. I’d read online to book onto the morning cruise as it would be quieter than later in the day. But I was still a bit surprised at the amount of people, it was busier than I’d expected. It wasn’t too bad though, I’d definitely recommend the morning cruise. It was really cold that day so we headed straight inside and swapped our lunch card for our complimentary PitaPit. Which was really yum. (And also reasonably priced, as we had to buy a second one for bottomless pit Ian.)
And then we were off! Cruising down the gorgeous Sound, blue sky blazing away. First we reached Bowen Falls, which is the highest waterfall in Milford Sound, which powers the town with water and electricity, and a beautiful sight.
We then cruised slowly down the Sound and were suddenly engulfed by cloud and fog, and the temperature dropped even further. We wandered around the outside of the boat for a bit, watching as the fog ebbed and flowed and caught sight of some of the lovely mountains to either side. By the time we reached the end of the sound you couldn’t really see very much in front or around us. And the temperature dropped even lower so we dashed inside again.
After we reached the end of the Sound, where the water meets the Tasman Sea, the boat turned around headed back inland back towards the cruise terminal. On our way back through, as the fog started to lift, we were greeted by the wonderful view of seal pups basking on the rocks.
The further along we sailed the bluer and brighter the scene became until we were out in a gorgeous spring crisp morning again, and I got a fab view of Stirling Falls, and then the famous Mitre Peak as we made back towards the port.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any penguins or dolphins. But the seal pups were so cute.
The return drive back to Te Anau
On the drive back we were dropped off on one side of the Tutoko Bridge and walked across as a group and then got back on the bus on the other side. Which was as sweet little spot, and we got to take in the surrounding mountains. As we’d started early we were able to visit the Sound while it was quiet, and as we got off the cruise it was just starting to get busier, so I can recommend getting as early a cruise as you can. At this point more and more people were pouring into the Sound so we were glad to have avoided the more crowded part of the day. Also be careful of driving yourself as the road to Milford sound is notoriously difficult.
We also stopped at Pop’s View Lookout, which is a small lookout view over the mountains
On our way back we made a few stops along the way, and as we didn’t have boat to catch were able to take things at a slower pace. First we stopped at Pops View Lookout, which is a small lookout platform, giving incredible views of the mountains, and streams running into the Sound. Our next stop was the Chasm, which was a short and easy stroll through the bush. The Chasm walk led us through the bush to where the water flowed, and found a waterfall with beautifully water sculpted rocks.
Monkey Creek – water
And my personal favourite, we also stopped at Monkey Creek, where our driver told us the creek was 99% free of impurities. The water is filtered as it comes down the mountains, and far cleaner than the water we drink at home for example. So we filled up our water bottles and I must say it tasted wonderful.
Finally, after a long days of driving and viewing excitement we made our way back down the Fiordland, and the side of Lake Te Anau. And then we were dropped conveniently outside our hostel, tired but very satisfied.
Milford Sound Eco Tour Review – Round Up
Overall I think the Milford Sound Eco tour is well worth the money. While we went for the cheapest option we could find, I didn’t find the experience second rate. I actually loved the smaller more intimate group. I loved all of the little stops along the journey, and the casual chat of the driver. As he drove he gave some information about the
So there you have it – please like share and comment on my Milford sound Eco Tour Review. What did you think, have you done this tour before? Are you tempted by it?
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