Why You Should Add 'Milford Sound Overnight Cruise' To Your Bucket List

26 April 2019

Milford Sound - there's a reason why they call it "the eighth wonder of the world". One of the most beautiful places on earth (that was carved by glaciers in the ice age, no less) and set in the heart of the stunning Fiordland National Park, the sights will leave you truly awestruck. It's an unmissable destination if you're visiting New Zealand's South Island.

The best way to see Milford Sound is by ship or helicopter, and the majority of people do a daytime cruise. Of course it depends on time and budget, but I'd strongly urge you to go for the overnight cruise option for the following reasons.

The difference in price between the daytime and overnight cruise for us was (sic). We would've booked a hotel nearby (these aren't easy to come by and are therefore pretty pricey) and had meals out anyway, so a night's accommodation plus dinner and breakfast was essentially subtracted from the cost. Milford Sound is remote so you need to book transport or drive, and the overnight option means that your journey isn't rushed. 

Convinced? Good! On with the review...

Coach connections are available, however we took ourselves (it really pays to have a lovely uncle who lives in Christchurch who'll lend you his truck!) and I can't stress how gorgeous the drive through Fiordland National Park is. If you've seen the Peter Jackson version of King Kong, it kind of looks like you're driving through Skull Island but more glacial. Yep, apparently my niché descriptions translate from my beauty posts to my travel ones!

We booked our overnight cruise costing (sic) each via Real Journeys on the Milford Mariner. What struck us immediately was how relaxed and laidback everything was whilst still remaining really professional. It was only us and six other people waiting to board the ship and the friendly crew welcomed us with huge plates of sandwiches (to my boyfriend Will's delight) and a safety talk.

In the afternoon you explore the waters and shoreline, either via kayak or tender. Will is an adventure seeker through and through so he chose to kayak, whereas I opted for the easy 'pop on a life jacket and get driven around in a boat' option. It reminded me of an open-top bus tour - think tour guide (who's also a nature expert - ours was called Forrest and he was a legend!) at the back, steering us through the still, pure waters and telling us everything there is to know.

Dinner is a three-course affair and it was delicious. Sometimes with mass-catering meals you end up with sorry-looking salads and dry, crusty lasagne but not aboard the Mariner - everything was wonderfully fresh and flavoursome, and they have a fair 'first served for dinner, last served for dessert' system that also stops the buffet from getting swamped.

An impressive platter of cheese and biscuits was brought out following dinner and our specialist nature guide, Forrest, gave a really interesting slideshow presentation and answered any questions. A young couple handed me their adorable two-year-old, so I spent this time singing Baby Shark and not paying much attention - sorry, Forrest!

Will and I were expecting a right knees-up, to be honest - being in our early twenties we were up for a night of drinks and laughter and games with some newfound friends. Well, friends we did make, but we must've been the only people onboard under sixty and as soon as the nature presentation was over, literally everyone went to bed, including the crew.

This turned out to be really fun and romantic as we were the only ones awake, and the evening that ensued can only be described as 'pretending we're Jack and Rose in Titanic'. We bundled ourselves up, took a bottle of red wine up to the top deck and, when our eyes adjusted to the inky black sky and all we could see was mountains and stars, spent a couple of hours feeling as though we were the only two people in the world.

Sleeping arrangements are either a private cabin or a quad-share bunk. We were in the latter as those were the only two spots left on the ship for the date we wanted. It was significantly cheaper and really comfortable and cosy - it's always going to be slightly awkward when sharing a room with strangers, franted, but it was totally fine!

Morning is when things get really beautiful. We woke at 6am and had a lovely breakfast, then we grabbed a coffee and headed outside. Like the night before, it was a case of everyone else staying inside and giving us the gift of having the entire boat to ourselves, and the views were unparalleled. Mountains towered over us in every direction as we sailed through the mist, and it was definitely the most atmospheric coffee of my life!

Things got even better with the arrival of five wild bottlenose dolphins, and it was so beautiful that I burst into tears of joy as they swam alongside the ship and cruised the bow wave. Our nature guide explained that you have a 1 in 7 chance of seeing dolphins in Milford Sound, and the wildlife didn't end there: we passed a family of seals playing in the water and snoozing on the rocks of Seal Point, and we were also lucky enough to see two albatross and a guillemot. We didn't see any penguins or whales, but these can be found in Milford Peak - how special is that?!

We spent a few hours cruising the waters and marvelling at the awe-inspiring sights - we headed out to the Tasman Sea and were taken so close to the stunning, world-famous plummeting waterfalls (e.g. Stirling and Bowen Falls) that you could feel the spray.

A once-in-a-lifetime experience, an overnight cruise at Milford Sound is probably my #1 New Zealand recommendation. Of course the day trips are amazing also, especially as the journey into Milford Sound is as impressive as they come, but there was something really special about spending the night in the depths of a remote fiord and it's something I'll never forget.

Photos by Will Burchill Photography

No comments:

Post a Comment