The trip to Milford Sound is both spectacular and grueling. The Sound is incredibly remote, hundreds of kilometers from any real city, separated from civilization by a huge mountain range, and meteorologically one of the wettest places on the face of the earth. You can figure with all those qualifications you're going to be heading into one of the most spectacular places you can imagine.
New Zealand highways are more than adequate for the light traffic demands and agrarian economy. They are not, however, designed for giant busses full of eager tourists wishing to traverse the road to the sound. Leaving at daybreak, we jostled and lurched for hours through amazing valleys, between snowcapped spires, through a mile long tunnel, around a dozen switchbacks to reach the water's edge. Despite these 'miserable' conditions (complaining mostly for effect here), it's only in retrospect that the journey is even noticed, much less a trial. Such is the nature of the intervening scenery.
The trip to Milford Sound is broken into four sections -
- The 'lowland' portion of the trip - Queenstown to the north end of Lake Te Anau
- The 'highland' portion - Lake Te Anau to Milford Sound
- Milford Sound itself
- The return trip
...back to Queenstown