Majestic Milford Sound

Rudyard Kipling, a famous (supposedly) English poet and short-story writer, had absolutely no words to describe the beauty that unfolded before him on the road into Milford Sound.

The South Island of New Zealand looks pretty much the same all over when you’re driving, in the same way that the midwest is all cornfields in between towns. Instead though, replace the cornfields with rolling green hills and mountains. We drove through many kilometers of these green hills and mountains, fields full of sheep and unremarkable small towns on the way to Te Anau. Te Anau is a small town that is the last stop for petrol, groceries, and booze, two hours away from Milford Sound. We were pretty quiet for the first 20 minutes we were heading out from Te Anau, as Dan carefully read the map (probably so Teryn didn’t yell at him later) and Teryn paid close attention to the giant buses passing just inches by us.

However, it was soon becoming difficult to ignore the giant fucking mountains that suddenly jutted up from the land as we patted Dug  ( our trusty campervan ) on the dashboard to encourage his climb up the next hill.

Rudyard Kipling may have been at a loss for words, but we always seem to find some. Teryn, being a natural-born poet, described the emerging scene with the elegance you would expect from a midwestern linguist that grew up in the 90’s;

“I don’t know about you, but this looks like some Land Before Time shit.”        

The road continued on through magical, enchanted rainforests (real rainforests!) with tight corners and more sketchy giant buses passing by. We eventually pulled off at a scenic pullover to take it all in.

Most of our southern coast travels until now have taken us through the rolling green countryside full of sheep and cattle straight onto the ocean each and every time, but this was different. This was some Jungle Book, Jurassic Park, Land Before Time, taradactyls in the air, T-Rex behind a tree, RAPTORS BEHIND THE VAN. FUCKING. SHIT!

Where is Jeff Goldblum when we need him?

It’s safe to say neither of us have ever been in a real rainforest before. That kind of beauty may have English poets at a loss for words…but if you grew up in the flat, corn-fed mess that is the Midwest, like we did….you’re going to say something like “Fuck, this shit is fucking beautiful.”

Something about the ethereal scenery in this country only allows for expletives to describe it. I’ve never sworn so much in my life.  (Sorry Grammy.)

So we winded around bends trying to avoid death by bus, and eventually came upon the entrance to a sketchy ass tunnel. We didn’t know if it led to Narnia, Hobbiton, or Hades, but judging by the entrance, it was going to take us somewhere….eventually.
We waited several minutes, due to the fact the traffic through this tunnel was apparently one-way. Upon entering, we quickly recognized that some hard-working poor souls had dug this thing out bit by bit, quite possibly with a tool as simple as a spoon, complete with flickering lights and water dripping from the ceiling.

We made it through that tunnel and popped out on the other side to some magical mountainous wonderland. We eased Dug down some switchbacks and found ourselves here:

This is also the point where we noticed the black micro-demons (sandflies) and scurried back to the van after the photo sesh to put on our new best friend, Goodbye Sandfly. Thank goodness for the hippy who decided to throw together all of the essential oils in one thing to ward off the black demons of death.

We hopped into Dug one more time and made our way to Milford Lodge, the only campground in the area, that would be our home for the weekend. The sun was definitely starting to set, so we checked in, and naturally headed into town, and we use that term very loosely, looking for a beer.

The Blue Duck was highly recommended to us by our flatties, and we highly recommend it to you! That would be because it is literally the only bar or restaurant in “town.”

We had some things that they called nachos and celebrated the small victory of just making it there with a beer before heading back to camp. There was a supermoon that night, so Dan took the opportunity to try out his night photography skills, while Teryn drank too much wine and tried to tell him what to do to. She redeemed herself by making a delicious homemade pizza when the kitchen cleared out. She’s good at that.

Dark and early at 6 am the next day, Dan decided it was a good idea to wake everyone up and start getting ready for the day. We had a Milford Sound cruise scheduled for 9am, so we eventually headed to the boat docks to fight the crowds of Asian tourists on the way to the boats.

The night before, wine-infused Teryn made friends with some people from California while we discussed the local trail map inside the lodge, and convinced them to jump on the same cruise as us. Their names were Yip, a fabric developer for North Face, and Chandra, his girlfriend that probably does something cool, but we never did figure out what. We were excited to see them that morning getting ready to hop on the boat with us. Part of the package deal was a “hot cooked breakfast onboard the boat,” which included jiggly fake scrambled eggs, dry toast, baked beans (they love that at breakfast), McD’s style hash browns, and some weird, gamey, uncooked sausage, with only OJ to wash it all down. Teryn hates pasteurized OJ, eggs, unidentifiable sausage, and baked beans. Breakfast fail all around for her. Dan, however, got a new gold star from the Clean Plate Club that day. He has adapted well to the New Zealand food conditions, while Teryn just subsists on hot chips and aoili when not afforded the opportunity to just make food for ourselves.

We finished breakfast as our tour guide kicked on the loudspeaker as we passed Milford Sound’s first permanent waterfall that supplies Milford Township with its water and power, Lady Bowen Falls. It looked a lot like a waterfall. See for yourselves:

We headed up to the top deck to take in the 360-degree view on this rare sunny day because apparently, it rains 2 out of 3 days there. The tour guide/boat skipper sounded like he was reciting verbatim from, with pauses to catch up on reading included. He was either really amazing at what he does, or hadn’t had his coffee yet. Our friends Yip and Chandra got stuck on another cruise with Chandra’s parents whom were also in the area and said their second tour guide was actually the dishwasher in the boat kitchen with a microphone. I think we lucked out.

They call some waterfalls “permanent” in Milford Sound because when it is raining ‘heaps’, you can see over 400 cascading from the cliffsides, but only 2 or 3 stick around when the rain stops. Take in our pictures and video to see the beauty of Milford Sound yo’self. –

After an hour, we paddled back to the discovery center to descend into it’s depths 30 meters below the ocean to discover…..some coral and stuff. And a starfish. Specifically, an 11-armed starfish and some black coral, that is apparently really rare, and is actually white. Milford Sound has a rare phenomenon going on called “deep water emergence.” That means that there is a thick layer of freshwater on top of the salt water due to rainwater runoff. This water is the color of black tea, which tricks sealife into believing it is living at a deeper depth than it actually is. Thus, the phrase ‘deep water emergence.’ Science, people. Science.

We hopped a boat back to shore and went back to camp in search of a hot shower to rinse off all of the bug repellent…only to put ‘heaps’ more back on.

We went to bed early that night to get up early and get the hell out of sandfly land…and woke up with Teryn having a severe case of Micky Mouse Hands on her left hand.

Apparently she is allergic to sandflies. We had planned on doing a hike out to nearby Humbolt Falls, but decided against it so that she didn’t end up with any other swollen body parts. We headed back to Te Anau, tired, but we still had 2 more days vacation and we weren’t even trying to drive 5 hours back home that day. Te Anau is a small town and the only place on the map left to hang out in before the trip back to Wanaka. We decided to stay for the night and figure out something to do. There isn’t many choices, so we went with the one we know best….day drinking. We pulled into the holiday park to clean up a bit and crack open some beers. We turned on the usual gangster rap and kicked back for a little while.

After pre-gaming for our epic Te Anau bar crawl we decided to walk to one end of town and just drink our way back to the holiday park at the other end of town. We approached the first bar, only to find out that they don’t serve beer, in spite of what their sign outside says. We went to the second bar that was completely empty, but they actually had beer, so we sat down anyway. The Backstreet Boys music video for “As Long As You Love Me” came on the TV and Teryn squealed with joy and sang every word. New Zealand still loves the Backstreet Boys. Dan doesn’t. We moved onto The Ranch, the only semi-fun looking sports bar in town, which also happened to be the only other bar on our way back. We chatted with a Scottish couple for an hour or two before the rain hit, then headed back to camp. We made dinner then hit they hay, and headed back to Wanaka the following morning.

If you ever make your way to New Zealand, we highly recommend checking out Fiordland (they spell it wrong here) National Park, where Milford Sound is located. Let us know when you go because we’ll sneak into your backpack and go with you!

There is a reason why Milford Sound can always be found on lists of top places to see.

A post shared by Daniel J (@global.giraffe) on

  • Are planning a trip to Milford Sound? Trust us, this is one place that you have to place on your must visit list! Let us know in the comments below and if you enjoy our blogs subscribe to our newsletter & follow us on social media below.
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Global Giraffe is a travel blog that is focused on keeping it real. This isn't a fluffy rainbow magical travel blog, here you'll find real life situations, tips and advice for the every day person that wants to know more about places they've never been to. Global Giraffe is led by Dan and Teryn. After leaving Denver, Colorado, they decided to try to take on the world, one odd job at a time. They are currently residing in Asheville, North Carolina. For more updates follow Global Giraffe on FacebookTwitter and Instagram



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