The Motorhoming Years

Our Journey to Milford Sound

I’m heading back to when fulltime motorhoming was our way of life, and the arrival of Spring was something we looked forward to.

Which meant driving our motorhome “Purr-Inn” from the North Island via a small gap of rough seas and the Interisland Ferry to head on over to the South Island.

It was a pilgrimage of sorts for many motorhomers.

One year, 2008 to be precise, we planned to spend our Christmas Day enjoying the magnificent views of Milford Sound. As we usually spent this time of year with family or motorhome friends, it was going to be just the two of us. Making this trip made it one of the most unique Christmas days we have spent together. Not to say that our time with family and friends weren’t on our list of “special moments”. That trip, we swapped Turkey and Pudding to have a new adventure. To view Milford Sound and all her glory for the first time. We were looking forward to seeing this most talked about New Zealand icon.

We were intrigued and in awe even as we started the roadtrip to get to the Sounds.

Day Trip: Te Anau to Milford Sound

The Milford can be experienced from Queenstown. Having said that it does make for a very long trip. Leave our motorhome parked up at 12 Mile Delta just out of Queenstown then find an all-day carpark which is not easy.

Purr Inn moving out and heading to Te Anau
Starting off from 5-mile Delta, just outside of Queenstown. A Department of Conservation camping site.

Then head off on a 4-hour bus journey, experience the cruise for an hour and a half, repeat the four-hour drive back to Queenstown. Sounded like a not so relaxing way of experiencing this major attraction.

Where did we park up?

Instead, a more pleasurable way of doing it is to make a day trip from Te Anau which is a small town two hours from Queenstown and Milford Sound. Te Anau was right bang in the middle. Making it a perfect location for exploring the local area.

We were sold on that idea. So we booked our motorhome and ourselves into the Te Anau Motorcamp for four nights. Which meant we could leave our base early in the morning and take our time to stop along the way to the Milford Sound. The actual journey there is just as spectacular as the destination or dare I say it even more so. We thought it was.

Driving from Te Anau to the Milford Sounds

The alarm was set for an ungodly hour of 6.00am. For the Squire, it was, for me not so much as I am a morning person. We packed our picnic and out the door before the weather changed it’s mind once again. Not forgetting to pack our coats. There is a thing about being too optimistic.

This gave us most of the morning to drive the 120km, to have a leisurely breakfast at a local cafe, a longish walk and plenty of time to absorb and have plenty of photo opportunities along the way. Early morning can mean still waters and less wind if you are lucky, and instead, we were this particular morning.

Our cruise was booked around midday.

There are various waypoints along the way. A small lake going by the common name of “Mirror Lake”, this lake was to be a highlight of our morning. Here is why.

Mirror Lake upside down
Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake sign

Mirror Lake
Mirror Lake
The Chasm.jpg
The Chasm

A perfect reflection of the mountains and The Clasm. For a mere 20 minute walk you can take in the experience of rushing water through a gorge it really is spectacular.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound 2_

On arriving, we had time to have a walk to an advantage point to capture the beginning of the Sound before our cruise boat departed. It does pay to have a few minutes up your sleeve. For us, it always seems too.

Milford Sound

Which company did we choose to go with?

Real Journeys Milford.

The reason? I can’t recall any particular one, and due to it being a rather long time since our experience, nearly 11 years ago, I wouldn’t like to say what they offer or what their service is excellent or not so great.

The small cruise boats

What I can write about is that we absolutely enjoyed our experience onboard, all went smoothly. Ate our Christmas picnic lunch in total relaxation and having epic views. The crew were friendly from the time we purchased our tickets to disembarking.

The Highlights

Apart from savouring all our “treats” in our picnic basket, there were very memorable vistas.

Waterfall on the Milford Sound Cruise

Milford sound 3

Milford Sound - Bowen Falls_
Bowen Falls

Us on the Milford Cruise boat

All in all a very memorable Christmas Day way back in 2008.

Our Journey to Milford Sound.jpg

51 thoughts on “Our Journey to Milford Sound”

  1. Mirror Lake is well named. Stunning photography as ever Suzanne.

    In 2008 I didnโ€™t even know what end was up, I had just had my 1st baby, and was juggling all sorts of issues. What a time. ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

    You two look great though

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  2. New Zealand has some spectacular scenery Suzanne and Milford Sound is always on the list for any Aussies going over for a visit. Your photos are gorgeous and I can see why Mirror Lake got it’s name!
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Leanne, I think it is on the list of many NZers as well as many visitors. Luckily for it’s survival it is tucked away and requires more effort from visitors to visit.

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  3. It’s a gorgeous place indeed and your pics are, as always, fabulous. The first time we went we did it from Te Anau – a very civilised drive. It was the beginning of October and there’d been some late snowfalls on the road into Milford. I recall stopping just outside the tunnel and having keas come down to the car. The 2nd time we drove in from Queenstown and spent the night out on the Sounds. It was a full moon and an experience I’ll always remember. The most recent time I walked in – and we followed it up with a cruise the next day. A beautiful beautiful part of the world – and I’m glad it takes an effort to get into there.

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    1. Wow, you have certainly had a few wonderful experiences. What vessel did you stay while out on the sounds? Full moons are spectacular when out in the middle of nature..

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  4. Wonderful photographs. Like you, we did the trip from Te Anau and were blessed with glorious weather for the magnificent scenic journey until we emerged from the tunnel into damp, misty conditions which we understand are normal for Milford Sound but something of a let down after the sunshine and heat the rest of the way. Loved the whole day though; spotted fjord penguins and dolphins and couldnโ€™t avoid those cheeky keas.

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    1. Oh you were fortunate to experience the penguins and dolphins. No getting away from the cheeky Keas ๐Ÿ™‚ Pleased you had a wonderful trip. Thanks for commenting, Caree.

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  5. Isn’t it a magical place? When we were there, the Sounds had 300 ml of rain overnight. (Note: Don’t park under beech trees in rain if you want to get any sleep) It rained all through our cruise too but it didn’t spoil the journey. Water cascaded off the rock faces, it was beautiful. But I need to go again and see Mitre Peak, hopefully.

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    1. It is Wendy and I hope you get another chance to see it in the sun. Like you said no matter what the weather it is still a spectacular place to experience nature at it’s best.
      Yes, we know all about heavy rain in a motorhome ๐Ÿ™‚

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  6. What a wonderful way to spend Christmas Suzanne, it looks like an amazing area to explore and your photographs are stunning ๐Ÿค—๐Ÿ’–

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  7. Beautiful place and photos. The mirror lake is stunning. Milford Sound looks very much like the Norwegian fjords and you were lucky with the weather it seems. Such a great place to spend Christmas. Hoping all is good at home xx

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    1. Jude, I think you’re regarding the similarity between the Sounds and the Norwegian fjords. Others have expressed the same thoughts. I haven’t been to Norway, though I can imagine the vistas would be magnificent. Yes, all good here at home and taking it day by day x

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  8. Wow! You were lucky with the weather visiting Milford Sound. The first time I “swung by” was in January 2001, when I was backpacking down under. I did go on a cruise on that foggy, rainy day. The second time was in May 2015, when we “swung by” in a rented camper van. Again, it was misty…Mirror Lake wasn’t much of a mirror. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for sharing your special Christmas experience, Suz. Your photos are stunning!

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