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Fiordland (Milford Sound)
Milford Sound is a fiord in the south west of New Zealand’s South Island, within Fiordland National Park, a World Heritage Site that includes Doubtful and Dusky Sounds. Milford Sound is by far the best known of all of the fiords and the only one that can be accessed by road. It is approximately 16km from the head of the fiord to the open sea, which means visitors can comfortably travel the length of the fiord to open ocean and return on one of the many cruise options available in 1½ to 2 hours cruising time.
The beauty of this landscape draws thousands of visitors each day, with between 550,000 and 1 million visitors in total per year. This makes the sound one of New Zealand’s most-visited tourist spots, and also the most famous New Zealand tourist destination, even with its remote location and the long journey from the nearest population centres. It was judged the world’s top travel destination in the 2008 Travelers’ Choice Destinations Awards by TripAdvisor.
Milford Sound runs 15 kilometres inland from the Tasman Sea at Dale Point – the mouth of the fiord – and is surrounded by sheer rock faces that rise 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) or more on either side. Among the peaks are The Elephant at 1,517 metres (4,977 ft), said to resemble an elephant’s head, and The Lion, 1,302 metres (4,272 ft), in the shape of a crouching lion.
Milford Sound sports two permanent waterfalls all year round, Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls. After heavy rain however, many hundreds of temporary waterfalls can be seen running down the steep sided rock faces that line the fiord. They are fed by rain water drenched moss and will last a few days at most once the rain stops.
With a mean annual rainfall of 6,813 mm (268 in) on 182 days a year, a high level even for the West Coast, Milford Sound is known as the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand and one of the wettest in the world.
Lush rain forests cling precariously to these cliffs, while seals, penguins, and dolphins frequent the waters and whales can be seen sometimes. The sound has been identified as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International because it is a breeding site for Fiordland Penguins.
As of the 2006 census, just 120 people lived in Milford Sound, most of them working in tourism or conservation.
All cruise vessels entering Fiordland are required to be a signatory to the Deed of Agreement with the regional council, namely Environment Southland. The Deed prescribes operating conditions, including passage plans and procedures.
Fiordland is typically a cruise by port but Milford Sound is where passengers booked on an overland tour are allowed to embark or disembark on shore tenders.
Milford Sound is where passengers booked on overland tours are tendered ashore to travel to Queenstown, New Zealand’s most famous resort.
Queenstown is picturesque and known for its outdoor and adventure activities. It is famous for introducing the bungy to the world, and was also the backdrop for much of the filming of the Lord of the Rings. Queenstown and its surrounds are also conducive to producing award-winning Pinot Noirs.
Distance to the city
Closest township is Te Anau which is a 1.5 hours drive from the Milford berth. Queenstown is a 5 hour drive away.
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