Milford Sound is an immense waterway that dominates the southern end of New Zealand’s South Island. Technically a fjord, it is considered by many to be the most beautiful place in New Zealand (it was named the world’s top travel destination by Tripadvisor in 2008). Enclosed on almost everyside by steep mountains covered in lush greenery and waterfalls, Milford Sound is visited by over half a million visitors every year.
Maori tribes lived in the area around Milford Sound for centuries before the Europeans showed up. Initially overlooked by western explorers (Captain Cook amazingly missed it on his journeys), it wasn’t until 1812 that an expedition led by John Grono came upon it. After visiting the sound, Rudyard Kipling proclaimed it be the Eighth Wonder of the World.
Milford Sound is a ten mile long fjord that extends off the Tasman Sea. It is almost completely enclosed by mountain formations, most very steep. Thanks to the large amounts of precipitation the mountains are covered with forest, and a number of streams feed dozens of waterfalls (two of which flow year-round). An oil spill in 2004 briefly disrupted the bay, but clanup was quick and the ecosystem was fortunately not significantly impacted.
Milford Sound is a nature-lovers and boater’s paradise. Thanks to its late discovery and relative inability to support large settlements, Milford Sound is incredibly pristine. Local residents are largely only there to support the tourism industry. Hiking, boating and wildlife spotting are all very popular pastimes. Web: www.fjordland.org.nz (official website).