Winter in Milford Sound
Imagine a place where waterfalls cascade down mountain peaks, where deep green lakes sprinkle with light, where flocks of sheep speckle emerald pastures. When you stop along the two-lane highway for a hot coffee or to feed alpacas, locals will tell you you’re in Southland — a region that is mostly nature plus sheep, a sparsely-populated wonderland of natural phenomena. And Milford Sound embodies all of this, an infamous fiord cradled by the alpine landscape. Just one of many epic scenes that makes up Southland, the vast scale of the sound feels beyond the scope of what you normally see and experience.
In the winter, the most spectacular qualities of Milford Sound are highlighted. Fresh coats of snow add depth to the mountain ranges, frosted ferns give complexity to the forest, layers of mist give the lakes an ethereal feel. While most travelers only visit for a few hours, staying in Milford Sound overnight lets you see the landscape as it changes — from the softer tones of the morning to the cinematic sunsets reflected across the glassy lake in the evening. On an overnight voyage, a kayak excursion takes travelers into the calm waters at the middle of the sound. This excursion especially gives contemporary travelers armed with cell phones ample opportunities to truly take in the sound, rather than simply seeing it through their lenses.
Currently the only overnight winter cruise in Milford Sound is aboard the Fiordland Discovery, a boat custom-built for the sound by former commercial fisherman Rob Swale and his family and crew. At night, the boat anchors in a calm bay, the dark sky is lit up by stars. With the central part of the Milky Way directly overhead, stars are even brighter here in the Southern Hemisphere. On the sound, there is nothing but nature. A wild place in a country that already feels remote, the locals are the dolphins, the fur seals, the kea parrots soaring high above.