3 Activities in Milford Sound That’ll Take Your Breath Away!

In 2010, I made my first visit to New Zealand after my parents told me how amazing it is there. A favorite place they visited was Milford Sound, which is part of Fjordland National Park. Touted as one of the most beautiful landscapes not just in New Zealand, but in the world, I absolutely had to make a visit there. I was greeted, however, with some gloomy weather for almost my entire trip. Despite overcast clouds, some rain, and fog, I still loved everything about Milford Sound and hoped to make a return trip. The next time, however, I wanted to see what it would look like with better weather.

This time, we made it to Milford Sound with perfect weather, gifting us mostly clear skies and moderate temperatures. We were lucky because it was overcast and raining for several days prior! And here are 3 activities that you will love during your visit here:

1. A Scenic Flight

For our visit, we were taking an overnight cruise through the fjord of Milford Sound but we had arrived a lot earlier than the departure time. There was one activity that was available to us during the downtime: a scenic flight through Milford Sound that was being offered at the Discover Milford Sound Information Centre & Cafe. However, the flight had to fill all four seats, otherwise, we would’ve had to pay for all of the seats at the cost of $200 USD per person. Fortunately, we were able to find a couple that also wanted to do the flight, so the cost ended up being only $100 USD per person. This seems to be a bargain price, as most scenic flights can cost up to $400 USD per person, although usually from another location like Queenstown or Te Anau with a much longer flight duration.

 

 

This 25-30 minute flight starts and ends at the Milford Sound Airport, which is right next to the visitor center. A charter plane is not quite like your average commercial plane ride; due to its small body and lighter weight, it is more prone to more turbulence. While we weren’t particularly nervous, those with a fear of flying may want to pass on this activity. One of the other passengers was very close to backing out of the flight before ultimately deciding to board the plane. The flight was a little bumpier than we’ve ever experienced, but it wasn’t anything that should really deter you from doing it.

If you are able to board the plane, you’ll be treated to a truly majestic flight of Milford Sound! Much of New Zealand is unexplorable due to impassable landscapes, therefore flying is a terrific way to see these hidden treasures. The flight takes you through the entire fjord of Milford Sound towards the ocean, then fly over various mountain ranges. From bare rock mountains to those covered in forests or from colorful mountains to pristine snow cover peaks, it’s an incredible variety that you can see in the air that you may not ordinarily see on the ground.

One of the coolest sights that you can see on this flight is Quill Lake and Sutherland Falls. The lake is nestled in the mountains in a basin that overflows and cascades into Sutherland Falls, which measures 580 meters (1,904 feet), making it the second tallest waterfall in New Zealand. While you can hike to the base of the falls, the only way to see Quill Lake is in the air by plane or helicopter.

This flight at Milford Sound is easily the best value for your buck to see the beautiful aerial scenery. It’s an activity worth doing, especially if you are not looking to pay hundreds of dollars.

2. The Overnight Cruise

Next up on the agenda, our overnight cruise. Our parents had done the cruise previously too so they booked us the cruise as a wedding gift to us. We went go through a company called “Real Journeys” and boarded the boat named the “Milford Wanderer.” You can find several photos of what the boat looks like on their website here. However, the boat no longer had the private rooms left so we had to share in a 4-person bunk room. It all worked out though, as we met some fellow travelers and made some new friends!

Pricing varies depending on accommodation and departure location but it was about $240 USD per person for our quad-share accommodation departing from Milford Sound. Bathrooms are shared but there is only a maximum of 36 persons on any cruise. While I wouldn’t classify the boat as a luxury liner, the amenities and staff made everything very comfortable and it really was a highlight of our visit.

Our boat departed from the port at 4:30 PM and we had around 45 minutes to an hour to get settled in. During that time, the boat will find a spot to anchor overnight, while we were served some tasty soup and bread. The soup really warmed up the body and got us ready for the afternoon activities.

For the activities, you had the choice of taking a short hike on the Milford Track or take a small boat that will explore the fjord more closely. We chose to do the hike since the Milford Track is dubbed “the finest walk in the world.” For us, we were doing only a round-trip hike of 1.5 hours, which is just a glimpse of the whole track. For serious hikers, however, you would need to hike 33 miles and take 5 days to finish the entire hike!

We took a smaller boat to Sandfly Point, which marks the end/start point of the track. (Also, true to its name, there are A LOT of sandflies here so fair warning.) A guide walked a group of us into a lush, dense forest thick with towering trees while pointing out varieties of ferns and moss. There were also some cute and curious birds that would come to investigate our group, some hovering by nearby branches but wary enough not to get too close. This part of the track is flat, well-maintained and the temperature was cool and comfortable, so it felt like a relaxed walk than any kind of hike.

Our midway stopping point was a foresty area with a stream flowing through. In certain parts of the stream, however, the flow of water was so calm and clear that the forests above it would reflect almost perfectly in the water. It’s also amazing to see just how many different trees and plants occupy the banks in just a single photograph, the testament of an ecosystem that has thrived since ancient times.

From here, we turned back around and headed back to the boat. By this time, it’s very late afternoon and the sun is starting to set. It’s a nice time to enjoy the sunset of Milford Sound or you can just relax inside where there are some board games, complimentary hot drinks, and a licensed bar. Meanwhile, the crew is preparing a 3-course dinner that included salad, roasted vegetables and meat (vegetarian options available), and topping it off with dessert.

I’m not going to lie but I did not have the highest of expectations for the food. Most other boat excursions I’ve been on, food was premade and usually bland, so I was already pleasantly surprised that everything looked like it was cooked from scratch. When we tried the food that came out to us, I think we were almost shocked at how delicious it was! The ingredients looked pretty simple but they were fresh and it truly was a restaurant-class dinner. It was one of our best dining experiences in New Zealand! Maybe that’s speaking with some hyperbole but I really was impressed with the food. And with that, we could take our happy tummies into bed and doze peacefully off into the night.

After a comfortable night of sleep, we awoke early in the morning for the cruise and enjoyed a nice, hearty breakfast. After that, the boat started to head out towards the Tasman Sea. It was still pretty early and dark within the fjord, which made the morning temperatures a little chilly. We waited inside the boat until we exited the fjord and were out on the ocean. By this time, the sun was up a bit and the temperatures were a bit warmer. It was still a little windy but the was really lovely and so serene being out on the open ocean.

Shortly after making it out into the ocean, the boat turned around and headed straight back into the fjord. While sailing in, the captain would talk through the boat’s speakers to point out key sights and wildlife. A few albatross (sorry, no pictures!) flew around our boat and they are pretty amazing creatures. They live on the ocean for 85% of their lives, only going on land during the breeding seasons! They also have a lifespan of up to at least 40 years, which is very impressive for a bird! We also checked out to Seal Rock which, as its name implies, you can find fur seals lying on this big rock. There were only two seals lounging this time but often you can see up to a dozen seals lying here.

Seal Rock

The boat also sailed close to the insanely tall rock faces, some of them shooting out of the water up to 1,200 meters! Of course, no Milford Sound visit is completed without visiting one of its famous waterfalls, Stirling Falls, and at 151 meters, it is the second tallest waterfall after Lady Elizabeth Bowen Falls in Milford Sound. What’s cool about this waterfall is the boat is able to sail pretty close to the falls, which allows you to feel the intense force of the colliding water through the strong winds and spray. I was told you can even kayak to the base of the waterfall. When it rains, you are able to see a lot more waterfalls but you can’t see them due to lack of rainfall from good weather. Some other famous parts you’ll see include Harrison Cove and the aforementioned Bowen Falls.

When you pass Bowen Falls, that essentially marks the end of the overnight cruise and brings you back to port. Though it was sad having to leave the boat, it was a truly perfect experience for our Milford Sound visit.

3. Walking on the Milford Sound Lookout Track

We can keep this one short and sweet. Before leaving Milford Sound, there was still one area we had to check out. From the visitor center, you can find marked signs for the Milford Sound Lookout Track. It’s a short walk that will take you to the edge of the water and offer stunning views of the landscape. With the sun still rising, you are able to see distinct sunbeams streaming between mountain peaks. If you can find calm water, you can get a beautiful reflection of the landscape, which is one of the most photographed shots at Milford Sound. The best experience here I think, however, is simply enjoying the peace and serenity of this majestic landscape. Just sitting there makes you think that you can stay there forever, which I wouldn’t object to that!

Here is also a video of our scenic flight, overnight cruise, and the view from the lookout track:

Below is some information on these activities:

Scenic Flight: We cannot find this information online or on the visitor center website. You should be able to find more information when you visit in-person at the Discover Milford Sound Information Centre & Cafe, where they also have a slew of other activities to offer. But expect the pricing to range from about $100-200 USD per person. This activity is also only available with permitting weather.

Overnight Cruise:
Price: Ranging from $349-700+ NZD, depending on accommodation and season
Departure: Milford Sound. Options are also available to depart from Queenstown or Te Anau
Getting there: From Queenstown, it is a 4-hour drive to Milford Sound; from Te Anau, 1 hour and 40 minutes. You can also take buses or planes for transport.
Website: https://www.realjourneys.co.nz/en/experiences/cruises/milford-wanderer-overnight-cruises/
Other tips: Best to book this activity in advance, as this boat only holds 36 people at a time

Lookout Track:
Price: FREE! And who doesn’t like free??
Getting there: From the visitor center, there are marked signs pointing towards the track
Other tips: The track is only about 400 meters and open during park hours

So, there you have it, 3 amazing activities that you can enjoy for your Milford Sound visit! Hope you enjoyed reading this and we’d love to hear from you if you’ve done any of these activities or other activities that you would recommend. If these activities inspire you to visit Milford Sound, be sure to save the pins below for your future visit:

 

 

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440 Foot Bungy vs. 394 Foot Swing: Which One Would You Do? Nevis Bungy & Swing, New Zealand

Picture these two scenarios:

1. You’re on a platform suspended in the middle of a canyon. You have your ankles secured with only a very long rope holding onto you. You mini-step walk your way over to the edge and look down, deep into a canyon at least 50 or 60 stories deep…

Trying to look brave but absolutely terrified!

2. You’re fastened into a harness on the platform in a seated position, your feet still touching the platform. Once secured, the harness is lifted over the edge and you’re suspended with your feet dangling over nothing but air. You look down into the canyon, which is also several hundred feet to the bottom…

Putting on our fake smiles to hide our fears and regrets

My question to you is:

Which one would you do?

If you’ve kept up with our previous posts in New Zealand, we kept things pretty low-key to start our trip with lunch at the Skyline Queenstown and relaxing at the Onsen Hot Pools.

That all changed when we were in Queenstown and walked into a shop looking for some activities. One activity that caught our eyes was the Nevis Swing; it was not just a giant swing racing across a canyon at free-fall speeds but the Nevis Swing touted the title of being the world’s longest swing! Though it sounded really cool, there was a little bit of apprehension between us, so we didn’t book initially. After some discussion, we decided to go for it and the next day, we booked a date with destiny (maybe not that, but it felt like it)! As for myself, Nevis also had a combo deal for its swing and Bungy. I’ve previously bungee jumped at about 100 feet, so I thought I’d just add Nevis Bungy like it was no biggie. Oh, how badly I misjudged the difference between the two jumps…

On the day of our bungee and swing, we went to the AJ Hackett Bungy Centre and boarded a bus with a group of other jumpers and swingers. A bus is mandatory because the site is on private land and only authorized vehicles are allowed access. It’s about a 40-minute ride there and during that time, Mat was starting to get nervous about the swing, asking if we can back out of it. Well, we had already paid for it so it was not much a choice to consider. Surely, I had some nerves building up too, right?

Whatever nerves I had, I was sleeping them off!

*Side note: AJ Hackett was the person that opened the world’s first commercial bungee jump in 1988 at the Kawarau Bridge, New Zealand, which still operates today. He has also made jumps from various famous structures and helped give popularity to the activity and now has expanded his operations all over the world.

Remember when I mentioned thinking was no biggie booking the Nevis Bungy? Well, after getting our bungee straps and going over the instructions, we headed out towards the platform for the jump…yeah, the one that’s suspended in the middle of the canyon:

WE’RE JUMPING FROM OVER THERE?!

Remember when I also mentioned that I had previously bungee jumped from 100 feet? Well, this jump was 134 meters or 440 feet, over 4 times longer than my first jump! Currently, it is the 3rd longest bungee in the world! Plus, we were watching a previous group of jumpers going before us and that drop looked really REALLY deep. Cue the “Holy Sh*t” face below.

Sh*********t!

At this point, my nerves were starting getting to me. I could feel my heart racing and my legs turning to jello. The seemingly very slow gondola ride to the platform made it even more excruciating; all around was the view of how deep canyon was and our group had to absorb that in the whole ride there. I really didn’t think it could get worse from there. Guess what? I was wrong again!

How does it get worse? When you’re picked to be the very first jumper of the group…and sure enough, THAT WAS ME! AAAAAAHHH!!!

Though I was woefully unprepared to assume the role of “First Jumper,” I did my best to put on a brave face in front of everyone. Once seated and having my final straps secured, I mini-stepped my way to the edge of the jump platform and took a look down. I won’t lie, that drop looked scary as sh*t and my stomach dropped probably just as fast as I was about to! I took a couple of deep breaths and gathered myself before taking one last look at the camera:

And then…

…3, 2, 1, JUMP!!!

The first half second felt like slow motion like I was flying for a split moment but the rest of the fall was a total blur and an incredible rush! I barely remember the fall since it was so fast! After the rope stretched its longest, it recoiled back up about half of the original height and then dropped back down again pretty quickly. After a few recoils, the rope finally settled and I was pulled back up. Once back on the platform, gushing with adrenaline, I took one quick look back down and I knew I was beaming with what I had just done. With excitement flowing throughout my body, I was eager to take on the next challenge!

Here’s a clip on how far this drop was:

Next up on the agenda: GIANT SWING!

Having already successfully bungeed at 440 feet, I felt pretty prepared and confident on taking on the giant swing. After all, the swing was only 120 meters or 394 feet. Still, that made the swing the longest swing in the world, so it’s still very impressive in its own right.

Mat on the other hand, was pretty petrified at the thought of the giant swing through the canyon after watching the bungee. She kept trying to find any way to back out of it, which I was not about to let her do. We just had to approach this with baby steps. The first thing we had to do was get to the platform for the swing.

It looked a bit daunting to walk across a suspended bridge to a suspended platform but it was easy enough. However, once inside the platform, some of those nerves returned because we were watching people do this:

That’s…just nuts…!! This time, we were not the first to go but that may have been a bad thing. There were at least 5 pairs ahead of us and each pair that went up with their screaming only compounded the fears that Mat was already having. Watching some of these swingers up close, even I have to admit that it still looked pretty scary!

Finally, our number was called. Even as we were getting strapped in, Mat was making her last desperate plea to get out of it but the organizers reassured her that she was going to have fun. It calmed her nerves just enough to sit down and prepare herself. Once we got seated, our swing was pulled over the edge, leaving us suspended over the canyon. When I looked down, my stomach had the same dropping feeling as the bungee. Mat did the wise thing and kept looking up. We took one last look at the camera before our countdown:

…3, 2, 1!!! *Release*

Here’s our clip recorded from our camera:

Another clip from the Nevis cameras:

When the harness is released, you feel like you’re floating before gravity takes over and quickly does its job. From that point, we quickly picked up speed and raced into the canyon at 75 mph! Our bodies temporarily were horizontal as we fell, making me look straight down at the canyon while Mat had her eyes closed for part of it! The wind whistled past our ears while the adrenaline was pumping through our bodies. By the end of the swing, Mat was all smiles and clearly had a blast, evening wanting to do it again! The whole experience was such a thrill and a great time and we’d definitely do it again at Nevis.

So, how can you get in all of this action?

  • Visit the Bungy website for the Nevis Bungy & Swing and other locations, as well as making reservations: http://www.bungy.co.nz/
  • Where: For Nevis Bungy & Swing, you’ll go to the “Station Building” at Corner of Shotover &
    Camp Streets. You’ll see large signs “BUNGY & SWING”
  • Price: Nevis Swing Adult – $195 NZD (single), $175 NZD (tandem); Bungy – $275 NZD pp. You can also find combo pricing and early booking discounts on their website
  • When: The first bus departs at 8:40 AM and every 40 minutes after that. Check-in is 30 minutes prior to departure.
  • Other information: If you’re doing a Bungy & Swing combo, the whole thing takes about 2-2.5 hours on site (not including round-trip time, not sure if the time is the same for individual activities). Just bring some water as you wait. If you want to take your camera during the jump or swing, be sure it is securely fastened. Photos and video are also available for purchase, as shown above.

The Nevis Bungy & Swing was an amazing experience and I highly encourage anyone to give it a try. Is there one that’s easier to do over the other? That’s hard to say, though I think I saw more people more comfortable trying out the swing first. Either one you pick, or both, there is no wrong choice. They are extremely fun and are absolutely worth doing in New Zealand.

So, would you do the Nevis Bungy & Swing? Give us a Pin and let us know which one you would do or both!

 

 

 

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Relaxation at the Onsen Hot Pools, Queenstown, New Zealand

As we mentioned in our previous post in Queenstown, New Zealand, it is a place with a full spectrum of activities, from relaxing to the most thrilling. We keep it on the chill side of things at the Onsen Hot Pools Retreat & Spa before plunging (literally and figuratively) to the extreme.

Be sure to read up on Skyline, Queenstown for the best views in town! 

“Onsen” is a Japanese word meaning hot spring and traditional bathing facilities can be found all over Japan. The Onsen Hot Pools bring a little of that Japanese tradition to New Zealand. Located only 10 minutes from downtown Queenstown, you can either drive there or take a complimentary shuttle from the town. It’s best to book this activity in advance since many time slots, especially the evening ones, get filled up quickly. We got a little lucky and were able to book the day before for an afternoon time slot! We opted for the basic price for two people at $95 NZD, added some fruit soda and paid for towels at our arrival. You can also get various packages that either includes snacks, beverages or adding a massage.

Onsen Hot Pools Lobby/Entrance

On the day of your reservation, it is advised in the email to arrive 15 minutes before your appointment time to ensure a smooth check-in process. When we arrived at the facilities, we were greeted by the very friendly staff that walked us to our bath and explained our timeframe. Basically, we had an hour to enjoy the spa would be notified with 10 minutes remaining when our time was expiring.

The bath is an indoor/outdoor combination wooden design. At the edge of the room is the bath, which has a great view of the mountains. There is a glass-paneled window that mechanically retracts, so you can bring it down to keep the bath enclosed or bring it up to open it up. We kept it open the whole time to enjoy the view and slight breeze that blew in. There is also a button that streams cold water from above into the bath if the water gets too hot. The water is treated with UV rays instead of chemicals like chlorine but don’t worry; it’s completely safe for you and better for the environment! If you book in the evening, you have the option for the Onsen by Light package, which allows you to see the sunset or stars and have lanterns create illuminate the bath for an extra romantic experience. You definitely would have to book this one in advance.

The staff left us to the privacy of our room after explaining everything to us. Once we changed into our swimwear, we dipped into the bath and just relaxed. The water temperature was very nice and we turned on the jets in the tub. Whenever the water felt too hot, we could add the cold water, although I just liked pushing the button and watching the water drop in. 😂

While sipping on our sodas, it gave us a chance to enjoy ourselves and not have to worry about anything, although we didn’t have that much to worry about as we were celebrating our honeymoon anyway! It just felt nice to soak in the peacefulness of our surroundings in a comfortable bath. We enjoyed the mountain view and the river where we could see the occasional speedboats pass by.

When we received our 10-minute notification that our time was about to expire, we lamented how it felt like the time just whizzed right by. For us, one hour seemed a bit too short but for others, it may seem like a perfect amount of time. We wished we could have had more time but we felt really refreshed and our skin felt great! It was a very lovely experience that we’d recommend to visitors and next time, we’ll try booking the evening time slot so we can watch the sunset or the stars with the lanterns.

Is the Onsen Hot Pools a place you’d go for relaxation? If so, you can visit their website: http://www.onsen.co.nz/ and give us a Pin! Let us know your favorite hot springs, pools, or bathhouses that you’ve been to:

 

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Skyline Queenstown, Stratosfare Restaurant & Bar, New Zealand

When I first visited Queenstown in New Zealand back in 2011, it was peaceful, not very crowded, and very easy to get around. There was no such thing as traffic, I had a thousand parking spots to choose from, it was practically barren! With sparse crowds in the streets and shopping alleys, it was a very relaxed, simple and leisurely visit that I fully enjoyed.

Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown, NZ circa 2011

Fast forward to 2017 and that visit became a distant memory, though not necessarily in a bad way, although there was actual traffic and there were more people in one restaurant than an entire street compared to my last visit. But New Zealand’s tourism has exploded in the past few years and with the influx of tourists also meant needing to add a variety of new activities. Believe me, Queenstown has done that and more; whether you’re looking for a relaxing activity to the most thrilling, this town will have more than enough options to choose from.

We kept it pretty mellow for our first couple of activities. Our first attraction we went to check out was the Skyline Queenstown, which is pretty much a must-do activity within the city. You take a gondola up 450 meters with panoramic views of the surrounding landscape up to the top of Bob’s Peak. Tickets for just the gondola will run you around $27 USD for adults and $15 for children. There are also packages available that will drive down the overall cost.

Riding the gondola with panoramic views!

Once at the top, you are greeted with spectacular views of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and all the way out towards the Remarkables mountain range and the surrounding landscapes. There’s also a surprisingly good variety of activities to do, including bungee jumping, paragliding, riding a luge, mountain biking, Kiwi Haka, and hiking. You just have to check the hours for certain activities on the Queenstown Skyline website and make reservations ahead of time. I will admit, watching people paragliding and getting a bird’s-eye view of Queenstown looked really cool.

However, we did not do any of those activities! So fun, right? Actually, we were coming off our wedding planning and wedding day so we were just wanting to relax a bit. Instead, we chose to have lunch at the Stratosfare Restaurant & Bar, which is a really nice place to dine. The restaurant has nice modern touches and very clean and organized. And wherever you are in the restaurant, with its floor-to-ceiling glass enclosure, there’s a view of the entire landscape.

When making the reservation, we noted that it was our honeymoon in hopes of getting a window seat and did they come through! We got seated in the corner of the restaurant, which gave us a high degree of panoramic views. Even if we weren’t eating here, we could enjoy this spot just for these views of Queenstown.

The Stratosfare Restaurant & Bar is a buffet-style dining experience. It cost us about $50 USD each for lunch, which includes the ride of the gondola, so it’s really only $23. It’s more expensive for the dinner, presumably because there’s a wider selection to choose from and probably for the evening ambiance. There’s still a good selection of food for lunch, including a salad bar, Asian-inspired dishes, sushi and seafood, a plethora of dessert options to choose from, and a complimentary beverage.

The food was not bad but could’ve been better. The Asian-inspired foods were clearly to cater towards Asian tourists but they weren’t anything like the traditional cooking of Asian foods and were fairly disappointing. The other options like the pasta, rotisserie, salad bar were far better options. The dessert bar was clearly the best of all and will easily satisfy the sweetest of sweet tooths. For the price and the experience, it is still pretty worth it, especially for the views that you can get that’s unlike many other places.

Regardless of what activity you’re looking for, Skyline Queenstown is a good place to start. You can easily spend a good half-day there with the numerous activities that they offer or enjoy a romantic dinner at the restaurants. At the very least, it’s probably the best place in Queenstown to soak in views of the stunning landscape.

Give us a pin if you liked this post and let us know what restaurants had your favorite views: 

 

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