I am struggling to find the words to tell the amazing story of getting to fly to Milford Sound. As my friends and family will attest to, it’s not often that I find myself at a loss for words.
If there is one place in all of New Zealand that continues to leave me speechless, no matter how many times I visit, it’s Milford Sound and Fiordland. And I know I am not alone in this, often people tell me this is their very favorite spot – it rocks.
In any other country in the world, that would sound absolutely ridiculous, but nope, not in New Zealand. Here scenic flights and helicopter rides are the norm. Well, not the norm exactly, but it’s a hell of a lot more normal that in most countries, mostly just because of the sheer remoteness of it.
And nowhere is more off the grid than Fiordland, tucked away at the bottom corner of the South Island.
From Wanaka it’s a 5 hour drive and it’s 4 hours from Queenstown. One way. AND it’s a dead end.
It’s a long way to go but trust me, it’s worth it.
If you have the time on your New Zealand trip, you should definitely drive there. The middle part is really boring but once you are your way past Te Anau, it’s a really spectacular drive. The majority of people that drive there do it as a day trip and take a boat around the fiord and drive out. Depending on how you do it, you’re looking at a minimum 12 hour day to two days at least.
That being said, if you don’t have the time or feel like treating yourself, you should fly.
I do not throw this around lightly, but it’s the most ridiculously beautiful thing I’ve EVER done in New Zealand. I mean ever.
So let me take you on a journey with me to Milford in a 7 seater plane.
It’s starts out like any other spring morning in Wanaka. Blue skies, birds chirping, and the sun shining. My friend Amanda from A Dangerous Business is visiting and sleeping in my living room.
We get up, have breakfast and zoom to the airport to catch a little plane to Milford. As you do on a Tuesday.
After checking in with the friendly faces of Southern Alps Air, whom I’ve already met here and there because Wanaka is not that big after all, and met the pilot who is also my pharmacist, Amanda and I start to really get pumped up.
And then from behind me I hear, “are you Young Adventuress?”
Swiveling around like an owl, I got to meet two girls from Brazil who were traveling around New Zealand and had found my blog. Yipee!
I swear, there is nothing so amazing as getting to meet you guys. In a weird way it completely and utterly validates all of this work I put into the blog and reminds me that there are people out there listening. It blows me away.
As we all pile into the plane with our bags tucked away, I pull out my camera, put on the headset and shove my face against the window, totally shaking with anticipation.
I look over as we start to trundle down the runway and look over and Amanda has assumed the same blogger position. Read more about her experience here.
Soon we were off and flying straight into a cloud. Womp womp.
The wispy tendrils dropped down to the bases of the surrounding mountains as we headed over the lake towards Mt. Aspiring.
After a minute we popped out about the clouds and could see the surrounding mountaintops peeking through a sea of white fluff.
It was extraordinary!
Gazing to my left I began to recognize the peaks – the pointy Black Peak which looms over the lakefrony to even the runs and chairlift of Treble Cone, our local skifield, covered in a few patches of late spring snow.
Soon we crossed over into Mt. Aspiring National Park, my local playground, with it’s soaring snowcapped mountains, white even in summer.
I am not sure when but at some point around this time but we somehow left New Zealand behind and traveled to Middle Earth.
Gazing at the mountains and ridges below, I could hear the Lord of the Rings soundtrack playing in my head. Does that make me crazy? Hope not.
And here’s the best part, if you fly from Wanaka to Milford Sound, instead of from Queenstown, you get to fly over Mt. Aspiring National Park – trust me on this one, you don’t want to miss it. There are over 100 glaciers in Mt. Aspiring, something you’d miss out on otherwise.
If you’re anything like me, there is nothing more beautiful than getting to see those ice fields, blue crevasses, terminal lakes and spiky mountains from the skies.
Oh, and did I mention the flight is only 45 minutes?
Soon you cross the Divide in the Southern Alps and cross into Fiordland, even more wild and remote than before.
And before you even know it you’re over the ocean and then cruising up Milford Sound.
Nothing puts things into perspective like flying in between mountains so high that no matter how you peer your head up, you can’t see the tops, from inside a plane!
Less than an hour after getting into the plane, you are already back on the ground again headed towards the harbor. With the Southern Alps glacier flight, you also get to go on a boat cruise.
No matter the weather, rain or shine, don’t skip out on a doing a boat cruise around Milford. This time we were in a much smaller boat which meant we got to go way close to the big waterfalls.
Cue Amanda and I screaming and running for cover after getting totally soaked on deck.
After getting to see fur seals up close and personal and see penguins swimming in the fiord, I didn’t think the day could get any better.
I should know by now that’s not how things roll in New Zealand.
We still had to fly home!
Now while most people had a 4-5 hour bus ride or drive looming ahead of them, we strolled back up the road to our little plane, knowing that we would be home in time for lunch.
As we picked up speed cruising along the vertical cliffs of the sound, I kept peering behind me hoping for one last glimpse of paradise.
And trying not to freak out when we got super close to the mountains. Be cool Liz.
Flying back a different route brought us along different mountain ranges, glacial river valleys and alpine lakes, sometimes frozen, sometimes not.
I don’t think I was bored for one minute of the entire day. And considering I have the attention span of a toddler and I spent the day trapped in a plane followed up with being trapped in a boat, that’s saying something.
All too soon I recognized the beautiful Matukituki River I know and love so well as we soared across the lake back towards Wanaka.
People always ask me what my favorite New Zealand activity is, and it’s never an easy answer. That being said, I have no qualms recommending a scenic flight to Milford from Wanaka. For the price you also get to do a cruise and it saves you more than half a day of commuting and a 10 hour drive.
You’d be spending that on gas, accommodation and cruise tickets otherwise. Can’t beat that.
Um, can I go back now?
Have you been to Milford Sound? Would you like to fly there? Do you dream of getting to see landscapes like this in New Zealand one day? Share!