The Fjords of New Zealand: Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and Dusky Sound

After a couple of days at sea, we are eager to enter Fiordland on the southwestern end of the South Island of New Zealand. Fiordland is a World Heritage Site and includes Milford, Dusky, and Doubtful Sounds, which we will be traveling into for the whole of this day. Carved by glaciers over 100,000 years, the landscape is breathtaking with the snow capped Southern Alps dropping with dramatically steep sides into deep lakes and valleys.

Ship View

 Milford Sound

We enter Milford Sound early in the morning. It is difficult to describe, even with pictures, the immense scale and dramatic beauty of the mountains falling steeply into the deep waters of these sounds. Milford Sound is New Zealand’s top tourist destination and considered one of the world top travel destination. Milford Sound was described by Rudyard Kipling as the Eighth Wonder of the World.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound cruising

Because of the tremendous amount of rain that this area receives, there are many waterfalls. Browne Falls and Sutherland Falls rank among the tallest waterfalls in the world. Although we certainly experienced the rain, we were also blessed with stretches of time when it didn’t rain. But it is hard to complain about the rain when it produces so many lovely waterfalls.

Milford Sound Waterfalls

Milford Sound Waterfalls


Look at how small the buildings at the end look in comparison to the mountains.

Milford Sound amazing

Amazing Milford Sound

Milford Sound wow

In a couple of the pictures above you may have noticed that we are being followed by a very large, very luxurious yacht. The captain informs us that this yacht is worth several hundred million dollars and is the personal yacht of a very wealthy Russian Vodka magnate.

Millions dollar boat

Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound was named Doubtful Harbour in 1770 by Captain Cook.  He did not enter the inlet as he was not certain that it would be navigable under sail. Later it was renamed Doubtful Sound, although, like the other ‘sounds’, it is actually a fiord.  Doubtful is the deepest of the fiords and is long (40.4 km from Deep Cove to the ocean) and winding with 3 distinct arms and several outstanding waterfalls.

It is sometimes called the “Sound of Silence” due to the cloistered serenity within. It is rich in flora and fauna and sometimes Fur Seals and Fiordland Crested Penguins can be seen here.

Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound 2

Doubtful Sound Life preserver

Leaving Doubtful Sound

Leaving Doubtful Sound

Goodbye Doubtful Sound

Goodbye Doubtful Sound

Dusky Sound

Late in the day we enter Dusky Sound. My impression is that it is aptly named. Captain Cook obviously thought so too, as he is the one who named it Dusky Bay due to its somber aspect. Dusky Sound is incredibly remote by land, having no direct road access. It is a complex and large fiord at 40 km long and 8 km at its widest point.

Dusky Sound is an important bird area and home to a wide range of sea life. Here is a picture that I borrowed (as inclement weather prohibited much picture taking, not to mention that I was no where near close enough to any wildlife on the cruise ship.) Dusky Sound is a breeding site for Fiordland Penguins and I can’t resist showing you this cute picture.

Dusky Sound greenery

Dusky Sound greenery

Goodbye Dusky Sound


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