The Sound of Silence – Guide to Cruising the Sounds of South Island

The Milford Sound fiord. Fiordland national park, New Zealand

Often branded the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’, Milford Sound is the jewel in the crown of New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park, but it’s not the only star of the show. There is a dazzling array of natural wonders on display in this enchanting country, but you have to go far to beat the spectacular sights you’ll encounter as you cruise the Sounds of the South Island.

Cruising the Sounds of South Island

New Zealand’s South Island is a veritable playground for travellers and intrepid explorers. Undoubtedly, one of the highlights of this unique land mass is Fiordland National Park. Milford Sound is the best-known and best-loved of the sounds, but a cruise will treat you to a comprehensive tour of the park. You can witness the wonders of Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound on a trip that is guaranteed to take your breath away.

The Milford Sound fiord. Fiordland national park, New Zealand

Milford Sound

Start with the attraction that most people who plan to visit New Zealand have at the very top of their wish list.

Milford Sound has an ethereal quality and an almost eerie ambience. As you arrive, you’ll catch a glimpse of tranquil, rippling waters, which are flanked by craggy rock faces and mountain peaks. You can hear water dripping down the rocks as you approach the body of water that features on the cover of almost every guidebook devoted to the South Island. If you visit on a rainy day, you can see torrents of water cascading down the cliffs long before you see Mitre Peak and Milford Sound in all their glory for the first time.

A boat trip here is a must. Get out onto the water to have the best view and really get an idea of the scale and beauty of this national park. You can choose to traverse the sounds individually and listen to insightful guided tours, or you can book a cruise that will take you on a magical tour of the entire waterway.

Overnight cruises offer visitors the chance to enjoy the wonders of Milford Sound and explore the Tasman Sea in the twilight, or you can also navigate your way around the calm waters in a kayak.

The Milford Sound fiord. Fiordland national park, New Zealand with milky way

Doubtful Sound

Doubtful Sound is often overlooked by tourists who have seen the photographs and heard the tales about Milford Sound. Milford’s profile and bucket list ranking may be higher, but the scenery surrounding Doubtful Sound is no less breathtaking.

It is larger than Milford, and also less accessible – which means that you can have it all to yourself to enjoy the amazing views. A cruise will take you over Lake Manapouri towards the Fiord and afford you vistas of the dense rainforest and verdant canopies of Wilmot Pass.

As you continue your journey, you’ll spot tumbling waterfalls and snow-capped peaks. You can also look out for rare flora and fauna. As you make your way out to open waters, keep your eyes peeled for fur seals, penguins and dolphins piercing the pristine surface. Kayaking is a great way to appreciate the stillness and calm of the sound and the magical beauty that surrounds you. You can take a day tour or even an overnight cruise when visiting Doubtful Sound.

Ship is crossing the Doubtful Sound, New Zealand

Tips for your trip

The weather can play a major part in planning your trip to Fiordland National Park. Ideally, to see the sounds in their best light, you need to aim for a clear day. Granted it’s not always possible to time your trip with blue skies, and the sounds are still a truly spectacular even when it is a little grey.

There are a selection of trips and tours available and an overnight cruise a a great option too. Take the chance to explore the park during the day and then as night falls, you can explore a wider area and enjoy the views once the crowds have dispersed. This way, you’ll also maximise your chances of spotting rare birds, seals and dolphins.

Fiordland is a magical place with some breathtaking sights, and with so many options available to see it in different ways, there are chances to see the spectacles from all angles.