As someone who has wandered high low around the world for the better part of a decade, I’ve found nowhere is quite so wild and pristine as New Zealand. And within New Zealand, I’d argue there’s nowhere better than the iconic Milford Sound.
Majestic Southern Alps form the backbone of the country. Beautifully braided rivers that descend down to the ocean passing through rainforests and ancient bush. A place that is spectacular in any weather, Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist attractions and a place I never tire of returning to with RealNZ.
But I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Milford Sound after sunset is one of the most incredible places in the world.
1. You've got Milford all to yourself
We all know Milford is popular and for a good reason; it’s epic.
Tucked away in a remote part of New Zealand’s rugged west coast, hours away from the nearest town, Milford Sound boasts thunderous waterfalls and jagged plunging cliffs. The fiord is teaming with wildlife – the cheeky kea, as well as bottlenose dolphins, New Zealand fur seals, and the rare Fiordland crested penguins all, find their home in this mystical part of NZ.
But once the buses head home and the planes fly away and the day trip boats dock for the night, there is still one special ship remaining on the water: the Milford Mariner.
2. You won’t be bored
The overnight cruise includes activities for everyone.
Once the RealNZ boat anchors in a sheltered cove, you can either choose to explore the coast in a small boat, kayak your way around the waters with a private guide or put your feet up on the deck and soak in the beauty all around you. I generally kick back with a book and a glass of wine and just chill.
There's nothing more amazing to me than being able to chill out in an epic location.
3. Give me the knowledge
The captain and crew onboard the Mariner know just about everything there is to know about Milford, and are always keen to spin a yarn or two for guests.
A small limited group of people helps because everyone is able to interact and ask questions without feeling overwhelmed. Forget being on a ship the size of a city. RealNZ keeps it intimate and special.
4. Fall asleep under the stars
Imagine being in a place where the only things surrounding you are pristine waters, untouched wilderness, and a million stars. Sounds idyllic right? Being on a boat out in Milford Sound means that you can be in such a place. After dinner and dessert, spending time on the deck allows you to watch the stars show up (weather permitting), one twinkle at a time and before you know the sky is full of them and you’re taken to a magical land.
And then, after a night of the best sleep, you’ll get, you wake up to see the sun rising in the fiord shining its soft glow over the majestic Mitre Peak. But don’t worry, Milford is even more beautiful in the rain, when hundreds of temporary waterfalls thunder down from the steep mountains.
5. It's never been a better time
Pre-COVID, Milford received around a million visitors a year.
As you can imagine, that number has dropped. Not only will you have Milford to yourself in the evening on an overnight cruise with RealNZ, but you'll also be able to experience it before and after in a way that is likely peaceful and serene. While the tour buses are away, the locals can play.
For as long as I have lived on the South Island, the overnight cruises in Fiordland have been sold out months in advance. Now for the first time, there are spots! There’s really no better time to be visiting Milford Sound for kiwis than now while borders are closed.
Liz Carlson is the creator behind Young Adventuress, one of the biggest travel blogs in the world. An American based in the mountains of Wanaka and always on adventures around New Zealand, she is passionate about Instagram, strong coffee, and saving the kākāpō.