What it’s Really Like to do Milford Sound Under the Rain

We were promised rain. We were promised that Fiordland National Park was one of the wettest places in the world. They were right.

Rain pounds louder and louder inches away from our bed in the campervan. Is someone having a shower on top of our campervan or what? The wind has also been getting in on the action by rocking the camper from side to side. Perhaps it’s just preparing us for the cruise later… Because, yes, even during storms and relentless rainfall, cruises still run in Milford Sound. Some say Milford Sound is better under the rain. Let’s find out!

Boarding our Milford Sound vessel

After a morning of putting buckets under the drips in our camper, we take the courtesy shuttle from the Milford Sound Lodge down to the Milford Sound boat terminal.

Dressed in full waterproofs, looking like a walking talking bin bag, we are ready for our Milford Sound cruise!

We check in at the Real Journeys desk and hop onto the old-school Milford Wanderer complete with sailing poles. It looks like a vessel fit for an explorer!

Picking prime position for rainy cruise

Everyone huddles in the indoor middle section of the ship, sipping on the complimentary coffee and wiping condensation off the windows. As for us, we are straight to the wheel house with the skipper looking out onto the front of the ship – an outside viewing area that, for some reason, seems to be deserted.

Once we leave the Milford Marina, the first thing we notice is the crankin’ Bowen Falls! The waterfall that generates electricity for the whole Milford Sound Village is sheer white water creating spray like a huge mist float across the whole width of the fiord.

How everyone should look when they are about to embark on a rainy Milford Sound cruise How everyone should look when they are about to embark on a rainy Milford Sound cruise
Robin braving the front deck alone Robin braving the front deck alone
The waterfalls are CRANKIN' in Milford Sound The waterfalls are CRANKIN' in Milford Sound
Enough waterfalls for you there?! Enough waterfalls for you there?!

The determined nature guide

A nature guide on our “Nature Cruise” hops on the mic, saying: “Today, the theme of our cruise is going to be waterfalls.”  He invites anyone wearing suitable waterproofs to join him on the front viewing deck to embrace the gales, rain and the awesome landscape it is forming.

Hundreds and hundreds of waterfalls

We don’t hesitate to get outside and be in awe on the mountains towering from sea to sky! How many places in the world can you see a mountain from summit to sea all in one view?! What makes it more impressive is the hundreds, we repeat, HUNDREDS of temporary waterfalls that form long white lines along the mountainsides. It’s like the mountains are sweating just looking at us at the front of this boat being blown all over the place.

Gale, meet gale. Now stop blowing us off this ship!

The gales… Man, the gusts of wind hitting the boat are so strong that it pushes our skin to distort our faces. It kind of feels like we’re skydiving all over again. Droplets feels like needles on our face and sea spray covers us every 10 seconds: it’s brutal out here! And our nature guide is still powering through, giving us information on Milford’s discovery, the mountains, the wildlife, how far it is to Australia, and more. What a trooper!

Sooner or later, more and more people are warming up the idea of stepping outside and embracing the elements. You’re only in Milford Sound once! Make the most of it!

Neither windy or moody enough in Milford Sound today…

Waterfalls defying the laws of gravity

It’s now like the waterfalls are doing a Mexican Wave in celebration as more and more passengers brave the front deck. In fact, the waterfalls aren’t falling, but going up in the winds carrying them into the beyond.

Meeting the Tasman Sea

As the ship reaches the end of the fiord, the water colour changes dramatically from the dark tannin-filled water topped with fresh water in the fiord to the green Tasman Sea. The ship gets a bit of a bob-on with the increasing swell from the sea – a good time to turn around and head back down the other side of the famous fiord.

Seal Rock

As we closely pass to more waterfalls than we can count, the ship slows right down at a place called “Seal Rock”. Like the name suggests, a protruding rock provides a bed for tens of New Zealand fur seals. We have been to Milford Sound a handful of times, and every time, the seals just don’t move. However, the rain must have stirred them, because one lifts his head up to look at us… Then puts it back down to continue its slumber… Madness!

The face of pure joy on this rainy-as-f*ck Milford Sound Cruise The face of pure joy on this rainy-as-f*ck Milford Sound Cruise
Meanwhile, the seals of Milford Sound... Meanwhile, the seals of Milford Sound...
Should have got some wipers installed on your glasses, Robin... Should have got some wipers installed on your glasses, Robin...

Stirling Falls at its most tumultuous

So we’ve established the temporary waterfalls around in full force in Milford Sound. As for the permanent ones, like Stirling Falls, well, they are something else. What’s more, the skipper thinks it’s a great idea to stick the nose of the boat under the spray of Stirling Falls. Admittedly, this is something Milford Sound cruises do no matter the weather, but we get more than just a little sprayed under the falls.

We follow some of the crew to the nose of the boat, make sure our waterproofs are zipped super tight, and let what happens happen. We take a full-on shower with water running down our backs, into our shoes, down our face… Hell, it’s freakin’ awesome!

No better way to embrace the rain

There is no better way to embrace this awesome environment today. Milford Sound might not look like it usually does on the brochures, but this is a side to the fiords of Fiordland that makes you realise the power of the earth. Now that we’ve seen a fiord on a beautiful sunny day in Doubtful Sound, and now a fiercely wet day in Milford Sound, we honestly don’t know which scenario we prefer. It really makes you experience the fiords in a different way.

So, anyone fancy kayaking?

We don’t exactly dry off for the end of the tour, so we are getting back into the Milford Sound Lodge courtesy shuttle dripping water all over the seats. (We’re sorry, MSL).

Does the rain ease off for the rest of the evening? Hell nah! This is Fiordland! Tomorrow, we are meant to be doing a kayaking tour out in this madness? Check out how that works out tomorrow!

Laura and Robin

Approaching Fairy Falls with force!
Approaching Fairy Falls with force! Spherical Image - RICOH THETA


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  1. Just came across this blog now. Milford Sound on a rainy day was amazing in end December. My brother, sister and I were on a Jucy cruise and braved the front deck during windy point. We earned the Captain’s props. Haha. Best experience ever.

    Comment avatar Vishesh
    16/07/2017 at 6:51 pm
  2. This totally inspired me. 🙂

    We had booked a boat trip in Milford sound, and then realised it was going to be a rainy day. Reading your blog made me look forward to it, rather than worry about the bad weather.

    It turns out it was perfect in the rain! I am sooo glad we went, so thank you for the inspiration!!

    Comment avatar Josy A
    23/01/2018 at 7:51 pm
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