We finally got to visit Milford Sound:
A few years ago we were lucky enough to finally get around to visiting Milford Sound. When we traveled around NZ over 7 years ago now we never made it to Milford Sound (due to budget and time restrictions) so we were delighted to finally be able to visit in the summer or 2016.
We were praying for a sunny day, it started well, we woke up to blue sky and was able to take some wonderful photos of the drive along the journey, but then the clouds started rolling in, the skies opened just as we got on the cruise – it didn’t stop raining!
People told us it’s the wettest place in New Zealand – with almost 7,000mm of rainfall across 182 days of the year. That means in the course of 24 hours, Milford Sound gets as much as 250mm of rain. It felt like it on that day for sure!
In fact, many who ply the Milford Sound route daily will tell you that a rainy day is a perfect day for cruising. For us once the sky opened we noticed something amazing – thousands of stunning waterfalls start to form! We learned after that the granite peaks don’t absorb water and have no shorelines so the water comes cascading down the cliff face straight into the fiord – and it’s simply stunning.
The rain will enhance your experience:
Aside from the instant waterfalls, there are several permanent ones in Milford Sound. And when it rains, it amplifies and intensifies the already strong downward current. We certainly felt lucky to see this.
The high level of rainfall in Milford Sound also helps the area thrive. The lush rainforest comes alive in the rain. The combination of sunshine with the high precipitation creates a tropical climate that benefits the flora and fauna of the surrounding national park.
Another benefit of the rain is that it creates the black appearance of the fiord’s waters. Milford Sounds sits on a fiord that is hundreds of metres deep – but the rain creates a fresh layer of water about 6 metres deep. The rain actually stains the fresh water with tannin from the forest, creating the uniquely dark hue.
In that moment, on that wet cruise after we learnt all this we were happy the heavens opened up on us!
When to go and what to bring:
The peak period for rainfall is in the months of December and January. Keep in mind that while it is mostly wet during these months, temperatures can range from a low of 18 degrees to a high of 27 degrees Celsius – which means there’s going to be a lot of humidity. It is best to be prepared for this kind of weather by keeping clothing light, staying hydrated and packing a waterproof layer and maybe even gumboots. If you do visit in winter, opt for warmer clothing as the temperature drops to 4 degrees. Again, the rains may come so your raincoat should be ready.
So, when you’re planning your Milford Sound cruise and the forecast says rain, don’t let the grey skies and misty views get you down like we thought it would. Milford is actually at its most beautiful in the wet weather.
To find out how you can incorporate Milford Sound into your trip to NZ check out our 10 day South Island Itinerary for inspiration. 🙂