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The waterfalls of Milford Sound

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Milford Sound

How to get the best views of Milford Sound’s waterfalls

“There is a waterfall in every dream. Cool and crystal clear, it falls gently on the sleeper, cleansing the mind and soothing the soul.” (Virginia Alison, author).

For centuries, people have been fascinated by waterfalls. The tumbling white ribbons and misty-silver spray sparkling in the sunlight, the roaring power and the backdrop of mountain scenery captures the imagination in wonderful ways.

Set in glacial mountains, Fiordland, which is one of the wettest places in the world, sports thousands of falls, streaking down the sides of towering mountains and crashing into the sea like herds of wild white horses.

Perhaps the most notable in Milford Sound (Piopiotahi) is Bowen Falls, named for Lady Diamantina Bowen, wife of the fifth Governor of New Zealand (Aotearoa). Bowen Falls is one of the most dramatic and well-known waterfalls in the country, dropping 162 metres from a high valley floor. Bowen Falls provides hydro-electric power for the small settlement and hotel.

Stirling Falls is the second-highest of the Milford Sound (Piopiotahi) falls, which cuts a dashing sight as it cascades 155 metres into the fiord. Stirling Falls are an extremely popular attraction with tourists. Local cruises take you literally under the falls – raincoats are provided onboard Southern Discoveries Nature Cruises – so you can get a bird’s eye view and a good shower to boot!

For even more of a bird’s eye view, take a scenic flight or helicopter ride over the mountain ranges. Sutherland Falls, New Zealand’s highest waterfall, is a cascading ribbon with a 580-metre drop – that’s slightly taller than the Lotte World Tower in Seoul, currently the fifth tallest building in the world.

Depending on the season, the landscape shifts in colour and tone, from sparkling white snow and raging waterways in winter, green and olive through spring and summer to richer copper and gold in autumn. Dozens of tarns, lakes and rivers adorn the landscape, feeding the vast native forests of Fiordland.

Whether you see it on foot, from the decks of a cruise boat or from the air, it is impossible not to be spellbound by the natural beauty of the jewel of the south.

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