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8 epic facts about Piopiotahi / Milford Sound

Let us inspire you before you visit our famous fiord with some awesome facts that are sure to pique your interest.

Date 30 Nov 2020

Piopiotahi / Milford Sound is one of the top attractions for visitors to Fiordland National Park. We don’t blame you, the extraordinary beauty captivates domestic and international visitors year on year and the National Park is a hive of activity through all seasons.

Piopiotahi is the Māori name for Milford Sound

Piopiotahi means ‘one single piopio’ which is reference to a native bird that once resided here in the national park. The bird is now extinct and it is believed that when the legendary Maui died during his pursuit for immortality, a single Piopio flew by Milford Sound in mourning.

John Grono was the first European to discover Piopiotahi / Milford Sound?

John Grono was the first European to visit Milford Sound. The entrance to Milford Sound was sailed passed twice by Captain James Cook due to the landscape looking like it joins together at the mouth. In 1823, a Sealer from Wales, John Grono traversed through the narrow waterways to discover Milford Sound. It was originally named Milford Haven after a narrow inlet on the Welsh Coast.

Lady Bowen is not just for show

Lady Bowen falls serves a particular purpose in Milford Sound. Along with being Milford’s tallest waterfall she also powers the village through hydropower. Heavy rainfall can see the falls quadruple in size or then during dry spells cause power outages. She is a pretty spectacular sight and can be seen from the foreshore walk or during a Milford Sound Cruise.

Piopiotahi / Milford Sound is one of the wettest places on Earth

On average it rains for 182 days of the year here in Milford Sound. They say there is never a bad weather day down in Fiordland, just bad clothing. The rainfall brings with it hundreds and hundreds of temporary waterfalls and makes our resident waterfalls so much more powerful. Make sure you bring wet weather gear as you never know what will happen on your adventure.

Piopiotahi / Milford Sound is a Fiord

Way back when the Europeans came to Fiordland, they wrongly named the area Milford Sound. Milford Sound is a Fiord. Fiords are carved out of glacial erosion; sounds are formed when a river valley gets flooded by the sea. So, our home is a Fiord, but we think Milford Sound has a good ring to it.

The Wildlife is abundant

If you are lucky then some of the Fiordland residents will make an appearance during your visit. You might spot the world’s only alpine parrot on the Milford Road, especially around the Homer Tunnel. Other birdlife can be spotted in the treetops and rivers too. In the Sound, we have pods of Dolphins, New Zealand Fur Seals, Penguins, and even Whales have passed through. Keep your eye’s peeled for wildlife sightings.

The Milford Track ends here

Maori tribes residing in the South Island would travel to the area to fish, hunt, and collect precious Pounamu. Their treks often started from the east and used many traditional pathways, including what we know now as the iconic Milford track. The Milford Track is one of the finest walks in the world and one of New Zealand’s great walks. The 53-kilometer journey begins at the head of Lake Te Anau, and leads you across suspension bridges, boardwalks, and a mountain pass before ending at Sandfly Point.

It is also the only fiord in New Zealand to be accessible by road

Road access to Milford Sound took several years to become a reality. In 1889 William Henry Homer was one of the first people to survey the area where the road now sits. At the time he suggested a tunnel to go through the mountains. This tunnel is now known as the Homer Tunnel. The construction started in 1935 and was completed 19 years later, in 1954. The tunnel traverses New Zealand State Highway 94, piercing through the Darran Mountain range just below Homer Saddle and into the Cleddau Valley and the Hollyford River.

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