Geography and Wildlife
Milford Sound was formed when the sea entered a deeply excavated glacial trough after the melting-away of
the ice. The thickness of the ice that excavated the basin is can be seen in the height of the vertical cliffs
that rise from below sea level, truncating the U-shaped profiles of older glacial valleys. These 'hanging'
valleys are particularly noticeable in Sinbad Gulley to the right of Mitre Peak. Where once smaller glaciers
served as tributaries to the main iceflow, streams now run and enter the principal valley as waterfalls.
The most easily accessible of such falls are the Bowen Falls, a sheer 160 metre (520 ft) drop from a hanging valley
in the Darren Mountain Range. There is a short wooden walkway to the foot of the falls from the Milford
terminal which is well worth the effort. All launches that operate on the fiord will take visitors for a close
up view to the Stirling Falls, which cascade into the fiord like a giant shower. The falls have a drop of 146 metres
(479 ft), flow permanently and are spectacular after rain. The country's tallest waterfall can be found along
the Milford Track.
Mitre Peak, the photopiece of Fiordlands, stands at 1692 metres making it one of the tallest mountains in
Fiordland rising straight from the sound. Its name comes from its twin peaks resembling a bishop's mitre or
headdress. Seal Point, found at the mouth of the fiord, is one of the few areas in the fiord where seals can
climb out of the water and onto the rocks. While the seals settle there all year round, dolphins and penguins
are regular inhabitants of the sound, often the playful Crested Fiordland Penguin, an endangered species found
only in Fiordland and Stewart Island can be spotted on the shores while dolphins swim beside your boat. The
occasional whale also makes its way into the sound, so be on the look out!
The Underwater Observatory also provides a unique wildlife
experience due to a natural phenomenon in the fiord.