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Milford Sound Boat Trips Through History

SS Stella in Milford Sound 1883

SS Stella in Milford Sound 1883

Large boats have been exploring Milford Sound and the surrounding areas since the 19th century. While modern day Milford Sound boat trips may focus on absorbing the scenery and surrounding wildlife, these historic vessels served colonial and conservation purposes. Since then, the exploration of Milford Sound’s waters has grown to include cruise ships, as well as vessels offering day trips.

The Boats that Surveyed Milford Sound During the 19th Century

The 19th century saw a boom in conservation and documentation efforts around the world, and Milford Sound was no different. From 1876 to 1891, the 542-tonne yacht-like Stella protected the calm waters surrounding Milford Sound, carrying materials to lighthouses and occasionally surveying the surrounding waters for shipwrecked sailors.

The late 19th century saw an increase in the number of steamships exploring Milford Sound. Photographs from the New Zealand government archives show the steam vessel Stella there during 1890, along with a paddle ship named Luna during 1874.

While boats served primarily practical purposes during the 19th century, an increased interest in exploring the world lead to a development of passenger ships during the early 20th century. One such ship that explored the Milford Sound area was the Monowai, which acted as both a hydrographic survey ship for the New Zealand Navy, and a passenger vessel that bestowed prestige upon all who sailed in her.

The Monowai, like many ships from the early 20th century, carried a certain air of prestige. It featured smoking rooms, verandahs, and accommodation that was the pinnacle of luxury at the time. Acting as a mode of transport for a privileged set, the Monowai visited Milford Sound during 1934.

Monowai wasn’t alone in venturing into Milford Sound as a cruise ship. The early Princess Mahsuri has also been photographed in the area during the 1910s, along with the escorting ship Tutanekai. Adding to the luxurious nature of the ships exploring Milford Sound during the early 20th century was the Marama, which featured a first class lounge that could easily rival that of other vessels.

Modern Day Cruising Through Milford Sound

Cruise ships in 2014Despite a decline in cruise vessels following WWII, cruising in general saw a resurgence in popularity from the latter part of the 20th century onwards. Most recently, the Voyager of the Seas ventured into Milford Sound to explore its misty scenery, before retreating and continuing with the rest of its route.

The Voyager of the Seas isn’t alone in doing this. Happy cruisers exploring Oceanic waters benefit from brief glimpses of Milford Sound, which they can enjoy from the comfort of dining lounges, their bedrooms, or the boat’s deck.

While these cruises offer an abundance of excitement for a short while, they may not offer the up close and personal experience that comes with taking a day trip on a smaller vessel. Modern day trips now focus on bringing passengers as close as possible to the tumbling waterfalls, towering glacier formations, and sea critters that make an appearance sporadically.

Not only does taking a day trip allow explorers to get close to all these features, it’s an excellent opportunity to explore the area when you don’t intend on taking a cruise. Depending on whether you choose to drive or fly to the area, you may also find that you get to explore a little of the Fiordland National Park by foot. With both sea and land exploration, it is possible to absorb everything Milford Sound has to offer, both in terms of scenery and atmosphere.