Milford Sound flying waterfalls

Milford Sound. This waterfall is more than 100 m high
This waterfall is more than 100 m high / G. Pavils, November 2001, CC-BY-SA-3.0
One of the most attractive places in the world, no doubts, is Milford Sound. But besides the unforgettable sights, here are found diverse natural attractions including its unforgettable flying waterfalls.

If the day of your visit here happens to be rainy and stormy (most are) – you will be lucky to see the fascinating play of the wind with the countless waterfalls spilling over the unbelievably high cliffs.

Place of outstanding beauty

Milford Sound is one of the most beautiful fjords of the world and is especially spectacular due to the contrast between its snow-covered peaks and the lush rainforest below it.

This fjord runs for 15-19 kilometers, its width is up to 3 kilometers and the steep cliffs on both sides of it are up to 1500 – 1600 meters high. Every day thousands of tourists make the spectacular and long journey to see this breathtaking beauty and most of them take a pleasure boat ride up to the mouth of the fjord.

Milford Sound. Waterfall thrown back by a strong gale. Note the much higher falls in the background
Waterfall thrown back by a strong gale. Note the much higher falls in the background / G. Pavils, November 2001, CC-BY-SA-3.0

Waterfalls and wind

There are few places in the world with as much rain as Milford Sound.

It rains her 182 days per year and sometimes the rain is very heavy. This creates many hundreds of waterfalls.

Some are permanent but most occur only on rainy days. Many of the periodical waterfalls are a thousand meters or more high: they don’t create a single vertical drop but flow along the near-vertical cliffs and then drop for a hundred meters or more into the sea.

Milford Sound is located in the Roaring Forties: the latitudes characterized by a nearly constant, strong westerly wind. The wind here runs undisturbed for thousands of kilometers until it is suddenly met by the enormous wall of the Southern Alps. Thus, in the narrow “gate” of Milford Sound, along the sharp bend at Dale Point, there are very strong winds. Masses of air travel deep into the winding fjord-like a giant express train, gradually losing the speed and force.

When they reach the walls of the cliff, the strong wind often goes upwards and the waterfalls with a vertical drop are caught by the wind.

Countless tourists from the cruise ships admire this unforgettable sight: the water starts the enormous plunge and is caught by a strong gale. The white stream slows down and stops… and then it starts to fly backward! In a few seconds the water falls some 30 – 50 meters and then goes directly back again; and then modestly seeps along the surface of the cliff, waiting for the next gush.

Milford Sound is by far not the only place in the world to offer such sight. It can be observed elsewhere in New Zealand, in Hawaii (see Olo’upena Falls and other Hawaiian waterfalls) and numerous other places. But there is no other place where this phenomenon is seen on such a scale and so often.


  1. NIWA – Climate Data
  2. Planetware
  3. Encyclopaedia Britannica
  4. Milford Sound

Milford Sound flying waterfalls on the map

Travelers' Map is loading...
If you see this after your page is loaded completely, leafletJS files are missing.
Location, GPS coordinates: 44.61080 S 167.85030 E
Categories: Waterfalls
Values: Geology, Visual
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)
Where is located? Australia and Oceania, New Zealand, South Island, Southland, Milford Sound, closer to the mouth of sound
Height: several hundred metres
UNESCO World Heritage status: Part of “Te Wahipounamu – South West New Zealand”, 1990, No.551

Video of Milford Sound flying waterfalls

Daniel Gable, July 2016

Landmarks of New Zealand

Moeraki boulders, New Zealand
Moeraki boulders, New Zealand / Eli Duke, Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0
The island nation of New Zealand hosts some of the most impressive natural attractions of the world. While the North Island has unique geothermal fields and volcanoes and the giant kauri tree forests, South Island has breathtaking fjords, giant waterfalls and unique coastal formations.


Iguazu Falls
Iguazu Falls / Nico Kaiser, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Some of the most fascinating and awe-inspiring natural monuments are waterfalls, or locations where a river abruptly changes its elevation.

Recommended books

Lonely Planet New Zealand’s South Island (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet New Zealand’s South Island is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Gaze upon the spectacular ice flows of Fox Glacier, commune with marine life at Kaikoura, and relive your adventures over dinner in Queenstown; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of New Zealand’s South Island and begin your journey now!

Milford Sound: An Illustrated History of the Sound, the Track and the Road


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here