The history of Milford Sound

Milford Sound History

Milford Sound and Fiordland were well known to the Maori. Many Maori legends relate to its formation, including the demi-god Tuterakiwhanoa, who is said to have carved the rugged landscape from formless rock.

The Maori named Milford Sound 'Piopiotahi' after a thrush-like bird, the piopio. Piopiotahi literally means a single piopio, which harks back to the legend of Maui trying to win immortality for mankind. When Maui died in the attempt, a piopio was said to have flown to Milford Sound in mourning.

The name Milford Sound was first given to the sound by Captain John Grono in 1812. He and his crew were the first Europeans to visit the area. He named it after Milford Haven in Wales. Following Cook's mapping of the sound, sealers and whalers formed the first European settlements there.

Historic Highlights of Milford Sound Area

  • Donald Sutherland and John Mackay find Mackay and Sutherland Falls in 1880.
  • Discovery of the McKinnon Pass in 1888, which later becomes part of the Milford Track.
  • William H. Homer and George Barber discover the Homer Saddle in 1889. Homer suggests that a tunnel through the saddle could provide access to Milford.
  • Homer Tunnel provides road access to Milford Sound in 1954 (almost 20 years since engineering work on the tunnel began).
  • The Milford Track is dubbed 'The finest walk in the world' by poet Blanche Baughan, in The London Spectator in 1908.

You can find out more about Milford Sound's history during commentary from your guides on coaches, boats and planes on Milford Sound tours.

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