Life in Milford Sound

Milford sound, or in Maori Piopiotahi, is located on the west side of the south island in New Zealand. There is only one road in which loops around from Queenstown to Te Anau to Milford, in which I’m trying to say it’s very isolated. I would say that Milford is a special place. Not only because of its beauty as a fjord, its history and stories but also because of the people that it attracts to stay. Milford as a town is a community of people who have decided to stay because of work, the people and the beauty of nature. The outside world is different than what Milford is. Milford has community with intrigue and drama, with sunshine and tons of rain. Things happen in Milford that would otherwise never happen anywhere else and that’s what makes it so special.

Milford is a rainforest that is controlled by nature, even though humans have tried to harness it, they have failed to capture the raw and wild nature that still belongs to the earth. You wouldn’t recognize it when you see all the boats on the water with all the thousands of tourists swarming around on a sunny afternoon. But when shit hits the fan, like say with an earthquake (its located on a fault line) or flooding (rain is very unpredictable) or a tree slip (again heavy rain) or just a very rainy day (one of the wettest places in the world) you can see Milford can’t be tamed. Road closures because of the weather are not an anomaly rather it’s really quite normal. Even when the sun shines we are punished by sandflies, not just one or two but by whole swarms!

There’s no network to go online, and Wi-Fi is expensive so everyone here has to go back to how we lived in the 90s, knocking on doors to find the person you’re looking for, hearing word of mouth when events are happening and looking on notice boards for information. But all of these reasons together makes Milford what it is, a community of mismatched people thrown together and making it work.


Tū Te Rakiwhānoa was a demigod figure who was in charge to shape the Fjordland landscape to create waterways that would attract fish and birds. He stared started on the south of the island and worked his way up. He ended his creating in Piopiotahi, he had made the perfect fjord and he didn’t think he could do better. Piopiotahi was his final masterpiece.

Hine-nui-te-pō, she who rules the underworld in Maori legend, noticed Tū Te Rakiwhānoa’s work and in order to preserve his masterpiece and protect it from humans she released the tu namu demons (sandflies) so that people who come to witness its beauty will also leave again.

The name Piopiotahi comes from the legend of Maui the demi-god who wanted to give humans immortality, he made a bet with Hine-nui-te-pō and lost. Losing his life in the process. Maui’s companion bird the Piopio was devastated after Maui passed away and he flew to Milford sound to mourn. Henceforth came the name Piopiotahi.


Milford sound has many secrets only people who live there are made privy of. Like secret waterfalls, hiking trails, mountain paths, community events, parties and local stories and legends. You have to keep yourself busy in a place with only one way out!

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