A Brief History of Milford Sound

Coordinates: -44.664175, 167.912998

Milford Sound was first named Milford Haven by John Grono, a Welshman from Newport, who was sealing on the coast of Fiordland as early as 1809.

It was renamed Milford Sound and first surveyed by the HMS Acheron captained by John Stokes in March 1851, another Welshman who named many features after his hometown Milford Haven, including Pembroke Peak and the Cleddau River. They hunted ducks, kakapo and kiwi and sighted takahe.

The Maori name for Milford Sound is Piopiotahi after a now extinct thrush the Piopio. Expeditions to Piopiotahi by waka were made from both the North and South Island. Most Maori artifacts have been discovered at Anita Bay/Piopiotahi where a type of greenstone or takiwai which means 'tear drop', used for pendants and ornaments, is found. Eel were also hunted on Lake Ada and some artifacts found at the head of the sound. Piopiotahi is important in Maori mythology.

The earliest European habitation was a sealer's hut at Anita Bay/Piopiotahi. In 1871 the HMS Clio commanded by Captain Stirling and carrying the governor George Bowen visited and the Stirling and Bowen falls were named.

Donald Sutherland first visited on 1 December 1877 from Thompson Sound in an open boat with 2 dogs, finding signs of Maori he cautiously camped on an island, continuing North to Jackson's Bay 8 days later. He returned and built a 3 room house at Freshwater Basin in 1878. Sutherland was instrumental in exploring the interior but the Mackinnon pass linking Lake Te Anau with Milford was discovered by Quintin Mackinnon on 16 October 1888 from the Te Anau side.

Explore with the Milford Sound Guide

Milford Sound