Perfect place to hit the water

Most people will be able to think of a few times in their life when they've paused, taken a breath, and said to themselves: `what the hell was I thinking?'.

Standing on the wrong side of the railing on the top deck of a large catamaran, the tiny ledge slippery from the pouring rain, thunder booming off the surrounding cliffs and lightning flashing across the sky, definitely counts as one of those moments.

The calm after the storm in Milford Sound. PHOTOS: DAISY HUDSON
The calm after the storm in Milford Sound. PHOTOS: DAISY HUDSON
The word ``hell'' may have been swapped for something less family-friendly as I hit the freezing water below.

But jumping into Milford Sound in the middle of an epic storm is worth the expletive.

Rewind a few hours and a group of us were staring, a little awestruck, at the dozens of waterfalls crashing into the dark water below as we set sail on Fiordland Jewel.

It sounds cliche, and rightly so, but visiting Milford Sound really is like entering another world.

Waterfalls come to life during a storm in Milford Sound.
Waterfalls come to life during a storm in Milford Sound.
We arrived during a storm, which, according to Fiordland Jewel captain and co-owner Rob Swale, is the best time to see the area.

He's right. The relentless rain has led to waterfalls springing up seemingly out of nowhere, gushing down the looming cliffs that surround us.

Rob says most of them will be gone again within 24 hours, and again, he's on the money - the next morning, many had disappeared.

The wild weather was replaced with a sunny, calm morning, the choppy water now like glass reflecting the snow-capped mountains.

It's easy to see why Rob's usually on the mark.

Fiordland Discoveries co-owner/operator Rob Swale.
Fiordland Discoveries co-owner/operator Rob Swale.
He and wife Kate Rollason launched the company in 2016 but have roots deeply entrenched in Fiordland.

``I started fishing in Fiordland in about 1973, with my father, and been here ever since, really,'' Rob says.

``We wanted a boat that gave Fiordland and the incredible scenery justice. We wanted our guests to be able to lie in bed in the morning and take in the scenery.''

He and Kate are great hosts, attentive but not overbearing, and the family-run aspect of the business gives the whole experience a very personal feel.

They also make every effort to use products from local Queenstown and Central Otago businesses, such as wine from Wet Jacket Wines at Lake Hayes.

The Heli Glenorchy chopper arrives to pick up passengers. PHOTO: FIONA FARQUHAR
The Heli Glenorchy chopper arrives to pick up passengers. PHOTO: FIONA FARQUHAR
Fiordland Jewel is the only boat allowed to do overnight cruises on the sound in winter, meaning there's no risk of overcrowding.

Given that, it really is the perfect place to relax.

The 24m, three-deck catamaran features a top-deck hot tub (ideal for some late-night stargazing), an on-board chef who whips up fresh crayfish and blue cod, and kayaks guests can take out if they want to hit the water.

It sleeps 20 passengers a night in nine climate-controlled cabins, each with their own ensuite bathroom.

And there's no cellphone service, meaning even the most ardent workaholic or social media influencer is forced to ditch their devices and live in the moment.

The rare wildlife is also a highlight, from seals and dolphins to penguins and other birdlife.

A friendly kea tries to hitch a ride in Fiordland. PHOTO: DAISY HUDSON
A friendly kea tries to hitch a ride in Fiordland. PHOTO: DAISY HUDSON
It might seem like a bit of a mission to get down there, but never fear, there are a few options available.

Fiordland Discoveries does a package deal with Heli Glenorchy, another locally owned small business, to fly guests to and from the boat in a nine-seater chopper.

The experience of seeing the helicopter land on top of the boat is incredible - and you can watch it live on the TV screen in the entertaining area downstairs, so you don't miss a moment of the action.

If you want to get to Glenorchy in style, you can also hire a luxury sports car or SUV from Frankton-based Ignition Self Drive Adventures.

And, if you do fancy driving down from Queenstown, you're looking at a trip of about four hours.

The drive takes you through Fiordland National Park, which is an amazing experience in itself.

You'll also probably spot a cheeky kea or two along the way.

 - Daisy Hudson

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