Holiday schedules are always tight…
We have many spectacular locations in New Zealand with a few unique locations that you simply must see – I rate Milford Sound as a must see !
Even a 7-10 day tour of New Zealand (think speed dating) would not be complete without at least one day at Milford Sound either a Scenic Cruise or if you are energetic and need to get closer to nature ? choose an Eco-friendly Kayaking Tour. (more details below)
Whatever you decide to do you can be sure of one thing – Milford Sound will be one of the highlights when travelling New Zealand !
If you have the time, driving the road to Milford Sound Fjord is an adventure in its own right, we list a few driving tips that we hope will make it a safe road trip, please read them before driving the Milford Road.
If you don’t have the spare time to drive, you can still visit Milford Sound by taking a scenic flight from Queenstown to the Sounds Airport, then a 1/2 day cruise on Milford Sound (2-3 hours) and fly out the same day.
This is a ridiculous way to see such a beautiful area, but at least you will see the highlights of Fiordland and Milford Sound from the air and sea – if the weather is OK for flying ?
Milford Sound Fjord
Treacherous sea’s outside of Milford Sound drove fear into the hearts of early seafarers – probably still does the modern sailor if they are honest, regardless of the mood in the fiord’s, Rain, Wind, Snow or Beautiful Clear Sky, it is wild, remote and awe-inspiring in all weather conditions.
Video – Milford Sound in 4k
Whether you drive or fly there a cruise, is a stunning way to spend your day !
Situated on the rugged west coast of the South Island, Milford Sound offers dramatic scenery, dramatic weather shifts and stunning water falls all in an amazing rainforest setting ! it is no accident, it is a World Heritage Area and one of the Worlds most recognized natural attractions.
Check the latest weather in Milford Sound, both short and long range… Weather Forecast
Queenstown To Milford Sound
If you are looking for the best way to see Milford Sound, to experience the true ruggedness of Fiordland National Park then it is drive by road once you arrive take a boat tour to experience the sheer beauty of the Fjord.
Or even better if you are fit enough ? spend a few day’s walking the mountain trails in Fiordland National Park sleeping in DOC huts, you can find several free to walk tracks in Milford Sound area that are just as good as the world renown Milford Track .
I recommended you self-drive to Milford it will give you more freedom to explore.
If you have the time stay overnight in Te Anau. It is more relaxing to start your trip from Te Anau rather than Queenstown.
Te Anau is a lot closer than Queenstown is to Milford Sound if you start early it will give you extra time to explore the side roads and short walks along the way.
Te Anau to Milford Sound and return (along the same route) is 234 km, and will take about 5 hours – 2½ hours to drive each way including short breaks for photos.
From Queenstown to Milford Sound one way is 287km taking 3hrs 46 minutes to drive (give or take a minute or two) the return trip from Queenstown is 573 km, this would be a very long hard day if you attempt it … it would be smarter to leave from and return to Te Anau.
It’s a beautiful road to travel so allow time to enjoy it, as they say… it’s not the destination, it’s the journey that matters !
Video – Driving To Milford Sound
Important Driving Tip : For those of you who are unsure. – In New Zealand, we drive on the LEFT. !
Please, So Should YOU !
There are no shops or fuel stops between Te Anau and Milford Sound.
A small selection of food, drink. Fuel (petrol and diesel) is available at Milford Sound and Gunn’s Camp (petrol only), which requires detour down the Hollyford Valley Road.
To be safe, ensure that your fuel tank is full before leaving Te Anau so you have enough for the return trip.
The road to Milford Sound is for considerate careful drivers only, it is amongst the world’s finest alpine drives but it is narrow, winding and unforgiving leaving very little room for driver error.
The awe-inspiring views of surrounding mountains and vertigo-inducing Drop to the valley floor can be distracting keep your eye’s on the road and keep left !
You will love it once you make it to the Homer tunnel.
Started in 1935 dug entirely with pick and shovel, the 1.2 kilometre Homer tunnel is the only road tunnel I’ve been in that slopes so steeply downhill – I suppose it was meant to do that ? It will give you a laugh for sure.
Huge delays due to the rugged terrain, severe climate, constant avalanches dragged out it’s completion to 1954 – a little over budget, I suspect !
When driving to Milford Sound whether by car or Campervan don’t rush, allow extra time for the drive in, as there numerous short walks and rest areas as well as DOC camping areas on the way, take your time, stop to take photos or camp the night, there is nothing like sitting around a campfire to enjoy the remote feel of Fiordland. – unless it is fire session and all fires are banned then you will just have to improvise ?
Before you attempt the drive please read these driving tips from the Dept of Conservation Allow for winter driving conditions between May – September.
From Queenstown you travel past Lake Wakatipu, then on through rolling farmland to Te Anau township sited appropriately on the shores of Lake Te Anau.
Once you enter Fiordland National Park, the scenery changes dramatically, snow covered mountain ranges, impenetrable rainforest and cascading waterfalls either side of the narrow winding road.
The road to Milford Sound ends after dropping steeply into the Fiord its self. This is a scenic drive you will never forget.
Though it is possible to take scenic flights over Milford Sound which in fine weather are enthralling, you don’t get the true feel of Milford sound from the air, the best way to appreciate this stunning location – in all weather conditions, is at Sea Level, it can be done in several ways.
Milford Sound Kayaking … of the many companies offering Kayak trips on Milford Sound there are 2 that I found to have informative useful websites and easy to follow price lists.
Spend a bit of time reading the tour options you should have no problem matching a kayak trip to your ability.
Prices from both companies range between $90.00 to $190.00. check out their websites to get a better idea what they both offer.
“We’re proud to be New Zealand’s longest established owner operated sea kayaking company. Operating 365 days a year, we offer heaps of different guided sea kayaking adventures, each showcasing Milford Sound in its own unique kiwi way.
Plus we’re the only sea kayaking business permitted to explore the outer fiord including the mighty Stirling Falls !”
My advice would be to book with a smaller experienced company like Rosco’s they specialise in Kayaking Milford Sound and have a great selection of tours and you can be sure their guides know their job and the Milford coastline inside out.
But if you are fit enough and want to Kayak in areas other than Milford Sound you should also have a careful look at Real Journeys website.
Real Journeys is a large tour company that offers several tour options other than Kayaking – for their Kayaking trips they have several interesting Milford Sound Tour options listed on their website.
Day trips or overnight and multiday in 6 destinations… this looks great until you click through their links and see only 3 options are actually available ?
What they actually offer is – Doubtfull Sound, Dusky Sound and of course Milford Sound.
Still, a great selection, if you are an experienced Sea Kayaker there are several incredible “once in a lifetime” multiday kayaking trips on the menu.
If bobbing around in a kayak or taking a comfy day cruise is just not you ?
Then maybe you need to go below sea level ?
Diving Milford Sound
Video – Dive Milford Sound
Have a look at diving in the Sounds this is another option for experiencing the very best Milford Sound has to offer – if you are suitably deep water qualified ? PADI or equivalent.
A tannin-stained freshwater layer that sits on top of the salt water blocks out some light, which creates a unique habitat for deep-water species to live in shallow depths.
Black coral trees normally inhabit water deeper than 100 metres, while in Milford Sound they grow as shallow as 10 metres. Fiordland is home to the highest concentration of black coral in the world.
If you aren’t qualified to take the dive trip but still want to see the Black Coral then visit the Discovery Centre Underwater Observatory.
The fully air-conditioned viewing room provides a unique opportunity to view the real life environment below the surface of the fiord – so different from the artificial environment of an aquarium.
Rare black and red corals can be seen as well as anemones, sponges, sea stars, horse mussels and a multitude of fish. source – MitrePeak.com.
Milford Sound Cruises
When taking as bus tour from Te Anau booking the boat tour is taken care of for you.
But when you self-drive to Milford Sound you need to book the boat tour yourself, don’t rock up at the last minute and expect to walk straight on to a boat, it is a long way to go on the off chance of finding a spare seat – book ahead !
MitrePeak.com offers various scenic cruise deals on Milford Sound including trips to the Underwater Observatory.
Milford Sound Cruise prices range from $70.00 to $82.00 for Adults and $17.00 for kids plus if you choose to visit the Observatory it is an extra $36.00 for Adults and $18.00 for kids.
Visit their website for a detailed tour comparison and full price list – including their most popular cruise deals – Fly+Cruise+Fly from Te- Anau, Queenstown or Wanaka as well as Coach+Cruise+Coach tours from Te-Anau or Queenstown.
To compare all their Milford Sound Activities.
RealJourneys.co.nz has a similar cruise on Milford Sound $85.00 for Adults as well they offer Over Night Cruises and Fly Over Tours as well as the Kayak trips we mentioned previously.
To compare Real Journeys full range of Milford Sound Cruise prices – click the link below.
You will find a wide variety of boat operators offering day cruises on Milford Sound so it would be easy to expect it to be a simple process of just showing up and selecting the tour that suits you, but it is not that simple.
You need to be aware there is an influx of bus tours that arrive in Milford Sound to coincide with the boat tour timetables – especially during the busy season (December to February) the boats fill up very quickly it is important to book your boat trip in advance.
Also be aware, this influx of tourists can make the road to Milford quite busy.
The majority of coaches depart from Te Anau between 9am and 10am, and arrive at Mirror Lakes around 10.30am, Knobs Flat at 11am.
The Chasm at 12.30pm and Milford Sound for the 1pm cruise.
By avoiding this pulse of traffic. your Milford Road experience will be more relaxed, with less disturbance from the heavy coach traffic and high numbers of visitors.
If you have limited time, a non-stop direct drive from Te Anau to Milford will take at least 2 hours.
To avoid traffic congestion during summer (October to April), either leave Te Anau early in the morning (before 8am) or later in the morning (11am onwards).
source : DOC – Driving Tips
Along with the day cruises there a few options of an overnight cruise on Milford Sound and the more remote Dusky Sound – these are very popular trips, normally they require booking several weeks in advance.
On all Milford Sound cruises you will be able to enjoy spectacular views of Mitre Peak, Stirling Falls but for some, the highlights will be photographing the wildlife such as New Zealand fur seals, dolphins, and penguins up close.
Also while there don’t forget to visit “Milford Deep Underwater Observatory” where you will be able to view diverse underwater life and rare black coral.
But for many just being there is enough… it is the rugged remoteness, vertical cliff faces, lofty mountains and numerous waterfalls – the natural scenery is the Star Attraction.
I would highly recommend you allow the time to visit Fiordland National Park when you travel the South Island – specifically to visit the more accessible Milford Sound.
what to bring with you – to make your visit to Milford Sound and West Coast more enjoyable there are two essential items !
1) rain jacket – Fiordland National Park enjoys 7 meters of rain per year – you can’t have a rainforest without it !
2) insect repellent – The West Coast also enjoys an unrivalled reputation for the biggest Sandfly’s in New Zealand – perhaps the world ?
Yes, Sandfly’s do bite.
Fiordland truly is an unforgettable place… 🙂
Like many unique scenic areas in the world, worth visiting – I think you will find…
” The Journey To Milford Sound is as equally spectacular as the destination. “