Milford Sound was carved by glaciers during the ice age and was later described by Rudyard Kipling as the eighth wonder of the world. Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s top tourist attractions and is located in the Fiordland National Park in the southwest of New Zealand’s South Island. The only way to get to Milford Sound is via the Milford Road, which is an unforgettable journey and as memorable as the fiord itself.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know if you are planning a trip to Milford Sound.
Getting from Queenstown to Milford Sound
There are several ways to get to Milford Sound, including self–drive, air travel and bus/coach.
If you are leaving from Queenstown, it will take approximately 4 hours each way to drive to Milford Sound. However, the drive is a scenic one, so I recommend allowing yourself some extra time to stop and see the many sights along the way. This will make for a long travel day, but one that is absolutely worth it.
If you are leaving from Te Anau, the drive will take approximately 2 hours, but again, take into consideration the many places to stop along the way.
Getting from Queenstown to Milford Sound involves driving through remote areas, so it is important to be prepared if choosing to self-drive. There are no shops or petrol stations between Te Anau and Milford Sound and Milford Road has very limited mobile phone reception. Make sure to have enough food and drink, petrol in the tank and ensure you have the directions saved.
If short on time, flying to Milford Sound is a unique and incredible experience, with several operators offering the chance to fly there in either a helicopter or small plane. If choosing to fly, you can make the return trip (including a cruise) within 4 hours, however, this does come at a price. A fly-cruise-fly trip on an airplane starts at around $575 or $775 to do the same via helicopter.
Things to do in Milford Sound
There are a number of incredible things to do in Milford Sound, including scenic cruises, walking the Milford track and other hikes, kayaking, fishing, diving, sailing and visiting the observatory.
Milford Sound hikes
There are a number of different walking tracks in Milford Sound, including the 4-5 day long Milford Track route and other shorter, day walks, ranging in difficulty and length.
Milford Sound kayak
There is something special about seeing the scenery of Milford Sound from the water as you paddle along in a kayak. Plus, you’ll likely meet the local wildlife, including dolphins, seals and penguins.
The waters of Milford Sound are home to a variety of fish, however, if planning on fishing be sure to do your research beforehand, as there are some restrictions.
Diving the Milford Sound marine reserve is an adventure that cannot be found anywhere else on earth and luckily is suited to all levels of diving experience.
A cruise is the most common way to see Milford Sound, however, travelling under sail is an alternative option that will provide a unique perspective and allow you to imagine yourself as one of the early European visitors to the fiord.
Milford Sound observatory
Milford Sound is home to New Zealand’s only floating underwater observatory, where you can view colourful sea life up close and 10 metres below sea level – without getting wet!
Best Places to stop on the way from Queenstown to Milford Sound
There are a number of incredible places to stop on the way from Queenstown to Milford Sound. However, keep in mind that if you are doing a day trip, it may not be possible to enjoy all of these places.
Te Anau is a peaceful town, known as the gateway to the fiords. There is plenty to see and do and makes for an ideal place to spend the night, if wanting to break up the long journey to Milford Sound.
Eglington Valley was carved out by glaciers thousands of years ago and today is home to a variety of unique wildlife. This is a favourite photo stop for visitors, as it truly is a stunning backdrop.
Located within the Eglington Valley, Knobs Flat is a great place to stop on your journey to Milford Sound, as it offers accommodation, information and facilities.
Another highlight within the Eglington Valley, the Mirror Lakes are world famous for the way they reflect their surrounding scenery, making for a beautiful photo op.
Monkey Creek is a source of glacier-fed water so pure you can drink it straight from the source. The creek is surrounded by stunning mountain scenery and is a common spot to find kea, New Zealand’s very playful alpine parrot.
You can’t drive to Milford Sound without passing through the Homer Tunnel. The 1.2km-long tunnel passes through solid rock and is so narrow that it is operated by traffic lights to keep it safe. Driving through the tunnel is an eerie experience but brings you one step closer to the stunning fiords.
Once passing through Homer Tunnel you will find yourself in Cleddau Valley, where the road winds sharply down in a number of hairpin turns. The steep valley is enclosed by granite mountain ranges on either side, making for an impressive view.
The Chasm is a series of gushing waterfalls that can be found just a short walk from the road. The walkthrough native rainforest makes for a great chance to stretch your legs and the sheer force of the water as it pounds through the Chasm is both a sight and sound to behold.
Best Milford Sound Cruise
Jucy Cruise offer a number of cruise and tour options to visit Milford Sound on a day trip. Jucy Cruises’ allow you to relax in an uncrowded, modern catamaran with three viewing decks, providing unlimited and close-up views of Milford Sound’s waterfalls, wildlife and rainforest. Cruises run for 105 minutes, providing plenty of time to soak in the scenery and take lots of photos.
The Vista Tour is a coach-cruise-coach tour where you can travel aboard a luxury coach featuring reclining seats, informative commentary and glass roof that provides breathtaking views to the side, front and above. The Vista Tour includes a lunchtime Classic Cruise – the best time of day to see Milford Sound – and provides free lunch, as well as snacks and drinks to purchase onboard. This was the tour I did.
Milford Sound Tour
Taking a tour from Queenstown to Milford Sound is a great idea if you only have one day to visit the fiords. A tour will remove the stress from the long and at times, dangerous, journey, so you can instead sit back and fully enjoy the views throughout the drive. Most organised tours will stop at all the best spots along the way, allowing you to make the most your day.
Book a Milford Sound Guide
Milford Sound accommodation
Staying overnight will allow you to soak up the best of nature and spend more time in the places mentioned in this article. You can search for accommodation options below.
Planning a trip to New Zealand
If you are in the process of planning your trip to New Zealand, this article will tell you EVERYTHING you need to know about visas, flights, accommodation, budgeting, travel insurance and more.
Arrange travel insurance for New Zealand
You will no doubt be participating in adventure activities in New Zealand, so ensure that you arrange travel insurance before your trip. I recommend World Nomads. If you aren’t sure whether you should get insurance or not, read this.
Other things to do in Queenstown
Travelling to other New Zealand destinations?
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