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Your Ultimate Guide To Milford Sound

Milford Sound Cruise 

 Milford Sound was once described as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ by Rudyard Kipling. It is a true picture of beauty and an absolute must-do if you are visiting Queenstown. Many people visit the sounds on a Day trip from Queenstown and there are plenty of companies that depart from here to whisk you off to Mother Nature’s playground.

Our favourite company for Milford Sound excursions is Go Orange. Booked, paid for, and picked up from wherever you are in Queenstown, the coach will then drive you down towards Fiordland national park. After around a 4 hour trip you will reach one of the world’s most stunning locations. The coach driver will also school you up on some Maori history and plenty of facts about the landscape and native animals, you will also get regular stops at the Mirror lakes and a pit stop in Te Anau, make sure you stock up on food and drink here as there are no shops or ATM’s when you reach Milford. The cruise will take you the length of the fiord out the Tasman Sea and back under the spectacle of mountains and waterfalls.

Before you board the coach back to Queenstown be sure to grab the best photograph of the day, it may not be the tallest mountain in New Zealand, sitting 1692m above Milford but it is the most popular, right at the gateway to the sound it is essential you get that shot before you depart. Sit back, enjoy the coach ride back to Queenstown and reminisce on all the beauty from your visit. Milford will hold a place dearly in your heart but at least you now have the photo evidence to pine over when you leave!

Milford Sound Glacier

Milford sound was originally carved by glaciers and was a stomping ground for the Maori’s, it was missed by Captain James Cook as he sailed past on many occasions. The cliff faces rise vertically from the ocean and the waterfalls sometimes as high as 1000m crash back down, your boat captain will make sure you get a mouthful of that waterfall as he drives his boat close.

Southern Discoveries offer a nature cruise with an extended stop at their underwater observatory. Depart the boat and Descend below the surface to discover Milford Sound’s unique underwater environment. When freshwater meets seawater a phenomenon known as ‘deep-water emergence’ occurs and species which normally live at great depths survive in much shallower environments. You will see black coral, fish, marine life & sometimes the playful fur seals make an appearance. Southern Discoveries offer a self-drive option to cruise Milford Sound with boats departing twice daily.

 

milford sound helicopter flight

Milford Sound Weather

No matter the weather here you will have a fantastic experience, when it rains it pours in Milford averaging an annual rainfall of 6,412 mm each year, it has known as the wettest inhabited place in NZ and one of the wettest in the world. You will spend your day soaking in the pure beauty all around you, make sure you pack your camera as this is an experience you will want to remember forever. Locals tip, pack the sandfly spray. These little mosquito bites are no fun and unfortunately, these guys hang out in one of our most beautiful places. Just make sure you have spray on your exposed skin areas.

Queenstown to Milford Sound (self-drive)

Traveling to Milford Sound is an adventure in itself and the Milford Road is possibly one of the most scenic drives in New Zealand. As soon as you enter the National Park your phone signal will cut out meaning it’s just you, mother nature, and the open road. The scenery on the Milford Road is pretty mindblowing. Mountains, rivers, Kea, and sweeping alpine vistas await you. My favourite places to stop and photograph are the Eglinton Valley, Mirror Lakes, and Monkey Creek. 

Just before entering Milford Sound, you will pass through the Homer Tunnel. This Tunnel took 19 years to construct and is carved through the Darran Mountain Range. You will drive the 1km long tunnel on a one-way system and get ready for the incredible view on the other side – have your cameras ready. 

queenstown to milford sound

Milford Sound Hike

There is more to do in Milford Sound than just cruise. Fiordland National Park is an adventure paradise. Think wilderness hikes, swing bridges, luscious native forest, and snowy glaciers. If you are keen for an uphill adventure then strap on your hiking boots and hike to Lake Marian. One of Fiordland’s hidden gems and must do hikes while you’re in the area. Allow at least three to four hours return for this hike and be sure to pack the water and snacks. Work your way through beautiful native bush on this uphill climb before emerging at the finest hike-able alpine lake new Zealand has to offer, in my opinion of course. Bring a picnic, soak in the views, and take your time on the return leg of your journey. If you are hiking in winter, be prepared. The track will be difficult and icy. Summer months are the perfect time to hike to Lake Marian and if you are feeling brave you can take a dip in the fresh glacial waters. 

Have you heard of the Milford Track? Of course, you have! One of New Zealand’s great walks and considered one of the most scenic hikes in the whole world. This track will take you from Te Anau downs into the heart of Milford Sound. Four days of beautiful views and no signal will have you connected to our land in no time. If you want to hike the Milford Track and are looking for transport options you can book an easy transport package with Fiordland outdoors.

I was lucky enough to hike the Milford Track last year and you can read about my experience here. 

Milford Sound Helicopter

One can’t really appreciate the true scale of Fiordland National Park unless you jump in a helicopter and fly over this vast land. The National Park stretches as far as the eye can see and right out to the Tasman Sea, on a clear day you will see the expansive coastline and even spot resident pods of Dolphins below. Te Anau Helicopter services operate from Milford Sound meaning you can catch a morning, afternoon, or late afternoon flight depending on what time you arrive into Piopiotahi. 

Fly and witness incredible scenes such as Lake Quill & Sutherland falls, the Hollyford Valley, and Fiordland’s tallest mountain, Mount Tutoko. Standing at 2723m tall. Te Anau helicopter services can land on the Tutoko glacier providing you the best views and seats in the house, literally. How could you pass up on views like this?

milford sound-helicopter

Milford Sound Kayacks

Kayaking in Milford Sound is a true bucket list experience. Not only do you get to paddle through a might fiord but you gain a brand new perspective for how large these mountains are when you are paddling right under them. If you are lucky some of the locals might make an appearance. Seals, Dolphins, and penguins reside in the sound and frequently pop up to say hello during some kayak tours in the sound. Roscoe’s kayaks are a locally owned & operated business & he knows his stuff when it comes to paddling here in Milford Sound. 

5 Waterfalls in Milford Sound you don’t want to miss!!

Okay, let’s talk rainfall. So, it rains a lot in Milford Sound, well Fiordland in general. On average it can rain 182 out of the year, some days so wild that they close the road. Always best to check ahead for your visit. BUT, with great rain comes great waterfalls and they are incredible during and after rainfall. Exit the homer tunnel to 100’s of waterfalls, cruise Milford Sound to see how the permanent falls thrive, and witness hundreds and hundreds of temporary falls in every direction.

There are some pretty epic falls in Fiordland that are here to stay, one of them having a pretty important job too. Below are the five waterfalls you shouldn’t miss when taking a trip down here. Bowen Falls, Stirling Falls, The Four Sisters, Sutherland Falls, Fairy Falls, some can be seen from the foreshore, some you will have to take a Milford sound cruise to view and one of the elusive falls only appears in heavy rainfall. Chase those waterfalls people, it’s worth it. 

  1. Bowen Falls,
  2. Stirling Falls,
  3. The Four sisters,
  4. Sutherland Falls, 
  5. Fairy Falls

Some can be seen from the foreshore, some you will have to take a Milford sound cruise to view and one of the elusive falls only appears in heavy rainfall. Chase those waterfalls people, it’s worth it.

Milford Sound Accommodation

Not ready to leave Milford Sound just yet and fancy staying another night? Then you have a couple of options. First and foremost, the Milford Sound Lodge. This beautiful lodge is situated in Milford Sound and is your only accommodation option in the National Park itself. Catering for the van life adventure or a luxury night away for two with stunning mountain view chalets, you’re in for a real treat. Imagine waking up surrounded by nature, listening to the waterfalls while tucking into a beautifully prepared breakfast delivered straight to your door. Explore the surrounding area, put your feet up, disconnect with the real world, and re-connect with nature. The Milford Sound Lodge offers chalet accommodation for two, three, and even a full family chalet. If you are traveling through to Milford Sound in a Campervan the Milford Sound Lodge has powered sites available, a full campsite kitchen, and an awesome shower block. Just what you need when you wake up in a temperate rain forest. The Pio Pio restaurant and bar is also open all year round. I can personally recommend the Goats cheese croquettes, they are SO good! You can grab breakfast, snacks, and a three-course dinner from the lodge. A great way to end your day exploring. 

If you are a Milford day tripper and fancy staying the night in Te Anau then that’s a great option too. Air Bnb will be your best friend here. Plenty of kiwi style hoes to rent through the town and it also means you’re a little closer to some of the delicious eateries in the township. Bao Now and La Toscana are two local faves and you won’t regret stopping for a bite at either one. For a small town, there is still heaps to do. You can walk on the Kepler Track, catch the sunrise at the Te Anau wharf or cozy up in the Fiordland cinema and watch the mesmerizing Shadowland film, all about the epic national park you just explored. 

milford sound lodge