Imagine hundreds of lush rainforests, waterfalls, steep fjords, less to no light and sound pollution with the most gorgeous sunrises and sunsets…
Well, that’s just the start of exploring a whole world out there in the Milford Sound in New Zealand!
The ironic part is that this place is pretty wet and receives 182 days of rainfall each year, yet it is a great attraction for tourists across the globe. Why?
To put it short, it’s a freaking stunning place…!!
Beginning with a road trip through the Fiordlands to reach Milford Sound is an absolute bliss, and it tops every itinerary of the must-see spots in New Zealand.
So, join me as we tour through our senses into this scenic paradise, which was once considered the 8th wonder for Rudyard Kipling.
Now it’s concentration, craving, and ultimately taking action to see it with your own two eyes…!!
1. The Milford Sound in New Zealand: What You Need to Know
Located on New Zealand’s South Island as a fiord, the Milford Sound is said to have been formed by the erosion of glaciers.
That’s a more than a million years ago story!
And do you know what’s a fiord?
It’s a valley that has been created as a result of glaciers made up of water.
Once it melts, you can hear the sound of a flood that obviously arises out of the flooded river valley.
Technically, glaciation events led to the rise of the Milford Sound since a thousand years ago. So, practically, it is not a sound.
The place is located within the range of the Fiordland National Park.
Interestingly, the best part that makes the Milford Sound special is its remote locale, which is mostly untouched by humans.
From the landscape to the ambience around it, the place has remained peaceful and unspoilt.
And that gives you an authentic experience of being in the bosom of nature.
In the Maori tongue, it is called Piopiotahi.
It comprises towering cliffs, waterfalls much larger than the Niagara and deep blue waters to glide on boats or kayaks.
Its surrounding is predominantly wet because of the high yearly rainfall of up to 6,400 mm (252 inches).
Sometimes, it even gets more than 250 mm (10 inches) of rain daily.
So, it is no surprise that this is the wettest place on the planet, with perpetually shrouded clouds that blow out rain or mist in the winds.
Nevertheless, Milford Sound is also a place for uncountable wildlife and is a great birdwatching site.
Most importantly, it’s THE HOME of the endangered and iconic New Zealand kiwi.
So, because of the combination of freak-out scenery and gorgeous wildlife, this is a MUST-VISIT place for tourists worldwide.
The Milford Sound History: Did you know? The Maori frequented the Milford Sound to hunt, fish and collect jade stones.
It was in 1823 that John Grono chanced upon the place during a European visit.
Interestingly, the Milford Sound’s entrance was extraordinarily concealed that Captain Cook, the famous explorer crossed it twice without realising that it was there!
2. Where is the Milford Sound in New Zealand?
It is located on the western coast of South Island, deep inside the Fiordland National Park.
The park is a better half of Te Wahipounamu, a UNESCO World Heritage site. And the Milford Sound is a jewel of the park that awaits to be discovered.
Here’s the Milford Sound Map location!
3. How to Reach the Milford Sound?
Initially, driving was THE ONLY mode of commute to visit Milford Sound. But now, apart from driving, you can choose to fly, sail or even opt for guided tours.
Or just do a remix of everything!
And this is what you can get out of each…
3.1 Sojourning through the Road by Driving
Taking a drive to Milford Sound is absolutely stunning…!!
It is considered one of the best scenic drives that take around 3.5 hours from Queenstown.
Equally, as you drive through Te Anau, some gorgeous spots will force you to have a look.
So, budget some extra time to enjoy a day or two and view the vantage points, lakes and waterfalls.
Also, don’t forget to download the self-driving sheet to check out some amazing places to stop by along the way!
The Milford Sound Public Car Park GPS Instructions;
- Address: 147-157 Milford Sound Highway, Southland, New Zealand, 9679
- GPS Coordinates: -44.672314, 167.927994
- Parking is $25 NZD
You can pay for parking at one of the pay machines by typing in your number plate. Check out for more details on parking here!
Please note that there can be a shortage of car parks during the summer months. So, come early to find one…!!
3.2 The Milford Sound Coach Tour
Take a guided Milford Sound tour on a coach (bus) from Queenstown or Te Anau for a comfortable and seamless travel experience.
These include a knowledgeable guide with coach transport that stops at some of the best spots to give you a scenic cruise along the way to Milford Sound.
This is a great and valuable option to reach Milford Sound if you are short of time.
Also, this bus tour has a two-way option to drop you back to your accommodation at Te Anau or Queenstown.
But the downside is that you will be accompanied by other tourists.
So, there is less flexibility, and it is a day-long with 8+ hours of travel if you start from Queenstown.
Ultimately, it’s on a schedule, and you won’t be able to perfectly click a picture or just enjoy your picnic lunch sitting by the shore and admire the view.
So, opt for smaller groups of up to 15 people if you choose this option.
3.3 The Milford Sound Small Group Tour
Going for teeny weeny group or private tours is best if you don’t feel thrilled travelling on a bus.
The trip is inclusive of a drive, lunch stops and a cruise. Those travelling from Te Anau get a bonus of hiking up the Key Summit.
3.4 Take a Scenic Flights Tour to Milford
Want a different perspective on travelling to Milford?
Then, take a scenic Milford Sound flight or helicopter tour!
This is an expensive option, but do try it out if the budget permits you.
Take off from the land to experience the best of Milford from the air and get to explore Fiordland Park better from the top.
This an expensive yet much quicker option to explore Milford if you don’t have much time to spend in New Zealand.
Also, you can cruise over the waters to reach Milford as an alternate option.
Two-hour, full day and overnight cruise options are available, with kayak and other options as add-ons.
Per person, it starts from $45-$200+ for a regular cruise and crosses $500 for cruises overnight with other excursions.
Check the cruise prices for Milford Sound here!
Some packages include taking a plane or a helicopter flight plus a nature cruise to experience Milford Sound by air and water.
4. Okay, So When can I Take a Trip to Milford?
There is no particular best time to take a trip to Milford Sound, as it’s beautiful throughout the year.
Your question should be, which is the best time of the day to tour Milford…
The obvious answer is in the morning when the light is softer, and you get a different feel amidst the fiord.
Also, this is when the crowds are smaller so that you can feel it is a place for you to explore and enjoy!
Summer is a great time to visit. But sadly, the place gets crowded as it’s the peak season for crowds.
So, pre-plan and book ahead if you are planning to get there during this season to avoid disappointments.
But I have heard that the place is worth visiting in winter.
You can surely avoid the crowds around this time and still enjoy all the activities like hiking or kayaking in extreme weather conditions.
So, bring a lot of layers and check the road conditions before heading out!
Spring and autumn have mild temperatures and lower crowds, and it is also an excellent time to visit Milford Sound.
Want to stay around Milford? Here’s a complete guide on it!
It’s a bit pricey, but it is worth a stay as it’s an unbeatable locale!
5. Activities to Enthrall Yourself at the Milford Sound
Congratulations on making it to the best part of this post!
It’s time for an adventure from here as we are going to delve into all the activities you can take up to escape every day at Milford Sound.
So, stay tuned to get the best knowledge to embrace adventure when you are in reality at Milford …!!
5.1 Venture on a Milford Sound Cruise
Arguably, this is the most appealing activity that hauls tourists to this place- to see the fjord from the water.
Many travellers have found the Milford cruises of Southern Discoveries enjoyable and affordable.
Especially for visitors craving a morning shoot, the morning cruise offers an additional bonus of a good breakfast to complete the trip.
Ultimately, the best part of the Milford cruise with Southern Discoveries is that you can access the underwater observatory…!!
On the other hand, if you want a closer experience at the fjord, opt for a smaller boat cruise to enjoy the splash from the waterfalls.
In case you are travelling during a peak season, ensure to book ahead to avoid disappointments!
The cruise allows you to visit Lady Bowen Falls, the tallest waterfalls in Milford.
Then, you will head past the Mitre Peak’s foot to the Tasman Sea, watching several waterfalls cascading the rock faces depending on the rainfall.
If the weather condition is good, you can sail into the Sea for a bit and return.
While returning, you might go past the seal rock, where a number of seals rest and sunbathe.
If you are lucky, you can spot dolphins, or even the whale and the rare Fiordland Crested Penguin.
Also, depending on your cruise company, you can get a chance to stand right under Stirling Falls, which is 146 meters high from your deck and get a massive shower…!!
Nevertheless, the ink-black water might astonish you once you’re on the boat.
This is because Milford Sound is over 100 meters deep and could be a mix of salt and fresh water.
It could also be the sediments that rainwater drips flush from the ground that make the water appear dark!
5.2 Go Kayaking in Milford
Cruising through the fjords on a boat is one experience, but seeing them all by yourself from the water level is sheer ecstasy that you will never forget!
You can get close to the inky black waters and even touch them if you like.
In your kayak tour, you can paddle below the waterfalls as close as you can and feel smaller as much as you can!
Here’s a cruise+ kayaking package sourced just for you to get what I actually mean!
This package is also inclusive of visiting the observatory underwater and a lunch.
5.3 Dive Underwater in the Milford Sound
For adrenaline enthusiasts, this is the ultimate opportunity you must grab to get into the inky black waters and explore the hidden Milford underwater.
You can spot many different fish species here, from octopuses, sharks, stingrays, eels, and crayfish to nudibranchs.
The highlight of your dive is that you can view the black coral trees!
Otherwise, you can fly to Milford to view the landscape from a bird’s eye perspective.
5.4 The Milford Sound Foreshore Walk
This 15-minute loop walk takes you straight to the waterfront.
Your walk begins from the car park, goes across the shore, through the woods and ends at the lookout point.
Here, you get some stunning unobstructed views of the Mitre Peak. There are some excellent sunrises and sunsets here awaiting your cameras!!
And don’t forget the visit to the Milford swing too over here…
You can find it as you keep to the right along the fork and move towards the sandy beach once you jump off track.
There is a wharf containing some sort of split. Go past it and walk over the rocks for 100 meters to find the swing.
Some gorgeous views await your eyes and camera lens of the bay and the peak here…!!
5.5 The Milford Sound Lookout Track
Spanning from the south side edge of the car park at the rear end of the cafe at the Milford Sound is the beginning of the track.
It is a short walk that takes you over the stairs to the lookout, that offers dazzling views of the Milford Sound.
But you must also remember that you will be walking through bushes where some hungry sandflies are hidden.
So, have a bug spray to stay undercover and wear proper clothing!
5.6 Milford Track Hiking
Want to indulge in more adventure than sightseeing?
Then, take a hike or trek over the Milford Track, beginning at Lake Ta Anau’s North through the most vivid wilderness of the planet!
It’s a four-day track, and your journey ends with a return boat ride from Sandfly Point to the Milford wharf.
However, be sure to book ahead, especially if you are hiking between October and April, as the Milford Track DOC huts are full around this time.
6. Woosh! Back to Reality Now
Now, wasn’t that an awesome experience at this crazily beautiful place?
So, have you planned to take a trip to the Milford Sound?
How was your experience if you had gone there?
Comment them below!
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