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Is Milford Sound Worth it? – My Honest Review

Is Milford Sound Worth it? – My Honest Review

Milford Sound is one of the most famous travel destinations in New Zealand. But let’s be honest, sometimes famous places just don’t live up to the hype. So if you’re planning a trip to the South Island, you’re probably wondering whether or not Milford Sound is actually worth visiting.

The short answer is yes, it is!

I absolutely love this place and have visited Milford Sound in every season more times than I can count! Surrounded by peace and nature, it feels like the perfect escape from city life. Honestly, it still blows me away every time, and I love bringing friends and family here when they visit. I haven’t had any complaints so far! 

That being said, everyone is different. Some people enjoy Milford Sound more than others. So if you’re unsure whether to plan a trip here, keep reading! I’ll give you my honest review of Milford Sound with all my pros, cons, and tips for visiting.

Table Of Contents
  1. About Milford Sound
  2. What I love about Milford Sound (pros of visiting Milford Sound)
  3. What I don't love about visiting Milford Sound (Cons of visiting Milford Sound)
  4. Highlights in Milford Sound
  5. So is Milford Sound worth it?
  6. Best Milford Sound Tours
  7. Tips for visiting Milford Sound
  8. Thanks for reading!
  9. Why I Book Tours with Viator
  10. Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
  11. Travel Insurance Has Your Back!

About Milford Sound

Our boat approaches Stirling Falls in Milford Sound, NZ
What a place!
A breathtaking waterfall on the edge of Milford Sound
The waterfalls are a highlight!

Milford Sound is located on the South Island of New Zealand and is a fiord formed over millions of years by the erosion of glaciers. So, it’s fitting that it’s now part of Fiordland National Park.

Maori people have been coming here for thousands of years to fish, hunt, and collect jade stones. However, Europeans didn’t discover it until the 1800s. It’s said that Milford Sound’s entrance was so well concealed that the famous explorer Captain Cook passed by it twice without realizing it was there. 

It’s also known as the wettest place in New Zealand and sometimes gets over 250 mm (10 inches) of rain per day. It rained on most of my visits, but truthfully, it doesn’t take away from the experience. If anything, a gentle rain over the water makes the place even more magical.

And believe me, this place is definitely magical! Milford Sound was once named the world’s top travel destination, and I totally get why. It’s pretty remote and feels untouched by humans. As such, it has some of the best nature New Zealand can offer – which is a big statement!

Aside from spectacular scenery, there are plenty of fun and adventurous things to do in Milford Sound. You can kayak, hike, or even take an overnight cruise.  

Milford Sound is also the only fiord in New Zealand that’s accessible by road. So if you’ve been hoping to visit one by car, here’s your chance!

And although Milford Sound feels so remote, it’s just a 3.5-hour drive from Queenstown. There are many scenic stops between Queenstown and Milford Sound. If you’re driving, budget extra time to enjoy the views, lakes, and waterfalls. 

Milford Sound is also about 120 km (75 miles) from Te Anau. The drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound is equally stunning and easily one of my favorite road trips on the South Island.

There’s a small village that’s also called Milford Sound at the end of the highway, just before you reach the fiord itself. Here, you’ll find a visitor center, cafe, and the Milford Sound Lodge.

Related Read: Nature lovers will also love Mount Cook. You can read about the best things to do in Mount Cook National Park, including hiking, helicopter rides, and so much more!

What I love about Milford Sound (pros of visiting Milford Sound)

The stunning scenery

Bailey looks out from the deck of a cruise in Milford Sound and enjoys the view
I mean…it’s undeniably beautiful!

The number one reason people visit Milford Sound is the stunning scenery. In fact, it’s so beautiful that people often refer to it as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” 

I will say that quite a few places across the world try to claim this title, but I do think Milford Sound is a strong contender!

Milford Sound is home to beautiful waterfalls, dramatic towering cliffs, and lots of unique flora and fauna. Looking out over the calm water is just so peaceful. And the fact that it’s surrounded by tall mountains makes it feel like a secluded utopia.

The weather here changes constantly, so you really can experience four seasons in one day. However, I think that this only enhances its beauty. There’s something almost ethereal about watching the mist swirling around the rugged cliffs and reflecting off of the water. 

Wildlife

Fiordland Crested Penguin in Milford Sound
Fiordland crested penguin in Milford Sound
A New Zealand fur seal in Milford Sound
A New Zealand fur seal in Milford Sound

Milford Sound is a fantastic place to see all sorts of wildlife in New Zealand, including some rare creatures.

You’re likely to spot bottlenose dolphins and New Zealand fur seals swimming in the sound. Above water, keep your eyes out for mischievous keas and lots of seabirds. Milford Sound is also one of the best places to spot rare blue ducks and if you’re really lucky, maybe even a kiwi!

No matter what time of year I visit, I always manage to witness some awesome animals. When I went kayaking in Milford Sound, I was even lucky enough to see Fiordland crested penguins

If you’re a wildlife lover like me, I highly recommend this Milford Sound Nature Cruise. You’ll be on a small boat which allows you to get much closer to the creatures themselves. Plus, you’ll have a naturalist guide to help you spot as much wildlife as possible.

When I took this tour, we spent just shy of 2 hours on the water. The modern catamaran had 360-degree decks, making it super easy to walk around and spot wildlife. We passed by the dramatic Mitre Peak and even went under Stirling Falls for a glacial facial!

Daily tours take off from the Milford Sound Visitor Center at 10:30 am and 1:15 pm. The tour alone costs $109 NZD, including tea, coffee, and commentary. You can also add a picnic lunch for an additional $35 NZD.

So if you want to take a nature cruise on Milford Sound, book this great option online here!

Untouched wilderness

A Milford Sound cruise travels along a steep cliff in Milford Sound
You can’t get more wild than this!

Even though Milford Sound is a popular tourist destination on the South Island, it still feels untouched.

You won’t find gift shops or any kind of buildings in the fiord, just pristine natural beauty. This place is very well protected, and you really can immerse yourself in nature here.

I’ve traveled all over the world, and there aren’t many places that are this accessible yet still so wild. Trust me, experiencing this type of beauty really does feel like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The drive to Milford Sound

Bailey stands in the middle of the road in the mountains between Te Anau and Milford Sound
Driving gives you more freedom!

Sometimes, a long drive to a destination can be a chore. But I assure you, this is not the case when it comes to Milford Sound. I think it’s actually one of the best ways to get to Milford Sound! Even when I book cruises, I still book a rental car and drive myself rather than opting for tours that include transport.

New Zealand’s South Island is one of my favorite places to go road-tripping. When I drive here, I usually come from Te Anau or Queenstown.

There are some really amazing stops on the journey from Te Anau to Milford Sound. The drive takes about an hour and 40 minutes, but I like to take my time! Some places I love visiting en route are the Lake Te Anau viewpoint, Mirror Lakes, and Eglinton Valley (where you can spot blue ducks and short-tailed bats).

If you’re spending time in Queenstown, I’d definitely consider a trip to Milford Sound. The drive is 3.5 hours and absolutely gorgeous. But again, there are some great stops between Queenstown and Milford Sound – so plan your time accordingly!

Since this is a long drive, I would recommend staying overnight in Milford Sound. This way, you can really relax and enjoy your time in this natural paradise.

Basically, the drive to Milford Sound is an epic experience in itself! So don’t let the driving part discourage you…I’d actually consider it a pro!

The remoteness of Milford Sound

View from the front of the boat during a Milford Sound cruise
View from the front of the boat during a Milford Sound cruise

Milford Sound makes you feel like you’re thousands of miles away from civilization. However, in reality, there’s a small village nearby, and Te Anau is only a 118-kilometer (73-mile) drive away. You can feel fully immersed in nature without having to travel too far.

You get a really remote and tranquil experience here. However, you don’t have to camp overnight or hike for ages if that’s not your thing. But if it is, there are also camping opportunities and plenty of hikes in Milford Sound!

Related Read: Do you know you want a nature getaway but aren’t sure where? Read my unbiased comparison between Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound here!

What I don’t love about visiting Milford Sound (Cons of visiting Milford Sound)

The crowds

The busy ferry Terminal at Milford Sound
The busy ferry terminal at Milford Sound

Milford Sound may be remote, but it’s popular.

There are pretty much always crowds here, whatever time of year you visit. Having tons of people around can taint the experience a little bit – especially if you’re not into crowded places (like me!).

However, there are a few ways to avoid the crowds. You can book a nature cruise first thing in the morning before all of the tour buses start turning up. Or, you can go on an overnight cruise of Milford Sound. Only a few overnight boats operate in Milford Sound, so you get the place all to yourself! 

After dreaming about it for years, I recently did this overnight cruise – and it was amazing. It was so tranquil, and I got to see so much more than you do on a day trip. Plus, there weren’t any crowds in the way!

It’s an expensive but luxurious option costing $1,149 NZD per person. However, it includes tasty meals, fun activities, and cozy accommodations. Unfortunately, it books up really fast! So if you’re interested, read more about it and book it online here!

The time it takes to visit

View of Milford Sound from a helicopter flight
Flights make the trip a lot quicker!

If you’re staying in Queenstown, it’s a really long day trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound. It takes around 3.5 hours to get there, so you’re looking at about 7 hours of travel in a single day. 

You can shorten the journey by taking a scenic flight from Queenstown to Milford Sound. It’s great if you’re pressed for time, and a scenic flight is always an epic experience!

This half-day tour includes return flights and a nature cruise on Milford Sound. Everything is taken care of for you, including hotel pick-up and drop-off in Queenstown. You just need to be ready for an adventure!

You’ll take a 35-minute flight over mountains, canyons, and Fiordland National Park. My favorite part of these scenic flights is seeing Milford Sound from above – it’s a whole different perspective. But on this tour, you’ll also get to take a nature cruise over the water. You’ll spend nearly 2 hours traveling the length of the fiord, spotting wildlife along the way.

This 5-hour tour begins at 9:30 am and costs $610 NZD. Alternatively, you can go for the picnic lunch option, which leaves at 11:30 am and costs $646 NZD. However, both options sell out fast, so check availability and book your tour online here!

Sadly, scenic flights don’t come cheap, so if you’re looking for a more affordable option, you can always book a tour that includes coach transport. It’s still the same drive time, but it’s much less tiring when you’re not the one behind the wheel! 

To be honest, I think the best option is to stay in Te Anau for two nights and visit from there. It’s the closest town to Milford Sound, at 118 kilometers (73 miles) away. It takes about 1.5 hours to drive one way, but the drive itself is pretty incredible!

You have to do a tour

Bailey sits on the bed in her cabin on a Milford Sound overnight cruise
I recently did the overnight cruise!
A Milford Sound cruise approaches a waterfall in Milford Sound
It was amazing!

There are ways to explore Milford Sound independently (like hiking), but doing a cruise is a must!

It’s the ultimate Milford Sound activity because it takes you right through it. Otherwise, you won’t fully be able to appreciate the scale and beauty of the fiord.

The good news is that many of these cruises are affordable, and they’re also a lot of fun! Plus, there are lots of different types of Milford Sound cruises to choose from. You don’t have to go on a huge boat with hundreds of people if that’s not your thing (it’s certainly not mine!).

The overnight cruise

I’ve tried many of the Milford Sound cruises, but my absolute favorite was this overnight cruise. I loved it because it provided an intimate experience and the best views of the fiord.

It’s a smaller boat, so you can access parts of the sound larger vessels can’t. This gets you closer to nature and some of the awesome wildlife. Plus, I had a delicious 3-course dinner on board and soaked in the rooftop hot tub afterward!

Since there are only 20 passengers on board, this overnight cruise had a really relaxing vibe. It felt like the more luxurious option, and my room had huge windows. There’s nothing quite like waking up to that view!

The overnight cruise is a pricier option but well worth it! It costs $1,149 NZD, including dinner, breakfast, snacks, and activities like kayaking and a tender boat ride. It doesn’t include transfers, so you’ll need to make your own way to the port by 3:15 pm for check-in. Alternatively, you can pay an extra fee of $240 NZD for roundtrip transfers.

This tour does sell out months in advance, and it’s only available from December to early April. So if you’re interested, check availability and reserve your date online here!

Why I Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! I almost always book tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here!

The hype

Waterfalls on the steep cliffs of Milford Sound
There’s a lot of hype, but it’s honestly warranted!

All of the hype around Milford Sound can set impossible expectations.

Lots of people spend ages thinking about and planning their trip. And to be honest, some do find that it doesn’t live up to the hype. I actually experienced this on my first visit to Milford Sound, although I have still gone back many times!

Take the hype with a pinch of salt. It’s an undeniably beautiful place, so go in with an open mind and just enjoy the moment!

Highlights in Milford Sound

Mitre Peak

View of Mitre Peak and Milford Sound from the Milford foreshore in New Zealand
View from the Milford Sound foreshore!

Mitre Peak is so named because it’s the same shape as a bishop’s mitre (their traditional headdress). But it’s actually a 1,690-meter (5,560-foot) tall mountain that rises out of the waters of Milford Sound.

The best way to see Mitre Peak is from the water during a Milford Sound cruise. You can admire the mountain’s unique shape from the deck of the boat. It was a bit overcast when I went, which actually created an awesome effect. I could witness mist rolling down the sides of the peak.  

It’s also possible to climb Mitre Peak, but you need to be a very fit and experienced climber. Planning is also required. Honestly, you’re probably just better off admiring it from a safe distance!

Milford Sound Swing

Bailey on the Milford Sound swing in New Zealand
The famous Milford Sound Swing!

The Milford Sound Swing is the ultimate photo spot.

Unsurprisingly, it has become Insta famous in recent years, but I was actually lucky enough to discover it before it really blew up. But even though you’ll probably have to wait a while to get your perfect Kodak moment, it’s still worth checking out. It’s also quite well hidden, so finding it is half the fun! 

The swing isn’t just for the Gram, though. It also offers amazing views of Mitre Peak. When I visited, I admired the majestic mountain while swinging. With that combination, it was impossible not to smile from ear to ear like a little kid!

It’s also a pretty romantic spot. In fact, the story goes that a staff member of a Milford Sound cruise built it as a birthday present for his girlfriend! So if you’re honeymooning in New Zealand, ask someone to snap some cute photos of you two here!

To find the swing, walk along the Milford Sound Forest Walk. It starts about 130 meters (142 yards) up from the parking lot. Not long after you cross the bridge, you’ll come to a fork in the road. Go right and continue until you see a small clearing leading to a sandy beach area. Look to the right, and you’ll see the swing! 

Stirling Falls

A boat travels right up to Stirling Falls in Milford Sound
Oh, the waterfalls!
Stirling Falls in Milford Sound, New Zealand
Stirling Falls!

Stirling Falls is one of New Zealand’s many epic waterfalls. It’s a 151-meter (495-foot) tall plunge waterfall, which is the second tallest in Milford Sound.

Legend has it that its water is an elixir of youth that keeps people forever young. If you do a small boat cruise, they often go super close to the falls. So, you can feel the spray and test this theory for yourself! 

When I took this Nature Cruise, I was able to experience it firsthand. I can’t say it kept me forever young, but it was definitely rejuvenating!

You might also recognize Stirling Falls from the 2009 X-Men Origins: Wolverine film!

Lady Bowen Falls

Bailey on a Milford Sound cruise with Lady Bowen Falls in the background
Lady Bowen Falls!

Lady Bowen Falls is the highest waterfall in Milford Sound. However, that’s not the most impressive thing about it. It’s actually the sole power and water source for the village of Milford Sound!

You can view Lady Bowen Falls from the Milford Sound pier, but the best way to see it is to take a boat ride! You can only do this during the summer months, and there’s no need to book. You can buy a ticket from the pier for $10 NZD per adult or $5 NZD per child. 

The boat will take you close to the falls, and you can also get off and explore the Bowen Nature Walk. This is a short, easy trail that offers prime views of the falls. Overall, I’d say that the $10 NZD is worth it! 

Seal Rock

Seals enjoy the sun on Seal Rock in Milford Sound
Seals enjoy the sun on Seal Rock in Milford Sound

Seal Rock is the ultimate place to spot NZ fur seals in Milford Sound!

It’s one of the few places in Milford Sound that seals can actually climb up onto. They love coming here to bask in the sun. For this reason, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see lots of seals here when you sail past on a cruise!

Milford Sound Lookout Track

The view from the Milford Sound Lookout Track
Milford Sound is home to many attractions, including the Milford Sound Lookout Track!

The Milford Sound Lookout Track is a super quick and easy walk that leads you to a great viewpoint. It’s not very well known, and most visitors miss it completely. However, I recommend you do it because it only takes about 20 minutes, and you get a unique view of Milford Sound. 

To find the Lookout Track, head to the parking lot behind the Discover Milford Sound Café. You need to walk past the two brown buildings that you’ll see and past the grave of Donald Sutherland (the famous New Zealand explorer, not the Canadian actor!). Then, you’ll find the start of the trail.

The track is only 480 meters (0.3 miles) long at most. It takes you up some stairs to a viewpoint above Milford Sound, and the vistas really are breathtaking!

Fairy Falls

A lady stands on the side of a boat by a waterfall on a cruise through Milford Sound
On the smaller cruise, you get so close to the action!

Fairy Falls is another of Milford Sound’s many scenic waterfalls, and you can view it when you take a cruise! It’s a narrow stream of water that plunges down the cliff face into the fiord.

Some cruise boats will take you right up to the falls for a “shower.” When I went, our boat got so close, we were even able to fill up a glass of water! 

Fairy Falls is a semi-permanent waterfall, meaning it dries up sometimes. But to be honest, Milford Sound gets so much rain that this is pretty rare!

Related Read: If you want to explore even more of this country, read about the best multi-day guided tours of New Zealand here!

So is Milford Sound worth it?

Two people cheers on a Milford Sound cruise with epic background views
It’s so worth it!

Yes! I think it’s the most beautiful place in New Zealand – and that’s really saying something because I’m obsessed with New Zealand (hence why I have a whole blog dedicated to it!). 

Having lived in Queenstown, I’ve visited Milford Sound many times. I never grow tired of it, and I’m always so excited to go back again. I take every person who comes to visit me there, and they all love it too!

Everyone’s different, so Milford Sound might not be your favorite place in New Zealand. But you have to go and visit to find out for yourself. In my opinion, it is DEFINITELY worth visiting.

If you’re already sold, keep reading! Below, I’ve included my favorite Milford Sound tours and tips when traveling there.

Best Milford Sound Tours

Bailey smiles at the camera on a Milford Sound cruise on the outdoor deck with amazing views of the Fiord
Just cruising Milford Sound again!

What are the best self-drive Milford Sound cruises?

If you’re already here or planning to drive yourself by renting a car in New Zealand, it’s super easy to add on a tour (or two!) to really enhance your experience. There are lots of different Milford Sound boat cruises to choose from.

To give you an idea of what’s available, I’ve included my favorite self-drive tours below!

Nature cruise

I’ve already mentioned this Nature Cruise because I love it for several reasons! It’s a great shorter tour option, and it takes place on a smaller boat. This means it can get you closer to the beautiful falls and wildlife of the sound.

You’ll glide past granite walls, Mitre Peak, and waterfalls, including Stirling Falls, which is the famous waterfall that Hugh Jackman jumped off of in Wolverine! When I went, we got close enough to feel the water spraying over our faces, which was super refreshing!

Daily tours leave at 10:30 am or 1:15 pm and last about 2 hours. It costs $109 NZD, but you can add a picnic lunch for an additional $35 NZD.

To see all the Milford Sound sights in one easy tour, secure your spot online here!

Scenic cruise

This scenic cruise along the fiord and the Tasman coast is another great choice. It’s on a small boat with a knowledgeable local guide who’ll help you to spot wildlife and learn more about the history and scenery of Milford Sound. 

Make sure you head out on the boat’s viewing platform to look for fur seals, dusky dolphins, and the rare Fiordland crested penguins!

Cruises usually leave daily at 11 am and 1:30 pm. The cruise is $132 NZD per person and free for kids under 3. But this option does sell out, so don’t hesitate to book it online here!

Small boutique cruise

This boutique cruise allows you to bring your own food and drink on board, which is ideal for anyone who doesn’t want to be restricted to the set menu on a nature cruise. Plus, you can have an onboard picnic while enjoying the sights!

You’ll ride in comfort in luxury lounge-style seating on this boutique boat, so it’s great if you’re looking for a slightly more glamorous experience. This is perfect if you’re planning a romantic Queenstown honeymoon and want to see Milford Sound!

They usually have a morning and afternoon option available, so it’s easy to fit into your schedule. The cruise starts at $129 NZD per person, lasting just under 2 hours.

This is a popular cruise, so you’ll definitely want to secure your spot ahead of time!

Milford Sound cruise and kayak

If you want more action on your tour, go for this Milford Sound cruise and kayaking option! I loved being able to experience the fiord in a boat AND a kayak, which got me even closer to the water and wildlife!

The cruise starts pretty early in the morning, which allows you to beat the crowds. You’ll also get to visit the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory, which is only accessible by boat and lets you see marine life up close and learn about conservation efforts. 

After that, you can enjoy a kayaking trip through Milford Sound. It’s limited to just eight people per group, which felt like a much more personal experience. You’ll paddle through Harrison Cove and enjoy amazing views of Pembroke Glacier from the water. 

Prices start at $229 NZD but go up to about $285 NZD in peak season. The price includes the cruise, kayaking, admission to the observatory, and a picnic lunch. There’s always a tour around 10 am year-round, with a couple of extra afternoon tours in the summertime.

For a more hands-on adventure, I highly recommend booking this kayaking and cruise combo here!

Parking for a self-drive Milford Sound cruise

All of the cruises leave from the Visitor Center in town. For parking, you have two main options. The Milford Sound Public Carpark is a 10-minute walk, costing $10 NZD per hour, $25 NZD for 5 hours, and $50 NZD overnight. There’s also a free parking lot at the Deepwater Basin, which is a 30-minute walk from the Visitor Center.

There used to be a free shuttle from Deepwater Basin to the Visitor Center, but it’s been shut down due to staff shortages. You can check their website to see if it’s running again or not. But regardless, it’s a beautiful walk!

What are the best tours to Milford Sound from Queenstown?

If you’re planning to be based in Queenstown, there are several day trip tours to Milford Sound. It’s a 3.5-hour drive, but these tours add in stops so you can stretch your legs and see beautiful sights. Generally, you can expect the tours to begin around 7:30 am and last all day.

So for a fun-filled Milford Sound day trip, these are my top picks!

Award-winning small group tour

This award-winning, full-day tour from Queenstown includes a 2-hour nature cruise and plenty of other stops to experience the full natural diversity of Milford Sound.

When I took this tour, there were so many perfect photo ops, so bring that camera! You’ll get to see two of New Zealand’s largest lakes – Lake Wakatipu and Lake Te Anau – as well as the Homer Tunnel and Eglinton Valley. 

The tour costs between $250-$299 NZD, but you can add a picnic lunch for $23 NZD. The price includes roundtrip transfers for your accommodations in Queenstown (with onboard WiFi), the nature cruise, guides, and water bottles.

For a well-rounded tour of Milford Sound from Queenstown, check availability and book this tour online here!

Premium Milford Sound tour with LOTR filming sites

As well as exploring beautiful Milford Sound, this small group tour takes you past filming sites for the Lord of the Rings movies! It also includes roundtrip transfers, lunch, snacks, and a cruise, and you’re free to add on a scenic flight if you’d like to. 

I’ve taken a flight over Milford Sound before and would highly recommend it! There’s nothing quite like experiencing this fiord from both the water and the sky!

Prices for the tour and cruise option start at $249 NZD. If you add the flight, it’ll cost $699 NZD. However, prices are slightly higher during peak season and this tour sells out fast, so check availability and book your date online here.

Milford Sound glass-topped bus tour and cruise

I love this fun day tour because you get to travel in style from Queenstown on a glass-roof bus. Plus, you can enjoy a Milford Sound cruise and see some of New Zealand’s best scenery, including the Mirror Lakes Walk and the Homer Tunnel. I also really liked how knowledgeable and friendly the guides were.

The tour also includes lunch, and I got to fill up my water bottle with glacier water from Monkey Creek! Trust me, nothing is quite as refreshing as cold water straight from the source. The entire tour is $215 NZD, including everything I mentioned, plus roundtrip transfers.

If you want to experience this journey on a glass-roof bus, here’s your chance! Check availability and book your tour online here!

What are the best tours to Milford Sound from Te Anau?

As the closest village to Milford Sound, Te Anau is the perfect place to base yourself. I recommend staying here for a few days to soak up the beauty of this area. Plus, the tours are a bit cheaper since you’re closer to Milford Sound.

Premium Milford Sound small group tour

This full-day tour from Te Anau starts with a stop at Eglington Valley, which is famed for its lowland beech forest. You’ll then visit Mirror Lakes, where you can take a short walk to see the reflections of the Earl Mountains on a still day.  

Other great activities on this tour include the Chasm Walk and a stop at Pops View Lookout for an amazing view of the divide in the Alps. But my personal highlight was the 2-hour boat cruise on Milford Sound!

This $199 NZD 9-hour tour is packed full but doesn’t feel too rushed. It begins around 10 am and includes lunch, snacks, the cruise, and roundtrip transfers from your hotel. This option does sell out, so book your tour online here!

Milford Sound glass roof bus and scenic cruise

This glass-roof bus tour includes a ride to and from Te Anau with panoramic views. This unique bus really made the journey special since I could see from all angles – including the sky above! Plus, the bus made several scenic stops on the way to and from Milford Sound. 

And once we arrived at Milford Sound, we got to enjoy a nature cruise on the Tasman Sea. You’ll see many of the park’s highlights (waterfalls, mountains, and rivers galore). Plus, there’s a buffet lunch and unlimited tea and coffee – yay!

This really is a great way to cover a lot of ground for an affordable price of $195 NZD. So to snag this awesome deal, don’t hesitate to book your tour online here!

What are the best scenic flights to Milford Sound?

Seeing Milford Sound from the air is incredible, and if you can, I highly recommend a scenic flight. Not only is it transportation to Milford Sound, but it’s an unforgettable experience! So keep reading for my top picks for scenic flights to this fiord.

Milford Sound flight and cruise from Queenstown

Enjoy Milford Sound from both the air and the water on this half-day tour. Plus, you’ll save yourself loads of driving time!

You’ll start by flying from Queenstown to Milford Sound, during which time you’ll get amazing views of Coronet Peak ski fields, Skippers Canyon, Lake Wakatipu, Mitre Peak, and of course, the length of the beautiful Milford Sound fiord. 

After landing, this tour takes you on a 2-hour boat cruise along the fiord, enjoying up-close views of highlights like Bowen Falls, Milford Sound’s highest waterfall.

Finally, you’ll board another scenic flight back to Queenstown, which takes around 35 minutes. The entire experience starts around 9:30 am and lasts 5 hours. It costs $610 NZD, including roundtrip transfers from your Queenstown hotel, the flights, the cruise, and your knowledgeable guides. There is also an 11:30 am tour which includes lunch for $646 NZD.

If you want to see it all in just 5 hours, this is the option for you! You can pick your date and secure your spot online here!

Drive, cruise, fly from Queenstown

I love this full-day tour because you can enjoy Milford Sound via land, air, and water. You’ll drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound via coach in the morning, stopping at some of the national park’s beautiful highlights. Once you reach Milford Sound, you’ll enjoy a nature cruise through the fiord.

My favorite part of this tour is the scenic flight back to Queenstown. The aerial views of Milford Sound and the gorgeous New Zealand countryside are unbeatable. And you get to experience it all twice, by land on the way there and from above on the return! 

This really combines the best of all forms of transportation! Tickets are $599 NZD per person, which is fairly decent considering everything you get! It includes roundtrip transfers, the flight and cruise, lunch, and your friendly guides. You can either be at the Queenstown meeting point by 6:45 am or arrange your pick-up location ahead of time.

If you want to experience it all in one glorious day, book this tour online here!

Milford Sound helicopter flight from Queenstown

If you really want to travel in style, this helicopter flight from Queenstown is a perfect choice. Not only do you get to enjoy a helicopter ride along the length of Milford Sound, but you also get to land on a glacier, which really is an unforgettable experience. 

You really feel like a VIP on this tour as you get an up-close view of this incredible area. Plus, you can have a snowball fight on the glacier … even in summer! Make some amazing memories by booking this tour online for $1,062 NZD.

Glacier flight from Wanaka

The resort town of Wanaka is pretty far away from Milford Sound. So if you’re staying in Wanaka and want to see Milford Sound, a flight is your best option!

This 4-hour tour includes a return flight, during which you’ll see some of the South Island’s most amazing scenery. What’s really cool is that your pilot will take a different route to and from Milford Sound, so you get to experience more variety.  

You’ll also get to enjoy the quintessential nature cruise on this tour, so you really get the full Milford Sound experience! 

Tickets are $595 NZD, which is a great price considering you get not one but two scenic flights AND a cruise! You’ll take off from and return to Wanaka Airport, which offers free parking. October through April, tours are offered at 8:45 am and 1:30 pm, and from May to September, there’s one daily tour at 11 am.

If you’re coming from Wanaka, don’t miss this chance to see Milford Sound! Check availability and book your tour online here!

Related Read: If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan (like me!), you’ve come to the right place. Check out the best LOTR Tours in Glenorchy here!

Tips for visiting Milford Sound

View of a waterfall on a cruise through Milford Sound the most popular Fiord in New Zealand
So cool!

If you’re planning a trip, there are some things you should know before heading to Milford Sound.

The first time I went, I didn’t quite play it right and felt a bit unprepared (particularly with clothing). However, I learned from my mistakes, and so can you! Below, I’ll break down my top tips to have the best vacation possible.

Book in advance

Milford Sound is really popular, so it’s always best to book in advance.

Overnight cruises book up months in advance. Plus, overnight cruises are only available seasonally. The cruise I chose runs from December to early April. So if you want to do one, I recommend booking it as soon as you can.

Day cruises and tours don’t book up as far in advance. However, I still recommend booking at least a few weeks before your visit (especially during the summertime).

Dress for all weather conditions (especially the rain)

Milford Sound’s weather is famously unpredictable. You never quite know what it’s going to throw at you.

I’ve definitely experienced four seasons in one day in Milford Sound, so I recommend wearing layers that you can easily put on and take off. And most importantly, make sure to prepare for the rain! A waterproof jacket is a must.

Consider staying in Te Anau if self-driving

If you want to drive yourself to Milford Sound, then I highly recommend staying at one of the hotels in Te Anau.

It’s a 3.5-hour drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound, so a day trip can be super tiring. You’ll be absolutely exhausted by the time you get back to Queenstown, which isn’t great when you’re driving yourself! At least if you take a tour, you can nap on the bus. 

Te Anau, meanwhile, is only a 1.5-hour drive from Milford Sound. There’s also lots to do there, so it’s worth a visit anyway. I like to stay in Te Anau for two nights when I visit Milford Sound so I can enjoy everything at a leisurely pace. 

Use Viator for free cancelation (and date changes)

As I mentioned earlier, tours and cruises to Milford Sound book up pretty fast – which is why I always book through Viator. That way, you get free cancellation and date changes up to 24 hours before your booking. You can book way in advance without worrying about losing money if your plans change. You almost never get this when you book direct, and the prices are the same!

Please note the overnight cruise through Viator is non-refundable. You definitely won’t regret booking this tour, so just make sure you can go!

Be careful self-driving in winter

If you’re visiting New Zealand in wintertime, you can absolutely visit Milford Sound too!

I actually love visiting Milford Sound during winter. However, the roads can be icy during this time, and there’s an avalanche risk. You need to be extra careful, particularly if you’re driving.

It’s always best to check the road conditions before you leave and pay close attention to avalanche signs. I also recommend bringing snow chains. 

If you’re a confident driver, you should be fine, but extra care is required. And if you’re not a confident driver, you’re better off just booking a tour during winter. 

Don’t cancel because of the rain

If it’s raining, there are two main reasons why you shouldn’t cancel your visit to Milford Sound. The first is that it gets about 200 days of rain per year, so it’s pretty difficult to avoid. 

The second is that Milford Sound is actually more beautiful in the rain! All of our best photos have been taken during or after the rain. The waterfalls look more impressive, the scenery appears more dramatic, and there’s just something very atmospheric about the lighting after the rain.

So seriously, don’t let that put you off – just bring some decent waterproof clothes!

Leave your expectations at the hotel

It’s sometimes easier said than done. But try not to get carried away by the hype around Milford Sound. Come with an open mind and let the fiord speak for itself.

Some people come to Milford Sound with impossibly high expectations, which then ruins the experience. Try to leave all of that behind and know that everyone’s experience of Milford Sound is different. My biggest tip is to be present rather than comparing what’s in front of you to over-edited images on Instagram.

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

A motorhome by the beach
Me and my trusty campervan!

Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!

You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:

  • Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
  • Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It is what most budget backpackers get for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping! You can easily compare campervans, prices, and book on the website Motorhome Republic. We also have a 5% discount code (QUEEN5) with Mad Campers, which you can use at checkout.
  • Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one, you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. Motorhome Republic is my suggested website for booking a motorhome in New Zealand simply because they are a reliable company and the website is super easy to use! We are also partnered with Kiwi Motorhomes, which is well known as the top motorhome rental company in New Zealand. You can get 5% off using the code Queen5. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!

Travel Insurance Has Your Back!

Life can be unpredictable and when you’re traveling abroad the last thing you want to worry about is getting sick or injured and having to pay out of pocket for treatment.

If this concerns you, SafetyWing can help! SafetyWing specializes in very affordable and comprehensive medical and travel insurance that is aimed at digital nomads, remote workers, and long-term travelers. It costs just $45 USD per 4 weeks!

To start coverage you must purchase it after leaving your home country, so we usually purchase it as soon as we land in the airport.

Since using SafetyWing we’ve been reimbursed thousands of dollars when we’ve gotten sick. During the pandemic, they’ve even gone as far as to pay for our last-minute flights back to Canada before the border closed!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey smiles at the camera on the back of a Milford Sound cruise
Thanks for reading!

Milford Sound is definitely worth visiting! I realize there’s a lot of hype, but the hype exists for a reason because this place is absolutely gorgeous. But don’t just take my word for it – see for yourself! Just go in prepared and with an open mind, and I think you’ll have an amazing time.

And if you found this information useful, read my other blogs about New Zealand. To give you an idea of what I cover, I’ve linked to some articles below! Thanks for reading, and safe travels!

The BEST time to visit Queenstown – Comparing the 4 Seasons

Things to do in Arthur’s Pass National Park

15 BEST Places to Go Surfing in New Zealand + Complete Guide