Milford Sound is one of the more remote areas on the South Island of New Zealand and it just so happens that it is also one of the most naturally beautiful places in New Zealand and in the entire world!
We’re talking magical cascading waterfalls, carved-out glaciers from the last ice age, majestic mountains such as Mitre Peak rising out from the water, and frequent rainfall and misty conditions mix to create a mysterious mood.
While you can soak up incredible views by land or on a cruise, imagine how jaw-dropping seeing the grandeur of all this scenery would be from the sky! In my opinion, taking any one of the Queenstown to Milford flights is the best way to go about visiting Milford Sound!
However, because there are so many different Queenstown to Milford flights to choose from, it can be really overwhelming to figure out which one will be the best choice.
This is why I’ve decided to write this guide to walk you through all of the best options!
Why Book a Flight from Queenstown to Milford Sound
Not only are scenic flights absolutely beautiful, but they are also way more time efficient than driving from Queenstown to Milford Sound (although gorgeous in its own respect) and/or joining one of the cruises from Milford Sound once you arrive.
All of the best Queenstown to Milford Sound flights depart out of Queenstown and tours can be as quick as an hour which is very convenient if you want to spend the rest of your time in New Zealand exploring other areas.
Some tours even do a one-way flight, cruise, and then take the more leisurely coach back to Queenstown. Spoiler alert, this type of tour is my absolute favorite and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it if you have the time.
If you ever find yourself in Queenstown, an opportunity like this is something you cannot afford to miss! Take it from someone who has been on a few different Milford Sound flights – they are UNFORGETTABLE and worth every last penny! So without delaying any longer, here are the best Queenstown to Milford flight options.
5 BEST Queenstown to Milford Flights
1. Milford Sound Scenic Flight from Queenstown
First up on this list is the quickest option which is a 1-hour round-trip flight from Queenstown to Milford in a small fixed-wing plane. The plane only holds 12 people, so it will not feel too cramped.
As you make your way to Milford, you’ll fly through the Wakatipu Basin, across the Southern Alps, above the famous Milford Walking Track, over Sutherland Falls, and finally the diverse scenery of Milford Sound.
Most of the flights land in Milford Sound, but this one does not, which is why it is so time friendly.
The con of this is that you won’t have the chance to see Milford Sound from the perspective of being out on the water on a nature cruise. However, if you have already done the cruise before or you are pressed for time, this aspect will give you plenty of the day before or after your flight to knock off more places on your Queenstown itinerary.
This price point of this flight is also the cheapest option on this list at $504 NZD per person. For an experience such as this, it is a great price for its value!
If getting straight to the point is what you’re looking for, booking this tour will be just perfect for you!
Related Read: Have you heard about Doubtful Sound before? It is actually right next to Milford Sound and is also well worthy of visiting!
2. Milford Sound Scenic Flight & Cruise
The winner of Tripadvisors Travel’s Choice Best of the Best award is this Half-day Milford Sound Flight and Cruise.
It combines the two single most sought-after Milford Sound activities to make for an incredible New Zealand adventure!
One of the tour’s biggest pros is that it only lasts 4.5 to 5 hours so it is the perfect length for an outing that won’t leave you feeling utterly exhausted like the 10-12 hour full-day tours might do.
On your 40-minute flight to Milford, you’ll have the chance to capture aerial panoramic views of the fjords, mountains, and forests.
As soon as you land, your small group is headed for the nature cruise which is on a smaller vessel than some of the other nature cruises. From personal experience, I can tell you that this allows you to get up really close to the famed Stirling Falls as well as some of the cutest NZ wildlife such as seals, dolphins, and penguins!
On your 40-minute flight back to Queenstown your pilot will take a different route so you will have entirely new views of Fiordland National Park to cap off an amazing tour!
When talking about price, this tour is not cheap at $595 NZD, but in the grand scheme of things, it falls on the lower end of the spectrum as far as scenic flights are concerned, especially for being time efficient and including a round-trip flight with a cruise. You can reserve this tour in advance here.
Note: During the summer months in Queenstown, you can choose either a morning or afternoon departure from Queenstown.
3. Milford Sound Walk, Cruise, and Flight Tour
If you have an entire day at your disposal and are looking to check off a variety of different activities in Milford Sound then I think you may be interested in this Milford Sound Walk, Cruise, and Flight Tour from Queenstown.
Not only will you get to enjoy mesmerizing views of Lake Wakatipu and many other sights out the window of a 12-seater plane, but upon landing, your group will be escorted by ferry to hike 2 hours on the famous Milford Track to reach the Giant Gate Waterfall.
After the hike, you’ll also get to relax for another 2-hours on a Milford Sound cruise.
Your 40-minute flight back from Queenstown will give you another opportunity to see epic panoramic views of Fiordland National Park.
This 8.5-hour tour really is the best of all worlds! Although for such a varied and in-depth tour, it isn;t cheap and you can expect to pay $1,354 NZD per person.
While the upfront cost sounds like a lot it actually could save you some money to bundle the different activities together rather than trying to book everything separately. Plus, that just seems stressful and confusing to line up all booking times and then figure out transportation to the meeting locations.
4. Milford Sound Coach, Cruise, and Flight Sightseeing Tour
This Coach, Cruise, and Flight Sightseeing Tour combines the comfort of a coach journey (so you can enjoy the attractions on Milford Road), the serenity of a cruise, and the awe-inspiring views from a scenic flight. It is a well-rounded experience of Milford Sound that truly allows you to witness its beauty from different perspectives – which is why this tour is my personal favorite!
It is a tour that I am so happy I pulled the trigger on it as it allowed me to be fully immersed in the natural wonders of the region.
The 4-hour coach ride to Milford isn’t just a long boring drive as your driver will make frequent stops for photos at all the best viewpoints such as the Chasm, Mirror Lakes, and Monkey Creek Bridge. This will give you a similar advantage that the freedom of driving yourself has, just without the effort!
Once in Milford, you will board your nature cruise which lasts for around 2 hours. You won’t need to worry about getting hungry because a packed picnic lunch will be handed out during this time.
The tour ends with the best saved for last – a scenic return flight back to Queenstown! Get ready to take in the impressive mountain peaks and simmering lakes from a small fixed-wing plane while your pilot provides some interesting commentary about Fiordland National Park.
This option isn’t just well-loved by me but is also one of the most frequently booked Queenstown to Milford flights, so much so that it tends to sell out quickly. If you don’t want to miss out then be sure to book it ASAP! You can do so here for $689 NZD – a price worth every penny, if you ask me!
5. Milford Sound Helicopter Tour with Landing
If you really want an out-of-the-ordinary Queenstown to Milford flight experience then consider shaking things up a bit by riding in a helicopter versus a standard fixed-wing plane.
Helicopter tours in Queenstown provide an element of thrill and due to their compact size, it will feel like you’re even closer to all of the landscapes that you’ll be flying over.
In particular, this Milford Sound Helicopter Tour from Queenstown is a 1.5-hour flight that soars and dips over the top of towering rugged mountain peaks, forests, and pure alpine lakes.
Don’t worry about safety, your pilot is an experienced professional, and through the provided headsets you will be able to hear them clearly when they point out key landmarks inside Fiordland National Park.
To me, the aspect of this tour that sends things over the top is that your helicopter will also land on or beside a remote glacier (depending on the weather) where you can spend some time exploring the area and seeing views that not many people will ever get to witness in their lifetime!
If this doesn’t sound like a bucket list experience then I don’t know what is!
The price of this helicopter tour is steep at $1,312 NZD per person but if you have the budget for it I’m confident you won’t regret it! This exact helicopter tour can be booked in advance here.
Booking a Milford Sound Cruise
Nature cruises are probably the best-known activity in Milford Sound. It’s a touristy experience, but also a lot of fun and a chance to see the fiord up close. It’s famous for a good reason!
Even if you decide not to book a scenic flight that includes a nature cruise you could also plan out a road trip from Queenstown to Milford and spend several days here so you’d have time to go on a nature cruise and do some of the other awesome things to do in Fiordland National Park, you could even drive further to Te Anau.
There are different types of cruises available in Milford Sound, from large ones that serve buffet meals, or small ones that can get right up close to the fiord’s amazing natural features – those ones are our favorite, as you get a more adventurous experience, and the chance to ask your guide all of your burning questions.
This Southern Discoveries Nature Cruise is the one I recommend the most and it costs $109 NZD and includes just over 2 hours on the water exploring granite walls and chasing waterfalls while learning from your skipper about the area’s geography. There is a possibility of seeing bottlenose dolphins and even crested penguins! You can even upgrade your tour to include a picnic-style lunch or a buffet-style lunch.
Where to Stay in Queenstown
Finding the right place to stay in Queenstown can be hard. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of awesome choices but things book up fast! For that reason, I highly suggest booking your accommodation well in advance. It’s not that you won’t find something later on, but that all the really good places go first!
To get you started, here are a few places I personally love and that would make an awesome place to stay in Queenstown.
The first is for budget travelers and that’s Absoloot Hostel Queenstown. This small hostel has dorm rooms and budget privates and it’s really clean and comfortable. The location is in the heart of Queenstown – the window from the kitchen looks out over Lake Wakatipu! It is easily one of the top cheap hostels in Queenstown and can be booked on Hostelworld.com or Booking.com.
If you have a little more money to spend then you should seriously consider Chalet Queenstown. I’m a supporter of smaller hotels because I feel you get better service. Based on recommendations, I stayed at Chalet Queenstown when I first arrived. It’s a beautiful hotel in a quiet but close location and the views are amazing (although you won’t find me recommending a place without great views!)
If you’re one of the lucky ones, you know the luxury travelers, then you’re going to be spoiled for choice in Queenstown. I’ve personally stayed at the Hilton Resort and Spa on my anniversary and loved it. If you want an even more luxurious stay, look at Kamana Lakehouse. This hotel has the most beautiful spa overlooking the lake and is definitely one of the best hotels in Queenstown.
There are also lots of amazing Airbnbs in Queenstown as well as bach/holiday homes to rent! You can choose between modern homes, central apartments, cozy cabins, and so much more when staying in an Airbnb.
Must-Do Activities While in Queenstown
While in Queenstown there are plenty of other activities that will keep you busy… Honestly, there are so many it’ll be hard to choose which ones to do! Below are some of my favorites.
- Central Otago Wine Tour and Tasting – This is my personal favorite wine tour in Queenstown! It is one of the best values for money, for $215 NZD your tour bus will stop at 4 different boutique wineries in the Otago region that include a wide range of wine samples and a provided gourmet lunch platter. As you hop between wineries you’ll gaze out the window at spectacular views.
- TSS Earnslaw Steamship Cruise – This scenic and relaxing cruise in Queenstown is an activity great for any afternoon. The ship you will be cruising on is the Historic TSS Earnslaw and you will get to watch crew members add coal to the flames that power the vessel. Take in the mountain ranges and lush green valleys of Otago. You can also upgrade this tour here to include dinner at Walter Peak High Country Farm.
- Queenstown Canyoning Adventure – Climb and jump off waterfalls, rappel, swim, and trek your way down a part of a Queenstown canyon with a qualified guide. This thrilling full-day activity is perfect for those who love adventure and exploration! As long as you aren’t afraid of heights and have a basic swimming ability you won’t need any other skills.
- Queenstown Lakes Lord of the Rings Tour – This tour is fun for both major LOTR fans and those who have some level of interest in seeing and learning about the filming locations. You will be guided around in a 4×4 vehicle that is equipped to cross rivers and rugged terrain. There are 8 different stops over 9 hours, it’s a long day but it will be filled with so many breathtaking views and you’ll learn a ton from your guide.
- Extreme Jet Boating – Looking for a thrill? Jet Boating is one of New Zealand’s most unique activities. On the tour out of Queenstown, you’ll be able to zoom up the Shotover River through narrow canyons at high speeds and make 360-degree spins. Trust, me it’s epic!
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Thanks for reading!
Queenstown to Milford flights are incredible! I hope after reading this guide you were able to gain enough insights to determine which flight option suits your budget, activity preferences, and itinerary the best.
While Milford Sound flights come at a cost they are certainly something you will remember and talk about for years to come!
If you found this guide helpful, I’ve listed a few more related guides below!