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15 Things to KNOW Before Visiting Milford Sound, New Zealand

15 Things to KNOW Before Visiting Milford Sound, New Zealand

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Milford Sound was once named the world’s top travel destination, and we totally get why. It’s a stunning fiord, with towering mountains, cascading waterfalls, and lush rainforest.

Basically, it’s one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand with some of the best nature the country has to offer – and that’s saying something!

What makes Milford Sound so special is that it’s pretty remote, which means that it’s relatively untouched by humans. The landscape is unspoiled and peaceful, and you really feel like you’re in the middle of nature. 

There are also plenty of fun and adventurous things to do in Milford Sound, from kayaking and boating to birdwatching and exploring waterfalls. 

If you’re looking for an unforgettable natural experience in New Zealand, Milford Sound is the place to go!

Since it’s pretty remote, there are definitely some things you need to know before you visit. We’ve put together a guide of everything you need to know before visiting Milford Sound so that you can plan your perfect trip! 

Table Of Contents
  1. 1. About Milford Sound
  2. 2. Where is Milford Sound located? 
  3. 3. When is the best time to visit Milford Sound? 
  4. 4. Can you visit Milford Sound in winter? 
  5. 5. Where are the best places to visit Milford Sound from? 
  6. 6. What are the best things to do in Milford Sound? 
  7. 7. Do you need to book your Milford Sound tour in advance? 
  8. 8. What are the best Milford Sound tours? 
  9. 9. What are the best scenic flights to Milford Sound? 
  10. Drive, cruise fly from Queenstown 
  11. Milford Sound helicopter flight from Queenstown 
  12. Glacier flight from Wanaka 
  13. 10. Can you drive yourself and book a tour from Milford Sound? 
  14. 11. Can you stay in Milford Sound? 
  15. 12. What are the best stops on Milford Sound Road? 
  16. 13. What should you bring to Milford Sound? 
  17. 14. What wildlife can you see in Milford Sound? 
  18. 15. Is Milford Sound worth it? 
  19. Thanks for reading!

1. About Milford Sound

Green moss and Milford Sound at sunset
Sunset in Milford
Waterfall in Milford Sound
The endless waterfalls!

Milford Sound is a fiord on New Zealand’s South Island. It was formed over millions of years by the erosion of glaciers. 

It’s known as the wettest place in New Zealand due to the high amount of rainfall it receives each year – around 6,400 mm (252 inches). In fact, Milford Sound is one of the wettest places in the whole world and sometimes gets over 250 mm (10 inches) of rain per day.  

To put this into context, the average rainfall in New York City is around 1,200 mm (47 inches) per year. 

Milford Sound is the only fiord in New Zealand that’s accessible by road – but more on that later.

For thousands of years, Maori people have visited Milford Sound to fish, hunt, and collect jade stones. The first European to visit was John Grono, who did so in 1823. 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. 

Milford Sound is home to a lot of amazing wildlife, including dolphins, penguins, seals, and even whales. It’s also a great place for birdwatching, as it’s home to the iconic (and sadly endangered) New Zealand kiwi. The wildlife you can see here mixed with the stunning landscape, make it a top destination for tourists from all around the world.

2. Where is Milford Sound located? 

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

Milford Sound is one of the must-see places on the South Island, located in the vast Fiordland National Park. The park is part of the Te Wahipounamu world heritage site and one of New Zealand’s 13 national parks.

Milford Sound is around a 3.5-hour drive from Queenstown, which is the nearest major city. It’s actually only around 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) away as the crow flies, but you’ll have to go the long way around on the Milford Sound Highway to get there due to the steep canyon walls that make it otherwise inaccessible. 

The drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound is absolutely stunning. There are many scenic stops along the way, so you may want to budget extra time to stop and enjoy the views, lakes, and waterfalls. 

Milford Sound is also about 75 miles (120 kilometers) from Te Anau, which is known as a gateway town to both Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park. 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. You’ll only find a visitor center, cafe, and the Milford Sound Lodge here.

Related read: Heading here from the North Island? Make sure to read my tips for catching a ferry to the South Island!

3. When is the best time to visit Milford Sound? 

People kayaking in Milford Sound below a waterfall
Bailey looks out on a Milford Sound cruise at the scenery

Milford Sound is always beautiful. In terms of the times of day to visit, the morning is ideal. The light is perfect for photography, and there are fewer people around, so you really feel like you have the place to yourself. 

That being said, Milford Sound is also stunning in the evening. The light is softer and the fiord takes on a different feel. 

And in terms of the best time of year to visit Milford Sound, it’s an amazing destination all year round. I’ve visited in both summer and winter, and loved both! 

Spring and autumn are often said to be ideal times to visit because the fiord receives fewer visitors during these times, but temperatures are milder than they are during the winter. 

The summer months of December and January are the most popular time to visit, but this is also the season during which Milford Sound receives the most rainfall. Winter is the driest time of year, but it also gets pretty cold. 

Related read: While planing your NZ trip, check out our guide to the best time to visit New Zealand.

4. Can you visit Milford Sound in winter? 

View of Milford Sound from the foreshore
Mitre Peak with a light dust of snow!

Yes, absolutely! In fact, Milford Sound is absolutely amazing in winter. 

The temperature in winter is cold, but still very bearable at around 9°C (48°F), so it’s brisk, but not freezing. 

One of the best things about visiting Milford Sound in winter is that you often have the place to yourself. The fiord is much quieter during the winter months, so you really feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. Plus, you get to see snow, which makes the place even more beautiful. 

There are also still plenty of amazing things to do in the winter in Milford Sound – the cold won’t hold you back! It’s also the time of year with the least rainfall, so that’s another big bonus. 

The only downside to visiting Milford Sound in winter is that the roads on the way there can be pretty icy, so you need to take care. There is a risk of avalanches during the winter months, so be sure to check the road conditions before you head out. 

When driving along the Milford Sound highway, you’ll see signage warning you about avalanche areas a few kilometers in advance. You should never stop in an avalanche area. It’s best to drive through them as quickly as you can, while sticking to the speed limits, of course! 

There’s also often a lot of snow and frost on the road during the winter, particularly early in the morning. Make sure you bring snow chains for your tires, as you may well need them. 

Alternatively, if you’re worried about driving, you can always take a scenic flight to Milford Sound, or join a bus tour (more on this later!). There are some really good flights from Queenstown to Milford and back again!

5. Where are the best places to visit Milford Sound from? 

Real NZ boat cruises past a waterfall in Milford Sound
A huge waterfall in Milford Sound


It’s a beautiful drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound, and there are plenty of scenic stops along the way. It takes around 3.5 hours without any stops. If you want to take it slow, there are also several campsites along the highway, which we’ll talk more about later. 

There are plenty of Milford Sound tours from Queenstown, or you can take the InterCity bus for around $88 NZD each way. If you’ve got extra room in your budget, you can also book a scenic flight which saves a lot of time (and is an incredible experience, of course).  

Te Anau 

Te Anau is a great base for visiting Milford Sound because it’s the closest town to the fiord. There are tons of Milford Sound tours from Te Anau, with stunning cruises really taking the cake.

Te Anau is around 120 kilometers (75 miles) away from Milford Sound, and it takes around 2 hours to get there. Again, the drive is scenic and there are plenty of fun stops along the way.  

There are more accommodation options once you’re here, restaurants to eat at, and the town itself is beautiful and situated right on the edge of a lake. 


Wanaka is a ski resort town that’s around 343 kilometers (213 miles) away from Milford Sound. There are plenty of places to stay in Wanaka before you head to Milford Sound. The drive takes around 4 hours and 15 minutes without rest breaks and photo stops. You can also fly between the two, which is what we recommend doing if you’re visiting from Wanaka. 

Related read: If you are spending time in Wanaka, it’s a hiker’s paradise! These are some of the best hikes in Wanaka.

6. What are the best things to do in Milford Sound? 

The view from the Milford Sound Lookout Track
Surprisingly, not many people know about the Milford Sound Lookout Track!

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 popular for good reason! 

There are different types of cruises available, 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 my favorite, as you get a more adventurous experience, and the chance to ask your guide all of your burning questions. 

If you have the budget to splurge a bit, I highly recommend booking an overnight cruise. It’s pretty spectacular to see Milford Sound at all times of day and soaking in the onboard hot tub under the stars was a great way to end the night! For more details, I wrote about my experience on a Milford Sound overnight cruise!


Kayaking in Milford Sound is awesome because the views on the water are to die for. Lush green cliffs tower over you, and there’s always a chance you’ll spot some wildlife too. I even saw two rare penguins chilling on a rock when I kayaked there! 

Take the boat to Lady Bowen Falls 

At 162 feet (49 meters) tall, the Lady Bowen Falls are pretty dang impressive. You can see it from the Milford Sound pier, but to get up close and personal, you’ll need to take a boat. 

Boats regularly depart from the pier throughout the summer, so you can just turn up and climb aboard. Tickets cost $10 NZD for adults and $5 NZD for children and can be purchased at the terminal which is right on the pier. 

The boat will take you right near Lady Bowen Falls, and you’ll be able to take the Bowen Nature Walk trail, which culminates in a viewing platform where you’ll have the very best views of these beautiful falls. It’s a short and easy walk – the walk plus the return boat ride only takes about 30 minutes in total. 

Milford Sound Lookout Track 

For one of the best hiking trails in Milford Sound, the Milford Sound Lookout Track is our pick. It’s an easy walk that starts near the Milford Sound cafe in the village, and while it’s not a super adventurous walk, it takes you to a great viewpoint where you’ll get amazing views of the park. There are a couple of steps along the way, but nothing too crazy! 

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

Milford Sound foreshore walk 

The foreshore walk is a flat, easy walking trail that takes you along the water’s edge, and it’s one of the best ways to enjoy Milford Sound. The walk begins at the car park of the visitor’s center, which is in the village. You’ll pass through beech forest and enjoy great views of Mitre Peak as you loop round. 

Scenic flight 

Taking a scenic flight over Milford Sound is an amazing experience, and it’s definitely one of the best things to do here. You’ll get to see the waterfalls, Southern Alps, and the Tasman Sea as you fly over the fiord and soak in the beautiful views. 

Flights can either depart from and return to Milford Sound or you can take a plane or helicopter tour from Queenstown!

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7. Do you need to book your Milford Sound tour in advance? 

A Southern Discoveries boat sits at the dock in Milford Sound
Ready to board!

It’s not necessary if you’re visiting during the winter, but things definitely book up fast during the summer.

Plus, the best Milford Sound tours (including multi-day tours that take you across the country) are the first to fill up!

It’s always a good idea to book in advance if you’re visiting during the peak season to avoid disappointment. 

8. What are the best Milford Sound tours? 

People look out on a Milford Sound cruise at the scenery

From Queenstown 

If you’re planning to be based in Queenstown and looking for more of a day-trip type of tour to Milford Sound, that’s totally possible. 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 stops so that you can experience the full natural diversity of Milford Sound. 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. For only $229 NZD, this is an all-inclusive type tour with everything included!

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 lunch, snacks, and a cruise, and you’re free to add on a scenic flight if you’d like to. The tour is $249 NZD and includes your entrance fee, so no need to wait in line!

Milford Sound glass-topped bus tour and cruise

Travel in style from Queenstown on a glass roof coach and enjoy a cruise, the Mirror Lakes Walk, and a stop at the Homer Tunnel on this fun day tour. You’ll learn lots from your knowledgeable guide and get to see some of New Zealand’s best scenery. Plus, lunch and filling up your water bottle with glacier water from Monkey Creek are included too! The entire tour is $215 NZD.

From Te Anau 

As the closest village to Milford Sound, Te Anau is the perfect place to stay for a bit if you have 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.

Bailey looks out the front of a Milford Sound cruise
Bailey drinks tea on a Milford Sound cruise

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 a boat cruise, the Chasm Walk, and a stop at Pops View Lookout for an amazing view of the divide in the Alps. This $199 NZD all-day tour is packed full but doesn’t feel too rushed. The two-hour cruise is definitely a highlight!

Milford Sound glass roof bus and scenic cruise

This tour includes a glass roof coach ride to and from Te Anau for panoramic views and a nature cruise on the Tasman Sea. You’ll enjoy so many of the park’s highlights (waterfalls, mountains, and rivers galore) and several scenic stops on the way to and from Milford Sound. 

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 $189 NZD.

From Milford Sound 

If you’re already here or planning to drive yourself, it’s super easy to add on a tour (or two!) to really enhance your experience. Some of these tours below are my favorite ways to get out on the water.

Bailey in a kayak in Milford Sound
Bailey on a kayak enjoying Milford Sound

Nature cruise

This nature cruise is a great option for anyone who wants to secure their place on a cruise in advance but wants to explore the park independently rather than taking a full-day tour. 

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! You can read my full review of the Milford Nature Cruise here for all the details.

What we love about this cruise is that it takes place on one of the smaller boats, allowing you to get much closer to the scenery (you’ll feel the spray from the waterfalls!) and truly appreciate it. The tour is $145 NZD if you include the add-on of a picnic lunch while on board. 

Scenic cruise

This scenic cruise is easily one of the best cruises available in Milford Sound. 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! The cruise is $112 NZD per person and free for kids under 3.

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.

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! The cruise is $115 NZD per person.

Milford Sound cruise and kayak

Not only do you get to enjoy a nature cruise on this tour, but you also get to go kayaking, which is our favorite thing to do in Milford Sound. 

The cruise starts pretty early in the morning which allows you to beat the crowds, and 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 conversation efforts. 

After that, you can enjoy a kayaking trip through Milford Sound, which is limited to just 8 people per group for a more personal experience. You’ll paddle through Harrison Cove and enjoy amazing views of Pembroke Glacier from the water. The amazing tour is $229 NZD.

Related read: If you’re traveling to NZ as a couple, make sure to check out other perfect romantic getaways in New Zealand!

9. What are the best scenic flights to Milford Sound? 

A plane fly's into Milford Sound on a tour from Queenstown
The views from above are magnificent!

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! These are our top picks of tours that include views from the air.

Milford Sound flight and cruise from Queenstown 

Enjoy Milford Sound from both the air and the water on this half-day tour

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, Mitre Peak, and of course, the length of the beautiful Milford Sound fiord. 

After you land, you’ll enjoy a 2-hour boat cruise along the Milford Sound, enjoying up-close views of highlights including Bowen Falls, Lake Wakatipu, and Walter Peak High Country Farm, which is home to one of New Zealand’s largest merino sheep farms. 

Finally, you’ll board another scenic flight back to Queenstown, which takes around 35 minutes. The entire experience costs $580 NZD.

Drive, cruise fly from Queenstown 

This full-day tour allows you to 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, before enjoying a nature cruise through the fiord.

Then, you’ll end the tour by taking a scenic flight back to Queenstown so that you can experience aerial views of Milford Sound and the gorgeous New Zealand countryside. This really combines the best of all forms of transportation! Tickets are $599 NZD per person.

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 on this tour for $1,062 NZD.

Glacier flight from Wanaka 

Wanaka is pretty far away from Milford Sound, so a scenic flight is a great way to experience the fiord’s beauty in a single day. 

This 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 a quintessential nature cruise on this tour, so you really get the full Milford Sound experience! Tickets are $595, which is a great price considering you get not one, but two scenic flights!

10. Can you drive yourself and book a tour from Milford Sound? 

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

You certainly can! We actually highly recommend doing this to get to Milford Sound

To do this, it’s best to stay in Te Anau or stay in Milford Sound itself, as they’re much closer to the fiord so you won’t need to spend as much time on the road on the day of your visit. That means more time to enjoy the scenery and explore!

The tours from Te Anau and Milford Sound that we suggested above are good options and can be combined with some self-guided exploring around the park. That’s the perfect mix for me – a tour or two and some downtime to soak it all in.

It’s important to note that parking in Milford Sound is limited and not free. For that reason, it’s best to arrive early in the morning. Parking costs $25 NZD for a flat 5 hours and can be paid in Milford Sound at one of the many pay machines by inputting your number plate or on this website.

11. Can you stay in Milford Sound? 

A room at the Milford Sound Lodge
The Milford Sound Lodge is the closest you can get!

Yes, you can! We have a complete guide on staying in Milford Sound that lays out all the best options.

There’s only one hotel in Milford Sound: the Milford Sound Lodge. It’s lovely, but since it’s the only option, it also books up far in advance (you can check availability here) and can be pricey. You can’t beat the location though!

However, there are also several campsites on the road between Te Anau to Milford Sound, which can also be a great option for those wanting to stay close to the fiord. 

Cascade Creek Campsite is around 40 minutes south of Milford Sound and has 120 tent sites, which do not have power. The facilities are clean and it’s the closest Department of Conversation (DOC) campsite to Milford Sound, so it’s a popular choice. For this reason, you’ll need to book in advance

Cascade Creek costs $15 NZD for adults and $7.50 NZD for children per night. There’s also a $10 NZD booking fee per party. 

Deer Flat Campsite is a 50-minute drive from Milford Sound. It’s a small, primitive camp, with only 15 tent sites, although caravan and RV access is also permitted. It’s absolutely beautiful, located next to the Eglinton River and surrounded by beech forest. 

You can’t book here, so it’s first-come, first-served. The prices for Deer Flat are the same as Cascade Creek, minus the booking fee. 

Alternatively, there are plenty of hotels in Te Anau to choose from, and from there you’re only a 2-hour drive to Milford Sound.

12. What are the best stops on Milford Sound Road? 

windy road with mountain views through the eglinton Valley, New Zealand
Pops View road to Milford
Pop’s View

The drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound along the Milford Sound Road (State Highway 94) is one of the most scenic stretches of road in the country. With over 30 amazing places to stop, driving along here is one of the best things to do in New Zealand!

On this epic drive, you’ll get to witness some of the most breathtaking views, spectacular viewpoints, and top hiking trails on the South Island. It’s safe to say it’s a bucket list experience – and that’s before you even arrive in Milford Sound! These are the top spots you shouldn’t miss along this drive.

Eglinton Valley 

Eglinton Valley is typically the first stop once you’re inside Fiordland National Park. It’s a valley covered in yellow grass and, just like Milford Sound, it’s a result of glaciation. Some spots around Eglinton Valley were even used as filming locations for the Lord of the Rings movies and when you see the valley for yourself, you’ll understand why. 

Mirror Lakes 

Mirror Lakes are so-named because when the waters are still, they reflect the Earl Mountains, which is a beautiful sight to see. They’re about 60 km (37 miles) from Milford Sound, and the turnoff point is well-signed, so you don’t need to worry about missing them if you’re driving yourself! 

Key Summit hike 

The Key Summit hike allows you to experience both rainforest and mountain scenery, and you’ll get amazing views once you reach the top. It’s at the southern end of the very famous Routeburn Track. The elevation is 400 meters (1,312 feet), and it remains fairly steady throughout, so it’s very doable as long as you’re reasonably fit. 

Pops View Lookout/Hollyford Lookout 

If you don’t fancy hiking, visiting Pops View Lookout is a must, because you get amazing views without having to sweat! All you need to do is park up and then enjoy the sweeping views of the Hollyford Valley below. 

The Pops View Lookout is around 32 kilometers (20 miles) south of Milford Sound, so you should reach it around 30 minutes before you reach Milford Sound. Just be aware that the parking lot is on a sharp bend, so be very careful of oncoming traffic when you enter and leave. 

Lake Marian road to Milford Sound
Lake Marian!

Lake Marian Track 

Lake Marian is 32 kilometers (20 miles) from Milford Sound, and it’s super close to Pops View Lookout. The lake itself is gorgeous, and its emerald waters are surrounded by snow-capped mountains – pretty dreamy stuff. 

If you want to hike Lake Marian Track, park in the Hollyford Road parking lot. This requires you to turn right off of the main road, but the signs are easy to miss, so be on the lookout when you’re getting close! 

The track is a 3.7-mile (6-kilometer) round trip and one of New Zealand’s best hikes! In your first 30 minutes or so, you’ll encounter some beautiful waterfalls, and the entire hike takes around 2.5 hours to complete. 

The trail can get pretty muddy and rocky in places, so make sure you have a good pair of hiking boots with you! You can swim in the lake, so swimwear and a towel are also a good idea. 

The Chasm 

The Chasm is a dramatic waterfall that’s surrounded by dramatic, topsy-turvy rocks with large holes in them. It’s a super unique sight and since it’s accessible by a short 20-minute trail, we think it should be a stop on every Milford Sound road trip! It’s only 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Milford Sound, so you can easily visit here on your way in or out of the fiord. 

13. What should you bring to Milford Sound? 

Close up fo Bailey kayaking in Milford Sound
Rainy day in Milford!
Bailey stands on the shores of Milford Sound looking out at Mitre Peak
To complete sunshine!

The weather in Milford Sound can be pretty varied, but it rains a lot here, so a rain jacket is a must. A waterproof bag is also a good idea to keep your valuables dry in wet weather. Waterproof pants are also a good idea. 

The wet climate means that there are lots of bugs around, including sandflies that love to devour humans, so make sure that you bring plenty of bug repellent. Wearing light, loose clothing can also help give you some protection against sandflies. 

Make sure to bring plenty of water with you as the high levels of humidity mean that you might end up sweaty and dehydrated. Also, purchasing water at the cafe is not cheap.

On that note, there aren’t many options for food/snacks in Milford Sound. There is a cafe but it does have limited choices and is notoriously expensive. Consider packing a few snacks to get you by.

Sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen are also a must at pretty much any time of the year since you’ll be outside for much of the day. It’s important to protect yourself from sun exposure, even when you may not feel that hot. 

Last but not least, do NOT forget your camera when visiting Milford Sound. This is one of the most stunning places you’ll ever see, so make sure that you have plenty of pictures to remember it by! 

14. What wildlife can you see in Milford Sound? 

A baby New Zealand fur seal in Milford Sound
A baby New Zealand fur seal in Milford Sound
Fiordland Crested Penguin in Milford Sound
Fiordland Crested Penguin in Milford Sound

The wildlife here is one of the best parts of visiting Milford Sound. There’s such a wide variety of amazing creatures to see here – these are just a few of the main ones you might be lucky enough to spot.


Around 60 bottlenose dolphins live in Milford Sound all year round, so there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll see them if you take a boat trip. They are very social animals and often swim alongside cruise ships, or emerge to say hello to kayakers. 

Occasionally, you also might see a dusky dolphin in Milford Sound. They are smaller than bottlenose dolphins and have gray backs and white bellies. 


There’s no guarantee you’ll see a whale at Milford Sound, but they visit from time to time. Pilot whales and Southern White whales (which are super rare) sometimes swim deep into the fiord to hunt for food. 

NZ Fur Seals 

You can spot New Zealand fur seals all year round at Milford Sound. They can usually be found at Seal Point, where they like to climb up the rocks and bask in the sun. These seals are incredibly cute and fluffy, and can weigh up to 200kg (440 lbs)! 


The Kea is a mischievous parrot species that likes to steal things, so keep your valuables inside your bags when they’re around! They’re very intelligent birds that are able to solve puzzles, use tools, and work together as a team to accomplish a common goal. 

Keas are olive green in color, although their wings are a slightly brighter shade, and they’re often found around Monkey Creek and the Homer Tunnel. 

A kea bird at the Holmer Tunnel on the way to Milford Sound
A cheeky kea!


Both Little Blue and Fiordland Crested penguins can be spotted in Milford Sound. The latter is one of the rarest penguins in the world, and so it’s really amazing to spot one – which we did while kayaking! 

The Fiordland Crested penguin can be identified by the yellow feathers around its eyes and its orange beak. Meanwhile, as the name suggests, the Little Blue penguin is small in size and has blue-gray feathers all over its back – it’s seriously cute. 

Blue Ducks 

The Blue Duck (which, ironically, is not blue) is super rare and can only be found in New Zealand. What’s more is that it’s the only member of its genus, which means that it doesn’t have any close relatives anywhere else on Earth! 

Blue ducks are most active early in the morning and late in the afternoon, and are most commonly found in the rivers around the Eglinton Valley and Monkey Creek. They have gray plumage and brown feathers on their crest and chest. 

Sea birds 

You’ll often catch a glimpse of sea birds flying overhead in Milford Sound, including Oystercatchers and Sooty Shearwaters, which sound like Harry Potter characters but are actually brown seabirds that feed on fish and squid. 


Last but not least, we have the iconic New Zealand kiwi. This is New Zealand’s national animal, and they are pear-shaped, fuzzy birds. In fact, the kiwi fruit was named after the bird because of the resemblance! 

Kiwis are largely nocturnal, so you may not spot one if you’re visiting during the day, but if you camp nearby or stay in the Milford Sound lodge then you may be lucky enough to glimpse one of these cute little guys foraging on the ground. 

15. Is Milford Sound worth it? 

A man walks along a log in Milford Sound at sunset
Bailey gets ready to go kayaking in Milford Sound


Milford Sound is one of the most beautiful places to visit in New Zealand, which is already an incredibly beautiful country. You can have so much fun here, whether you’re taking boat trips, kayaking, or just walking around and enjoying the scenery. Plus, there are some great stops to enjoy along Milford Sound Road, too. 

So yes, Milford Sound is 100% worth it

Thanks for reading!

Bailey smiles at the camera while kayaking in Milford Sound
Thanks for reading!

With its tall mountain peaks, waterfalls, lakes, rainforest, and wildlife galore, Milford Sound feels like a postcard come to life. My visits here have felt like a complete escape – it’s such a special place. I hope this guide to Milford Sound has been helpful as you plan your own trip here!

If you’re looking for more ideas on what to do while exploring New Zealand, make sure to browse around my blog. I have lots of road trip suggestions and things to do on both the North and South Islands. I really hope you fall in love with New Zealand as much as I have!

The BEST time to visit Queenstown – Comparing the 4 Seasons

Two Weeks on the South Island of New Zealand – 3 Tried and Tested 14-Day Itineraries!

22 Free and Cheap Things to do in Wanaka

10 BEST Places for Brunch and Breakfast In Queenstown

Supraja Lakshmi N

Friday 30th of June 2023

Hi Bailey, thank you for this informative and helpful post about visiting Milford Sound! I have always dreamed of seeing this stunning place in person, and your tips and insights have made me even more excited to plan my trip. I appreciate how you covered everything from the best time to go, how to get there, what to do, where to stay, and what to pack. You really made it easy for me to prepare for my adventure. I especially loved your photos of the fiord, the waterfalls, and the wildlife. They are so beautiful and inspiring! I can’t wait to experience Milford Sound for myself and see why it’s one of the wonders of the world. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and passion with us!