Milford Sound has to hit the top of the list of the ‘Top Things to Do In New Zealand” most definitely, i would say the number 1 in fact! Milford sound is NZ’s only natural world heritage site and it genuinely boasts the most unbelievable scenery with Fjords, Lakes, Waterfalls, Hikes (tramping for our Kiwi friends), Wildlife and well.. everything really!
Firstly, are you going to stay in Milford Sound or are you coming for a day trip? If you are in Queenstown its a very lone drive, in fact 4-5 hours and that is one way. Consider staying closer and spending a night so your drive isn’t as long as the road in is stunning but also very windy and slow, add the continues ‘oh my god stop’ to take a photo and it becomes quite a long journey! Plenty of oohs and aahs along the way there and back you will be nackered from the drive alone.
We drove, and stayed in Te Anau however there are also coaches/bus tours that go throughout the day if you are not wanting to drive.. or if this trip isn’t a self-drive trip (shame on you).
Why visit Milford Sound? – Here are some of our reasons, if they don’t convince you… well then NZ isn’t for you!
1. The Amazing Waterfalls
Milford Sound/Fjords have 2 waterfalls, Stirling Falls and Bowel Falls, and when it rains (trust us, it rains a lot) you’ll of course find endless waterfalls cascading down all the cliff faces surrounding you that you’ll see along your boat cruise. A quick note: if your boat Captain on your cruise says “we will be taking the front of the boat under the waterfall” – he will, so either prepare yourself with a weather jacket or get in the boat as you will get soaked. And no, we are not kidding!
Bet you didn’t expect to see or know that New Zealand Fur Seals and Dolphins are actively present and on most days, almost every day these smelly cute smelly Seals can be seen bathing, relaxing or playing in the water. Don’t worry, once you are on your boat you’ll get very up-close with these guys and hopefully like us have an escort of Dolphins in front of your boat!
3. The Fjords & Glaciers
Whether you get on a boat cruise (basically pretty standard must do thing) or decide to jump in a chopper or plane for a tour you will be quickly shocked with how incredibly beautiful this part of New Zealand’s South Island truly is. Its like Norway, in New Zealand! A-m-a-z-i-n-g!
4. The Road in & Out
The journey into Milford Sound showcases further amazing landscapes, valleys, lakes and even wildlife such as Kea Parrots and Eagles. Just keep an eye out on the Kea’s as they’ll eat the rubber of your car (which would be a rental mind you so be aware of the excess for damage….from a bird!) Eglinton Valley is this incredibly beautiful valley is glaciated with steep sides and often as you can see covered in fog adding to a more mysterious feel.
5. The Scenic Cruises or the Heli / Plane Tours
Is that even a reason? Of course it is, and if you come to Milford Sound and do not do a boat cruise you’ve just wasted a trip as that is one of the biggest tourist attractions! And if your budget allows, to which we will say let is stretch as far as it can even on that good ol credit card of yours – get in a plane or helicopter and fly around! Milford Sound is even more spectacular from above than below, the valleys, troughs, hidden lakes some above within its own area! We chartered out a plane (not as expensive as you think) and it was quite amusing to wait for the Pilot to put seats in the plane. A little concerning and Lora’s first small plane flight (up front mind you) so she was a bit afraid but loved every second of it!
Our tip is, use the smaller family owned/run businesses for your Cruise. You’ll have a smaller crowd, very funny and nice staff including Captain and most especially you’re helping support the locals rather than a big enterprise.
Things to do in Milford Sound
Firstly we suggest do a scenic boat tour, this is probably the best thing to do and as we mentioned a little earlier we recommend using a local tour boat rather than a larger company. Support the locals! You can also do Kayak tours and of course Air Tours which include a helicopter or plane ride for 20m – 1h around through Milford Sound and near by, the air tours are very expensive but if you can stretch the budget we would highly recommend doing one. The pictures should give you enough reason why!
Diving tours are also available and from what we have seen from friends who did this, if you’re a diver it is a ‘must-do’ according to them. You also have opportunity to go hiking (tramping for Kiwis) and if you choose to do so please ensure you are prepared and experienced as weather changes very rapidly and you can be caught out very quickly if not prepared. There are day walks, overnight and so forth – research whats best for your fitness level and experience.
Head over to Milford Sounds’ official page for more information and to book in advance.
- Scenic Boat Cruises
- Helicopter / Plane Tours
All the information for above will be provided when you arrive to Milford Sound (in case you haven’t organised yourself) at the Information Centre. There is also a restaurant, restroom and if you’re lucky some phone reception as by now you have realised you’re barely getting phone reception if any at all!
The biggest question every traveller who is looking or thinking to visit Milford Sound is – is it worth it?
Absolutely! The road in, the flight above, the cruise along, everything that we saw from the glaciers to the fjord, lakes, waterfalls, smelly cute seals, beautiful dolphins and amazing coastline was in every which way worth it and a highlight on this trip. So believe the hype, Milford Sound is a must do destination.