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Little Kiwi Travels
Ultimate Guide to
Exploring Milford Sound

Milford Sound - Is it really worth the hype?

So you've decided to adventure to the 8th wonder of the world, Milford Sound? Get ready for the trip of a lifetime! I am a serial over planner and I've captured everything here that helped me have the BEST time in Milford Sound, I hope it helps you too.

 

Milford Sound (actually a fiord) was formed by the erosion of ancient glaciers, cutting deep pathways through the mountains. Couple this with the near constant rain (it's the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand) and you get some extraordinarily dramatic scenery. Think Jurassic Park with huge mountains topped in rainforest and sheer cliffs that stream with waterfalls.

And it's not just the Fiord itself, the drive from Te Anau, the closest town to Milford Sound, is incredible and just as much part of the experience as visiting the Sound itself.

Nature truly is just on a whole other level here, it's raw and humbling and will make you feel small in the best way, Milford Sound is 100% worth the hype.

Where is Milford Sound and How Do I Get To It?

Most adventurers to Milford Sound, in the South Island of New Zealand, use the tourist mecca of Queenstown as their base for visiting. Many major centres in New Zealand have flights to Queenstown with our national carriers, Air New Zealand and Jetstar.

 

While Milfy S looks relatively close to Queenstown on a map, there is a huge mountain range in between them and it is nearly 4 hours drive by car! Add in all the incredible places to stop and explore and the drive can easily take you a whole day.

With this in mind there are a few ways to travel to Milford Sound depending on your vibe, schedule and budget

Hire a car and drive yourselves - my personal fav!
Pros: Total freedom! There are so many breathtaking spots along the way to explore and driving yourself also means you can stay a night or two in the sounds and see it when the crowds vanish.


Cons: NZ roads can be a bit daunting if you're not used to them, especially in winter when there is snow and ice to deal with.

 

Looking for a road trip itinerary? Check out my 2 night, 3 day Milford Sound - Road Trip from Queenstown

Scenic Flight Day Trip
Pros: You'll witness jaw-dropping mountain scenery from above and flying means you can do the sounds in one day if you're tight on time. Fast and furious!

Cons: Hold on to your wallets cause this one's pricey. The other bummer is you'll miss out on the incredible drive in and there's also the risk that weather conditions means your flight gets cancelled.

Bus Tour
Pros: Lean back and soak in the scenery while someone else handles the driving. Ideal for those who want to tick Milford Sound off the bucket list but don't have a lot of time or money for a flight.


Cons: Buckle up for a long day on the road my friend. You won't have the flexibility to stop wherever and whenever you want. Also, brace yourself for peak times at the sounds, as you'll be hanging out with lots of other travelers

Where to Stay in Milford Sound

If you're like me and obsess over the best place to stay while on holiday, then you'll be pleased to know there's actually only one accomodation in Milford Sound which takes away the stress of choosing.

This accomodation, called Milford Sound Lodge, is AMAZING! It's nestled inside the fiord on a riverside and surrounded by sheer cliffs - imagine waking to the thundering of thousands of waterfalls outside your room, friendly wekas plodding by and Milford Sound empty of tour buses!

The lodge has a variety of accomodation types from luxury waterfront rooms to campsites, so there's something to suit every budget. It also has the only restaurant in the sounds (though there is a cafe at the visitors centre) and a guest kitchen if you've bought your own supplies to cook.
There is a beautiful walk along the river to Milford Sound which takes about 30 minutes if you want to avoid parking (5 mins by car).

As you might be able to guess the Lodge books out well in advance so make sure you get in early. If you do miss out, or you want to stay somewhere with more choice of restaurants and accomodation, the small tourist town of Te Anau is a 45 minute drive away.

 

What to Do in Milford Sound

Seeing Milford Sound by water is truly spectacular and most visitors opt for a boat cruise (though you can also kayak!)

After much research we settled on the 2 Hour Small Boat Scenic Cruise with Mitre Peak Cruises which we booked via GetYourGuide.
Their cruise was a great length, not too long or short and it's a smaller boat which means smaller crowds and they get up close to the waterfalls and wildlife in the sounds!

If you decide to do the same tour, I'd be grateful if you would consider booking through the link above. I get a small fee through affiliate marketing which helps pay for my website costs.


Though most of the adventure in the sounds is on the water, there are a few awesome spots to check out on foot;

  1. Milford Sound Swing - Scroll down for a video on how to reach the swing.

  2. The Foreshore Walk

  3. Milford View Point Track 

  4. Giant Gate Falls - New Zealand Wanderer has a great blog on how to reach this waterfall

What else should I know about visiting Milford Sound ?

1. Milford Sound is the wettest place in New Zealand - pack for it!
All that rain is the magic behind it's waterfalls so you've really just got to embrace it. Raincoats, backpacks, gloves, beanies and boots - if it's not waterproof then bring a change because you can get very wet roaming the deck of your cruise. And don't forget about your electronics, no one likes a wet phone or camera. 

2. There is no phone reception in the Sounds.
Downloaded all your must-haves like cruise tickets, accommodation info and google map directions before beginning your road trip.

3. Beware of sandflies!
These little bastards are EVERYWHERE in the sounds so make sure you pack your insect repellent. (Fun fact, we refer to them colloquially as “sandflies” but they’re actually black flies)

5. Point of no return.
There are no service stations or food shops between Milford Sound and Te Anau, so you'll need to fuel up and buy snacks and supplies in Te Anau or Queenstown beforehand.

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