Travel and Culture

Mystical Milford Sound

After attempting to start this article a number of times to justify the sheer beauty of Milford Sound it is just too difficult so we will let the photos at the bottom of the article do the talking on that one. This article will focus on getting to and advice for visiting Milford Sound with a photo slideshow at the end.

Visiting in spring we decided to make a weekend of it. Driving from Queenstown to Te Anau Downs for the night took a few hours with various stops along the way. The drive is beautiful with many sign posts telling the driver where to stop for good photos. Leave plenty of time for this drive as it is a massive tourist area – there are many coaches, campers and slower drivers. Take it easy and just enjoy the trip.

Te Anau is a beautiful spot with lovely cafes, a helpful visitor centre and lake to visit. While staying the night here is an option, we decided to stay in Te Anau Downs as it was quieter and closer to Milford Sound.

You absolutely must leave plenty of time for the drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound for various reasons.

  1. Slower Drivers
  2. Stopping to take photos
  3. A difficult road to drive
  4. Stopping for the one way tunnel (this can take up to 15 minutes)
  5. Parking and walking to the terminal

Generally, it is suggested to allow 2 hours however I would recommend 3 hours. There are some truly wonderful spots to stop and take photos and most of these are on the left so much easier to access on the way into the Sounds.

If you’re lucky you may see some kea around the tunnel. On our trip we were lucky enough to see kea on 3 separate occasions including flying high in front of the car, penguins and sea lions.

Once you get through to Milford Sound, remember to pay for parking at the car parks. You will need to allow at least 10 minutes to get from the car park to the ferry terminals as it is a short walk. If you have someone who doesn’t walk so well, you can drop them at the terminal and then head off to park before walking in to meet them.

We toured with Mitre Peak Cruises, the side of the boat opened so we could walk directly on to the boat. The boat wasn’t the biggest at the wharf but a smaller boat was lovely as there were less people around. The captain gave us plenty of opportunities to take photographs and we even got taken under one of the thousands of waterfalls.

While you may be disappointed finding rain at Milford Sound, this is actually what you want as there are literally thousands of waterfalls around the sounds. Most of these dry up within around an hour of the weather clearing. It was raining on our visit and we loved it.

So are you thinking I would love to visit Milford Sounds but I don’t want to drive? There are many companies where you can visit the sounds via coach (apparently you learn a lot through the commentary on the way there). If you are time shy, you can fly from Queenstown and land at the Milford Sound airport (it is tiny) and get on a boat from there. If you’re feeling particularly active you can also kayak part of Milford Sound.

Here are some final things we suggest you think about when booking your Milford Sound trip.

  1. How much time do you have and do you like to drive? If not, a flight may be for you. Or you may prefer a coach
  2. Bring insect repellent with a high deet. Not optional. Otherwise, I have heard that eating bananas can help prevent insect bites (let us know if that works!)
  3. Bring your camera and batteries. But don’t forget to look out from the lens a bit too
  4. Leave plenty of time and enjoy the trip in to the sounds
  5. Obey all signage including not feeding the local kea population, I know it is tempting to but the kea are friendly enough as it is, they don’t need food (we saw 2 eating some food that someone left – a great photo opportunity but not ideal. We had already seen 2 prior to that so it’s not necessary)
  6. Bring a water bottle and check what food is available on your trip. There is not a lot to buy in Milford Sound so you may want to pack some lunch or snacks.
  7. Talk to the staff on the boat, they love to talk about Milford Sound and are very knowledgeable.
  8. Bring a rain jacket.

Have you been to Milford Sound or are you planning a trip? Let us know what your tips are, we’d love to hear from you!

Here are a few (many!) photos from our trip – enjoy!





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