Milford Sound, Queenstown
Be sure to check out Milford sound. Be awed by the majestic mountains and formations that were carved the glaciers. If possible, try to get on the fly/cruise/fly to Milford. It costs $345 NSD but the 45 minutes flight over to Milford across Fjordland National Park is definitely worth it. Plus it saves you alot of time to allow you to participate in other activities in Queenstown. The second alternative would be to do the coach/cruise/fly. It is cheaper but more time-consuming. The coach journey is 4 1/2 hours from Queenstown to Milford and another 4 1/2 hour back. Taking the coach/cruise/coach would be the cheapest alternative but definitely the most time-consuming. You can purchase the packages from Real Journeys and you are guaranteed satisfaction with your money going on the Monarch or Sovereign when you cruise in Milford Sound. The packages with Real Journeys can be purchased from almost any activity shop in Queenstown like The Sightseeing Shop, The Station or even Real Journeys itself.
The Bus ride from Queenstown to Milford Sound was 4 hours each way. This included a couple of photo stops and a bite to eat.
Just the drive there was worth the NZD $90 we paid for the day long tour - the scenery was beautiful. We stopped at a waterfall on the side of the road where the water was so clear it was like seeing through flawless crystal - I mean, it made the air itself almost visable - it was that clean and clear. We were encouraged to fill our water bottles from this ice fed, rainforest filtered pool - the bus driver stating "you won't get cleaner water anywhere else" Whether this was true or a figment of our bus-driver's over active imagination remains to be seen.
When we got to Milford Sound, the beauty of the place was just awesome.
Here we hopped onto a boat for an hour long cruise of the Sound, where we were educated on the formation of the mountains millions of years ago by glaciers, also the history of discovery by explorers, temporary waterfalls, and permanent ones. Truly inspirational.
We also saw wild dolphins, seals and penguins.
If you only have a short time here you absolutely MUST go to Milford Sound.
You'll kick yourself if you miss it.
Milford Sound is located on the southern west coast of the South Island within Fiorldland National Park and is a World Heritage site.
Milford Sound runs 15 kilometres inland from the Tasman Sea and is surrounded by sheer rock faces that rise 1,200 metres on either side.
Mitre Peak rises 1,692 metres and is one of the most photographed peaks in NZ. About half a million visitors come here each year mostly in the summer months of January and February.
The area averages about 7m of rain annually so there's a fairly good chance of getting wet!
From Queenstown you could take a bus tour which takes around 12 hours there and back. I chose to fly in and fly out with Air Milford. This option gives you a great opportunity to view the magnificent Southern Alps close up from the air.
The fly/cruise/fly takes about four hours ex-Queenstown.
Price:NZ$429 per adult
Duration:Allow four hours
Tour Includes:Pick up and drop off from accommodation
Milford Sound Flights, there and back
Cruise aboard a small boutique cruise ship
Reserved seating on the boat
Morning or afternoon tea
Pilot escort from plane to boat through native forest
We took the BBQ bus tour, which we felt was an excellent way to see Milford Sound and the surrounding area. The boat ride on Milford Sound is incredible, with sheer mountains whose faces have been carved by glaciers rising out of the water.
The BBQ lunch was really good and the some of the stops were fantastic. This is intentionally a very long day, with additional trips thrown in besides the traditional Milford Sound cruise, including a walk through Fiordland National Park. You leave a little after 7 AM and don't get back until 8 PM.
Definitely make sure to bring insect repellant, there are some areas, especially at lunch, where the insects are numerous.
If price isn't an object, a flight back would both get you back to Queenstown earlier, and can involve stopping on a glacier if you take a helicopter. Note that this is hundreds of dollars more expensive.
You can get to Milford Sound by road, air or foot. The road to Milford Sound is considered to be one of the world’s best alpine drives. We drove ourselves and I must admit, it is a fun road to drive. If you aren't up for that, there are plenty of tour operators providing travel to Milford.
Most visitors to Milford Sound opt for a cruise because it is the best way to see all of the sound. You get to admire the mountain peaks and the waterfalls that are flowing all year round.
On our cruise, there were dolphins swimming alongside and we also saw seals laying on rocks along the fiord.
Milford Sound or Piopiotahi is actually a fjord (as is Doubtful Sound and all the others in Fiordland National Park). It is one of the world's top travel destinations and has been called by Rudyard Kipling the eigth Wonder of the World.
Here mountains spring directly from the sea. They are covered by temperate rainforest and are the source of many waterfalls. The weather is not always kind but even on cloudy days the majesty of Milford Sound is awesome.
Milford Sound can be accessed by road or by air. Flights leave from Queenstown Daily. The company below give an excellent service.
For trips by road you travel first to Te Anau and then along the lake to the Homer Tunnel to arrive at Milford Sound (about 300km).
We spent the night aboard the Milford Wanderer. Very well organised and popular trip. Mostly a younger crowd when we went. Cruised out into the sound and saw dolphins and other wildlife and many spectacular waterfalls.
Most people who stay in Queenstown take the optional day-trip tour to the famous Milford Sound.
Book in advance the luxurious Great Sights coach (about NZ$180) which will take you there. It's a long drive but the way to the Sound is haft the experience. You will pass the beautiful valleys, lakes and creeks along the way.
Board the famous Red Boat (about NZ$60) to see the Sound up close and personal. The Milford Sound is serene and dramatic.
See my MILFORD SOUND travelodge for more details about the beauty of this area.
Milford Sound is probably New Zealand's most famous and spectacular place to see. The scenery is breathtaking. Boat rides include a standard scenic cruise, an extended cruise, and even overnight cruises.
The second photo, with the boat, affords a sense of how huge the mountains are. This place will make you feel tiny.
This is a very well known and popular tourist destination and the buses and people swarm in like flies on a daily basis with many bus loads doing day trips from Queenstown.
However, you should take your time, not only is Milford Sound superb, but there are many other less visited side attractions and walks along the road stretching between TeAnau and Milford. Stop in Te Anau for a night if you can, this is a better way to do this and check out my Te Anau page. Otherwise one way will take 3 hours of travel time.
Aside from the many boats you can take out into the sound (a must do activity) you should also walk along the short (20 minute return) foreshore walk. From here you can linger and take in great views of Mitre Peak but also explore the shoreline and surrounding fauna and vegetation.
Milford Sound is one of those places that everyone seems to recommend visiting, but, while I am glad I visited it, I personally was disappointed with it. Not actually a sound, but rather a series of fjords, the scenery is magnificent but not as moving as coastal scenery elsewhere (such as Alaska). In fact, in many ways, the drive from Te Anau to Milford is more spectacular than the sound itself. Make no mistake, a day tour from Queenstown to Milford Sound is well worth the time and money, and if you keep your expectations low the trip will most definitely exceed them.