Milford Sound is 295km's from Queenstown where most of the tour buses to the sound departing from. The drive passes through mountain landscapes before entering the 1.2 km Homer Tunnel.
The winding mountain road is very prone to avalanches and is closed during the winter months.
We chose to fly in/fly out with Air Milford. They are the only Queenstown flightseeing company operating the Cessna Caravan turbo prop aircraft which offers unsurpassed safety and comfort.
Air Milford has a 100% safety record and their pilots are very experienced at flying in this very mountainous terrain.
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
There are three ways to get to Milford Sound: on foot on the Milford Track, by airplane from Queenstown or Te Anau, or by car/coach. The latter is the most common option.
The Milford Road, part of SH 94, is the only access road to the fiord. From Te Anau, the trip is 121 kilometres one way, and as it is a winding alpine road with up and downhill sections, it takes you at least two hours.
The distance from Queenstown is 291 kilometres. This takes you about 4 hours one way - nonstop.
This shows that it does not make a lot of sense to plan Milford Sound as a day trip from Queenstown. It is feasible in summer when you have long daylight hours, but is not reasonable in any other season, as driving at night is not recommended.
Daylight hours in June in this region is from 8.20am to 5pm, so just a bit more than 8 hours. You would need all the daylight time for driving alone. I have never met anybody who would have driven down there without stopping... and it is dangerous to drive without little breaks.
A cruise takes 1.45 to 2 hours, you walk 10 min from the carpark to the cruise terminal, have to consider waiting in front of Homer Tunnel. So any plan from Queenstown under 11 or 12 hours is unrealistic.
The only sensible options would be to take a flight or go on a bus tour with an experienced driver, so you do not have to drive in the dark. But you would travel with the crowds, and this really makes it less enjoyable. But sure, better this way than not at all.
If you absolutely want to get to Milford Sound, try to stay in Te Anau for two nights and make the trip from there. If you are short on time, you could do some activities in Queenstown and drive down to Te Anau in the afternoon. The drive takes about 2 hours.
You can choose from several bus companies that service Milford Sound. They are also good for your transportation back to Te Anau or even Queenstown if you walk the Milford Track and need a shuttle service back to your base or your next destination.
... is Fiordland’s Track Transport Specialist. They operate their passenger service during the Great Walks season. They have three daily trips between Queenstown, Te Anau, Milford Sound, Kepler, Routeburn and Milford Tracks. (Also to/from Invercargill, Dunedin, Bluff, Manapouri, Hollyford & Mavora Tracks daily.)
Timetables on the Tracknet website.
They also offer the boat transfer from Lake Te Anau Downs to the start of the Milford Track.
Phone (03) 249 7777 and Freephone (0800) 483 262 (press 2)
Internet: www.greatwalksnz.com, leads to: http://www.tracknet.net/
... offer group and individual charter services to all Fiordland tracks. Kepler Track daily shuttle service also available. Please note: Regular service (non-charter) only available between Queenstown and Te Anau. Manapouri on request.
Phone (03) 249 8059
Trips ‘n’ Tramps:
We have seen one of their small buses along the Milford Road. They do not only offer a bus/cruise combo from Te Anau to Milford Sound, with photo stops along the way, but also guided walks, and pick-ups at Milford Sound for people who have completed the Milford Track. Also charter tours. Their groups have a maximum of 12 people which is a bonus.
The good thing about their bus/cruise combo (NZ$ 155 in May 2009) is that they start at 8am in Te Anau, so you would already be on the boat before the big tour bus rush.
Phone (03) 249 7081 and Freephone (0800) 305 807
Internet: www.tripsntramps.co.nz, www.tripsandtramps.com
Not to forget the big bus companies:
Phone (03) 442 5109, Freephone (0800) 505 504
They, of course, also have their own boats at Milford Sound.
Phone (03) 249 7416, Freephone (0800) 65 65 01
You can also fly to Milford Sound from Queenstown (scenic flights).
Here is a list of authorised flight operators in Fiordland:
This trip is a gem as you get to travel round milford sound on the Milford Mariner and have a surperb meal and stay overnight on board the ship,you can go out in kayaks or if less adventurious the tender craft and get to see the area close up, would recommend to anyone visiting this area
The Red Boat Cruises is one of the Milford Sound Cruise operator.
The Lady Bowen, Pride of Milford, Spirit of Milford, Lady of the Sounds are the vessels used by Red Boats Cruises.
Complimentary tea & coffee are served on board.
To avoid the crowds, go for the earliest cruise since they are also slightly cheaper.
For more information pls refer to their website at www.redboats.co.nz
The timing and prices are as follows:
0900 NZ $50
1000 NZ $50
*1030 NZ $79
1100 NZ $55
1200 NZ $55
*1225 NZ $79
1330 NZ $70
1500 NZ $55
*1500 NZ $79
* with underwater observatory
Mitrepeak is the only cruise that venture out into the Tasman Sea and out to the St Annes Point Lighthouse.
For more information, pls refer to the website at www.mitrepeak.com.
To avoid crowds, go for the earlier cruise and they are slightly cheaper too.
The prices of the cruise is as follows:
0855 - $51
0955 - $59
1125 - $59
1220 - $63
1350 - $63
1445 - $55
1630 - $55
Real Journeys has lots of big vessels. The earliest and the latest cruise is slightly cheaper and less crowded. The peak is at 1pm where many coaches from Queenstown arrive and there is a big demand for cruises at this time.
For more information, pls refer to their website at www.realjourneys.co.nz.
We chose Cruising Milford Sound because this is the cheapest cruise and they offer complimentary coffee & tea and each of us were given a muffin when we board the cruise.
That was our morning tea break and lasted till we had our packed sandwhiches for lunch.
We took Milford Adventurer for our 90 mins cruise.
Below is the prices of the cruise during Dec 05 (summer).
Pls refer to www.cruisingms.co.nz for more information.
you can fly into Milford Sound, but that cost you a bob or two.
Daytrips from Queenstown are possible or take the daily bus, stay as long as you like and take the bus back to Queenstown...thats how I did it.
of course a car/campervan is choice!
the scenic drive from Te Anau is just 120 km, but it will take you around 2.5 hours, I would say...take it easy and take your time. around every corner is an ahhhhhh exprience waiting for you.
have a look at the Roadside webpage below. and judge for yourself how to get to Fjordland
I must still say the flying to Milford is the way to go if you have the cash to spare. You get to enjoy Fjordland National Park from the air before you arrive at Milford. Plus you get get to do a flyby of the sound before landing. Try to fly in rather than fly out as the pilots may not fly around Milford before going back to Queenstown.
Cruise the full length of Milford Sound (1hr 40mins) and enjoy the dramatic scenery. Staffs on board provide informative commentaries in several languages and point out highlights.
You can also enjoy buffet, picnic, obento and rock lobster lunches on board (must be pre-ordered).
There are also coach/flight connections from Queenstown and Te Anau to get to Milford Sound.
Check website for detail pricing & departure times.
If you're driving from Te Anau to Milford Sound along the Milford Road, allow at least 2.5 to 3 hours even though it can be done in two. You don't want to miss the breathtaking sights along the way - ice grit, the chasm, mirror lakes etc.
Quite a variety of bus operators to choose from. If taking the Magic Bus tour, they will depart Queenstown early morning and be back in again in Queenstown in the evening. A whole day's adventure. You do have the option to stay a nite or two at Te Anau.
As already mentioned, I drove to and from Milford. The drive back in the early afternoon, revealled the stunning scenery I had missed in the early morning darkness and mist. I would recommend a stop at "The Chasm", where you can take a short and easy walk through beautiful beech forest to see a deep rock gorge that has been carved out over thousands of years. I couldn't see the rapids inside it, but could hear them. There are numerous other scenic attractions with parking available along this road. I missed the "Mirror Lakes" because it was the only place that wasn't well signposted!
The Homer Tunnel is 1.2km and an experience in itself. The road up to it from the Milford side is a switchback with very sharp bends. Stop for a photo either side of the tunnel. Parking is available.
If you rent a car, then driving to Milford Sound can be quite an experience. Pls. take eXtra care while on the road as it's usually wet.
Drive safe !