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Milford Sound – Things to see and do

Image of Mitre Peak, Milford Sound in the Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

Mitre Peak, Milford Sound in the Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

When you are putting together a New Zealand Bucket List, Milford Sound usually sits pretty close to the top and for good reason. Milford Sound is one of the world’s ‘special places’; one of those once in a lifetime trips that makes you step back and just say ‘Wow!’. You stand there and just take in the majesty of the surroundings and wonder how something so beautiful was ever carved out of the landscape. It’s definitely fair to say that Milford Sound is one of our favourite places in New Zealand to visit but the big question to ask is ‘what should I do when I’m down in Milford Sound?’ and hopefully this post will help you to get your plan together.

Getting to Milford Sound

The first thing to think about is how you are going to get to Milford Sound. Most people make the trip to Milford Sound from Queenstown which is the closest big city, however you can come up to Milford Sound via Invercargill if you are travelling around the lower South Island. From Queenstown it’s 288km to Milford Sound but don’t underestimate how long it will take you to get there whether you’re driving yourself or on a tour bus. The road to Milford Sound is pretty narrow and windy and with lots of traffic going both ways, it’s best just to take your time and get there when you get there. Setting off early in the morning is the best call so you are not having to rush to make one of the tours or cruises.

Lake Te Anau with big tree stump on the foreground, Fiordland, South Island, New Zealand

The stunning lake at Te Anau

Our top tip is to give yourself a night in the stunningly beautiful Te Anau which is around a 2.5 hour drive from Queenstown. It’s a great place to stay for the night and with lots of great walks and stunning scenery, you won’t be disappointed. That way you only have around 1.5 hours to drive down to Milford Sound the next day taking the stress out of the day and leaving you plenty of time to make it for one of the tours or cruises.

If you want some ideas for road trips between Queenstown and Milford Sound or even Invercargill and Milford Sound, make sure you check out some of our awesome road trip itineraries below:

Things to do in and around Milford Sound

There are many ways to explore the area in and around Milford Sound as well as getting out on the water. Whether you’re more of a relaxing cruise person or you are looking for something more adventurous like a hike or a kayaking trip, then there is something for everyone. Here are our top three tips for exploring Milford Sound.

1.      Milford Sound Cruise

Image of Stirling Falls found at Milford Sound in New Zealand's South Island

Stirling Falls found at Milford Sound

Probably the most popular option is to take a relaxing cruise out onto Milford Sound. It’s a great way for exploring the area and Cruise Milford or Go Orange offer some great cruising options depending on the season, how long you want to be out on the water and your budget. Cruise Milford’s 1 hour 45 minute cruise on a small but luxurious boat will take you hunting for wildlife including dolphins and penguins – now that is a pretty special trip! You will also get the chance to sample some fresh glacier water from one of the many waterfalls that feed into the Sounds.

2.      Hike the Milford Track

Image of two walkers enjoying the views at the end of the Milford Track looking over Milford Sound

Walkers enjoying the Milford Track which concludes at Milford Sound

If you have got a bit more time to spend in this stunning part of the world and you love to get out and explore, then the Milford Track is one of New Zealand’s revered ‘Great Walks’ and also one of the most spectacular. The track is 53.5kms and it is recommended you allow 4 days to hike the full length of the track that starts near Te Anau and finishes at Sandfly Bay from where you can get a ferry back across to the main wharf at Milford Sound. There are a series of huts along the way where you can stay and whilst the end of the journey may be the highlight, the journey to get there will blow your mind.

Find out more about New Zealand’s Great Walks.

3.      Kayak Milford Sound

Kayaking is an exhilarating way to explore Milford Sound

Kayaking is an exhilarating way to explore Milford Sound

Cruising Milford Sound may be the most popular way to explore the sounds, however if you want to get a close up experience, there is nothing quite like kayaking Milford Sound to really take in the sheer scale of this place. Dwarfed my Mitre Peak, the Pembroke Glacier and the thundering waterfalls that feed into Milford Sound, you will be truly humbled as you paddle out onto the calm waters. Go Orange Kayaks run a number of kayaking tours and there are opportunities to paddle with dolphins, get up close and personal with seals and get closer than most to the amazing glacial waterfalls. Go Orange run three kayaking trips between 2-4 hours with no paddling experience required.

Save money with GO Play

There are a number of tour operators down in Milford Sound but if you choose to book with GO Rentals, you can access exclusive discounts with our GO Play card. Down in Milford Sound, this includes 10% off with GO Orange Kayaking or Cruising and 10% off with Cruise Milford. Save money and book with GO!

However you choose to explore Milford Sound, you definitely won’t be disappointed. This is one of the highlights of any trip to New Zealand and will leave memories that last a lifetime.

Top tip: If we can leave you with one tip, it’s to make sure you leave enough time to get there and enjoy your day. The roads down from Queenstown to Milford Sound are busy so leave loads of time to get there before you are booked on to any cruise or paddling trip.

GO Play activities in this area

  • 10% Off

    Milford Sound Kayak Day Tour*

    Experience Milford Sound from sea level with a guide and a small group of kayakers. Day Kayak to Milford sound * Ts&Cs apply. Direct Bookings only.

    Go Orange Cruise or Kayak, Manapouri Visitor Centre, Sandy Brown Road. Tel: 03 249 8585

  • 10% Off

    Cruise Milford Sound*

    Join us on-board the Milford Adventurer for a boutique boat cruise you will never forget. We guarantee you an uncrowded, personal experience with up-close viewing of our local wildlife and breath-taking waterfalls. * Offer: Cruise, Coach/Cruise from Queenstown or Te Anau.

    Cruise Milford, 1 Milford Sound Hwy. Tel: 0800 645 367