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 Milford Sound Tours - everything you need to know

Milford Sound tours are the most popular activity in New Zealand, and there's a very good reason for that.

Have you ever been to a place that just leaves you breathless?

Well Milford Sound is one of those places.

The beauty and majesty of Milford is something that you will never, ever, forget.

Snow capped peaks, at times disappear into the mist.

Towering waterfalls plummet into the deep dark waters, and you crane your neck to watch it all unfold!

As you cruise the calm waters of Milford, eyes peeled for local wildlife, someone shouts, "there's a seal" or "a dolphin", and you rush to catch a picture.

You will marvel at the underwater wonders seen at the Milford Discovery Center and Underwater Observatory, where corals, anemones and other wildlife thrive in this unique environment.

And if you choose to walk the famous Milford Track, you will quickly understand why it has been rated as one of the World's great walks.

Milford Sound was once described by the great English author Rudyard Kipling, as the "Eighth Wonder of the World", and when you visit, you will understand why.

On this page

There's lots of information on this page about Milford Sound tours, so to make it easier for you to find what you need, we've created some quick links below.

Just click your chosen link below. When you finish just click your browsers "back" button to return here.

* what types of tours are available?

* read about our "Top Picks"

* where is Milford Sound?

* getting to Milford Sound

* is it crowded there?

* when is the best time to go to Milford Sound?

* some information about Milford Sound

* the Milford Discovery Center and Underwater Observatory

What Milford Sound tours are available?

Tours to mystical Milford Sound are run by several different companies, and a tour of this iconic spot should be the number one thing on your New Zealand "to do" list.

Spectacular scenery on the nature cruise from Te Anau - click for more information

Have you thought about.....

Are you going to travel from Queenstown, or Te Anau? Are you driving yourself, or taking an organized guided tour? Have you thought about an overnight cruise, or perhaps flying in and out of Milford Sound?

Our "How do I get to Milford Sound" section might clarify things for you.

To view the various types of Milford Sound tours, and to read customer reviews, just choose one of the links below.

Types of Milford Sound Tours

* from Queenstown

* hiking tours

* from Te Anau

* flights to and from Milford Sound

* overnight cruises on Milford Sound

View the full range of Milford Sound tours

To see a full range of Milford Sound tours, to read customer reviews, check availability, and to make those important tour bookings, just click here.

Or, just scroll down to read about our "top picks".

Here they are, our top picks

We've taken the guess work out of choosing the right tour.

Based on our customer reviews, and our own experience, here are our top picks (be sure to read the reviews):

Looking over the Milford Road west of the Homer Tunnel

1) Milford Sound day trip from Queenstown including cruise. A big day (over 12 hours) but well worth it. Very highly rated.

2) Above and below Milford - cruise, kayak, and underwater observatory. The observatory and optional kayak trip make this a very special tour. See what other delighted guests said here.

3) Wake up on the Milford Mariner - overnight cruise on Milford Sound. This is an awesome experience! (please note that this cruise closes for the winter period from mid May to mid September).

4) The Milford Sound Full Day Extraordinaire Tour from Te Anau, which includes lots of amazing excursions along the way.

Where Is Milford Sound?

Milford Sound. Have you even seen anything like this?

Milford Sound is located on the lower western coast of New Zealand's South Island, and is part of the stunning Fiordland National Park.

And although it's an isolated wilderness, it is easily accessible.

You can click here to see maps showing Milford Sound's location.

The equally impressive Doubtful Sound is another popular destination in the region, and if time permits, we highly recommend a trip to both.

How do I get to Milford Sound?

Queenstown is the major departure point for Milford Sound tours. Access to Milford Sound from Queenstown is available by air (weather permitting) and road, with most visitors choosing to go by coach.

The 295 kilometer road trip from Queenstown takes about 4 hours each way, which makes for a long day if you choose to drive yourself.

In our opinion it's much better to let someone else do the driving, and that's why we recommend that you take an organized coach tour if traveling from Queenstown.

Another option is to stay overnight in the lovely lake side village of Te Anau, which is about 120 kilometers from Milford Sound (you can check out accommodation in Te Anau here).

The East entrance to the Homer Tunnel

Accommodation in Milford Sound is limited to Milford Sound Lodge and Mitre Peak Lodge (Mitre Peak Lodge is generally only available to walkers on the Milford Track). 

Road access to Milford Sound is via State Highway 94. The journey into Milford Sound is an experience in itself, as you pass over raging creeks, through massive gorges and between snow covered mountains.

If you travel to Milford Sound by road, you will travel through the Homer Tunnel , which passes through the Main Divide at the Homer Saddle. It was opened in 1954, and allows road access to Milford Sound from Queenstown and Te Anau.

The Homer Tunnel is 1.2 kilometers long, and opens into the forest clad peaks of the Cleddau Valley, reminiscent of something from Jurassic Park.

From Invercargill to Milford Sound takes around three and a half hours drive (each way), and from Dunedin to Milford Sound is around five hours drive (each way).

Is It Crowded At Milford Sound?

Milford Sound is the number one tourist attraction in New Zealand, and with good reason.

Magical Milford Sound - pic courtesy Tourism Holdings

Over 500,000 people take Milford Sound tours each year, and according to Wikipedia, it has been voted as the number 1 tourist destination in the world. However it never feels crowded, and because of it's size, once you get out onto the water, you could be a million miles from anywhere.

The famous British author, Rudyard Kipling referred to Milford Sound as the Eighth Wonder of the World, and when you visit you will understand why.

When's the best time for Milford Sound tours?

Milford Sound is one of those places that is stunning at any time of the year. The sheer grandeur of Milford ensures that no matter what time you visit, you will be blown away by what you see.

Here's a snapshot of what to expect by the seasons:

The Milford Sound Kayak tour - Click for more information on this great tour


This is the main season for hiking. With longer days and less rain, the trails remain drier, and the local wildflowers are in majestic bloom. If you are coming in Summer, be sure to book your accommodation and tours in advance, as places fill fast.


Autumn brings a drop in temperatures and some beautiful changes to the foliage, as the trees change for the season. And the change in season also encourages the local wildlife, like seals and penguins, to spark up. So if you're a lover of wildlife, this could be the time for you to visit.

The Milford Mariner


The shorter days lead to snow in the valleys, and the surrounding peaks glisten in the sun. The trails are uncrowded and the brisk air refreshes as you take in the wonder of the region. Perhaps this is the best time to see a true piece of New Zealand wilderness?


During spring, the melting snows turn the rivers and waterfalls into raging torrents, and the cool, calm mornings lead into clear days.

If you like your waterfalls, this is the time of year to visit.

About Milford Sound

Milford Sound extends 15 kilometres inland from the Tasman Sea. This spectacular area is home to towering snow capped peaks that rise up to

People admiring the steep cliffs at Milford Sound - pic courtesy Sue Lovell

1,200 meters (3,900 feet) from the deep dark waters of the sound.

Massive water falls plummet from the sheer walls of the sound, and run constantly due to the heavy rainfall received in the area.

The sound can be viewed by air, by cruise boat, or by kayak. As mentioned, flights are very dependent on weather conditions, which can change dramatically and at short notice. Combined coach/boat tours are the preferred option, and provide great commentary on Milford Sound and surrounds.

The cruise boat trips usually last 1 to 2 hours, and provide the perfect platform to take in the sheer size and majesty of your surrounds. And don't be put off by the weather.

It rains regularly in the sounds, but in our opinion that adds to the character of Milford Sound. Many a great photo has been taken of Mitre Peak, disappearing into the clouds.

The Milford Sound Underwater Observatory

And rain means that the waterfalls are running at capacity. Want to spend a little longer on Milford Sound? No problem. An overnight cruise on the Milford Mariner allows heaps of time to explore. The Mariner has kayaks and a tender vessel to allow closer exploration, and anchors at night in the sheltered confines of Harrison Cove. A buffet dinner and breakfast are included as is your accommodation onboard in an ensuite cabin.

Milford Sound is home to a wide variety of marine life, and bottle nose dolphins, fur seals, Fiordland Crested penguins, Little Blue penguins, and whales may all be seen from time to time.

The Milford Discovery Center and Underwater Observatory

The Milford Discovery Center and Underwater Observatory is located in Harrison's Cove, within Milford Sound, and is only accessible by boat.

High rainfall and Milford's narrow shape allows a layer of fresh water to sit on top of the seawater. This encourages normally deep water species to thrive at a much shallower depth.

Milford Sound's underwater observatory

Once inside the observatory you descend for about ten meters below the surface of the sound.

Then, in air conditioned comfort, you'll get a unique view of Milford Sound's amazing marine life.

View black coral, sea stars, anemones, mussels, octopus and various varieties of fish.

It's an awesome experience.

And if you are feeling particularly adventurous, you can even take a guided diving tour and see these amazing marine wonders up close.

The observatory visit is available at extra cost on some tours and needs to be booked at the time you book your trip.

Here is a tour that includes entry to the observatory - click here.

Milford Sound Tours Summary

All of the hype about Milford Sound tours is true. It is one of the most amazing locations on earth. Milford

Sound is one of those rare places that you just can't forget. The majesty and beauty are mind blowing.

So please, when planning your New Zealand itinerary, if at all possible, include a trip to this spectacular place.


Map Fiordland National Park New Zealand

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Milford Sound is one of the most spectacular places I've ever been to. I didn't do my research when booking a Milford Sound tour, instead I just went along …

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