Milford Sound, New Zealand

7 Tips For Exploring Milford Sound from Queenstown

July 24, 2019

Picture this: a piece of land full of mountains, rainforests and waterfalls that’s almost completely untouched. A relaxing getaway from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. A place where time seems to stand still and living is simple.

That’s how it feels to venture to Milford Sound from Queenstown.

A fiord in the southwest of the South Island of New Zealand, Milford Sound is home to penguins, dolphins and fur seal colonies alike. From the towering peaks of the Fiordland National Park to the mirror-like lakes, there’s a reason why this spectacular landscape is one of the main tourist attractions in New Zealand.

If you plan to explore Milford Sound from Queenstown in the near future or at some point in your life, read on for 7 things you should know before travelling there.

Exploring Milford Sound from Queenstown

1. It’s a Long Journey

First things first, heads up, the journey to Milford Sound from Queenstown is a rather long one if you go by road.

(I’m talking almost four hours!)

If you’re taking a famous Milford Sound cruise then you’ll likely get picked up from Queenstown by the cruise company and then dropped back off at the end of the day.

Don’t fancy booking a Milford Sound tour, have a car and would rather do your own road trip? Great idea – this is what I did when I recently went with my boyfriend and sister, and we found that it allowed us to cover more ground in a lengthier amount of time.

Plus, if you drive yourself, you can go at your own pace. You can even break up the trip halfway through and stay in the charming town of Te Anau for the night, known as “The Gateway to the Fiords.”

Oh, and if you do stay over in Te Anau, be sure to head to Redcliff Cafe for dinner. Lord of the Rings fans, in particular, won’t be disappointed. (The actors used to like to eat there while filming!)

Redcliff Cafe

JUMPER – PRIMARK (similar) / CULOTTES – KMART, NZ (similar) / TRAINERS – COTTON ON, AU (similar) / BAG – FOREVER 21 (similar) / SUNGLASSES – PRIMARK (similar)

2. It’s Remote

Another thing you should know about the journey to Milford Sound from Queenstown is that it’s very remote.

If you’re just doing the two hours straight to Te Anau, you should be good – but if you’re staying over somewhere between Te Anau and Milford Sound, then beware.

My BF, sis and I made the mistake of not taking much food with us, not realising that there’s literally one cafe open in Milford during winter until just 4pm. This meant that we had to drive back to Te Anau for dinner on our second night due to non-existent restaurants and supermarkets.

Note to selves: always do your research. Oops.

Milford Sound to Queenstown

3. It Rains Lot

In terms of Milford Sound weather, you also need to know that it rains a lot in those parts.

Renowned as one of the wettest areas of New Zealand (and one of the wettest locations in the world!), it rains in Milford for 182 days on average each year.

Did it rain while I was there with my homies? Of course it did.

However, it’s impossible for the rain to dampen your spirits when you’re in such a picturesque place. True story.

Lake Te Anau

4. It’s Beautiful

Super untouched and consequently super peaceful, the road to Milford Sound from Queenstown is simply breathtaking.

Even though you don’t have a lot of food choices, the fact that it’s such a remote area makes you feel like you’ve fallen asleep and entered a dream world. There’s something so surreal about driving through mountains, waterfall-spotting and not seeing many other signs of civilisation.

Sometimes it’s nice to escape the crowds of a bigger city, built-up areas and industrialisation – and just take things back to basics for a weekend.

Milford Sound from Queenstown

5. There’s Limited Phone Service

Being a small business owner, I additionally loved the fact that you’re not able to get phone service on the journey to Milford Sound from Te Anau.

Why? Well, I’m a big believer in taking a digital detox every once in a while for your mental health.

There’s something truly wonderful about being able to switch off our phones and allowing ourselves to be distraction-free so that we can just live our lives like the generations before us.

Seriously, try it sometime. It’s unbelievably relaxing.

Fiordland National Park

6. There Are Tons of Nice Walks

Nature lovers, rejoice! Milford Sound offers a bunch of hiking trails and unique walks.

No matter what your skill level is, you’re bound to enjoy trekking through the wildness with your road trip buddies and soaking in all the incredible sights that Milford has to offer.

Us? We stopped for photos and little walks almost every ten minutes! There’s so much to see and we didn’t want to waste any opportunities.

Mirror Lakes

7. The Cruise is Worth It

Finally, if you’re wondering whether to cruise Milford Sound, then I’d say go for it 100%. On the other hand, you can choose to take a scenic flight (which I’m sure is also amazing).

That said, for me, you just can’t beat being amongst the scenery, which is exactly what you get for three hours on a Milford Sound nature cruise. There is also an overnight option if you want to explore as much as you can.

In terms of the best Milford Sound cruise, I can only recommend the one that I’ve personally experienced. Real Journeys is a great company and actually offer significant discounts if you go during the winter months (May-September).

Milford Sound Cruise


Milford Sound from Queenstown: You Won’t Regret It

Whether you choose to embark upon a one-day coach tour to Milford Sound from Queenstown or just do a weekend trip like I did, one thing’s for sure: this is one pretty place that’s not to be missed.

Te Anau

Have you been to Milford Sound from Queenstown? Do you need help planning your trip? Let me know in the comments!

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