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Is Milford Sound worth visiting? Your expert guide, 2024

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Have you been wondering whether Milford Sound is worth visiting? I’ve got you covered!

As a native Kiwi who has spent most of my life in New Zealand, I have always been proud of the stunning natural beauty that our country has to offer. So when it came time to choose a Christmas present for my parents last year, I knew exactly what to get them – a trip to Milford Sound.

Spoiler alert: they absolutely loved it and it was worth every penny!

Nestled in the heart of Fiordland National Park, this gem has become a must-visit attraction in New Zealand. Think towering cliffs, cascading waterfalls and wildlife so stunning, that it feels like it’s been curated for a National Geographic special.

But amidst its growing popularity, one question lingers for those planning a Kiwi adventure: Is Milford Sound really worth it?

Long story short, yes it is!

To help you decide for yourself, I’ve gathered all the juicy details, tips, and must-dos and by the end of this blog post, you’ll know if Milford Sound is your next dream destination.

Is Milford Sound worth visiting?

Milford Sound is a breathtaking fjord known for its stunning natural beauty and diverse wildlife, which is one of the many reasons why Milford Sound is worth visiting

Yes, absolutely! Milford Sound is a breathtaking fjord known for its stunning natural beauty and diverse wildlife. It is considered one of the top travel destinations in New Zealand and has even been labeled as the “eighth wonder of the world”.

But what is it that makes Milford Sound so special?

Milford Sound was formed over millions of years by glacial activity, resulting in steep cliffs rising from the deep blue waters. These towering cliffs are often shrouded in mist and surrounded by lush forests, creating a dramatic and mystical atmosphere.

5 reasons why it should be on your bucket list

1. Stunning landscape

One of the main reasons to visit Milford Sound is for its stunning landscape. The fjord is surrounded by towering mountains covered in lush green vegetation and topped with snow-capped peaks.

As you cruise through the sound, you’ll witness some of the most jaw-dropping scenery in all of New Zealand. The most famous waterfall is the 1,900-foot-high Lady Bowen Falls, which can be seen cascading down from Mitre Peak.

The sound is also home to many other waterfalls, both big and small, that are constantly changing with the weather and tides.

Be sure to have your camera ready because every turn offers a picture-perfect moment.

2. Plenty of wildlife

Another reason to visit Milford Sound is for its wildlife. The waters are home to an array of marine life including seals, dolphins, and penguins.

Visitors to the area can take a cruise tour through the sound and have the opportunity to witness these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. If you’re really lucky you might even see some whales, although they don’t tend to visit too often.

The sound is also a bird watcher’s paradise with over 180 different species recorded in the area.

3. It’s an incredible place to relax

Stunning view of Milford Sound, with majestic Mitre Peak rising sharply above the serene, mirror-like waters, surrounded by steep cliffs and lush rainforests, encapsulating the untouched beauty and dramatic landscape of Fiordland National Park.

After a day filled with adventure and exploration, make sure to take some time to relax and appreciate the natural beauty surrounding you.

Sit back on one of the many cruise boats or find a quiet spot on shore and listen as the waterfalls cascade down the towering cliffs.

4. Perfect for adventure lovers

For those seeking adventure, Milford Sound offers plenty of opportunities for hiking, kayaking, and scenic flights.

The famous Milford Track is a 33-mile trek that takes you through some of New Zealand’s most spectacular landscapes including lush rainforests and glacial valleys. It’s regarded as one of the great walks and takes 4 days to complete.

It’s important to note that it is recommended to only do this track from late October to April unless you have alpine experience due to the colder conditions in winter.

For a more leisurely experience, hop on a kayak and paddle through the calm waters while taking in the stunning surroundings.

5. Cultural significance

Milford Sound is not just a beautiful tourist spot, but it also holds cultural significance for the Maori people.

800 years ago is when Maori began to explore Fiordland and consider it a very sacred place to this day. Pounamu, also known as Greenstone, was discovered here which is regarded by all New Zealander’s as a great treasure.

The stone holds a lot of spiritual significance and objects made from this stone are often passed down through different generations.

The name “Milford Sound” itself comes from the Maori name “Piopiotahi,” which means “single piopio,” in reference to a now extinct native bird.

The best time to visit Milford Sound

Breathtaking panorama of Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park, New Zealand, showcasing the tranquil fjord flanked by towering cliffs and waterfalls

The ideal time to visit Milford Sound is during New Zealand’s summer months, from December through February.

During this period, the weather is generally mild and the days are longer, providing ample opportunity to enjoy all that Milford Sound has to offer. Every activity becomes a memorable experience under the clear summer skies.

However, even in these warmer months, it’s advisable to pack waterproof clothing; after all, Milford Sound’s frequent rainfall contributes to its signature waterfalls and lush greenery.

There is no reason why you can’t visit Milford Sound in the winter months, in fact you’ll have less rainy days because Milford Sound gets the most rainfall from October through to March. Make sure you bring some warm clothes with you!

How to get to Milford Sound

There are several ways to reach the breathtaking Milford Sound, each offering its own unique experience.

Drive

For those who prefer a leisurely journey, driving from Queenstown or Te Anau allows you to soak in the dramatic landscapes of Fiordland at your own pace.

This route takes approximately 4-5 hours from Queenstown and about 2-3 hours from Te Anau, but remember to factor in extra time for photo stops – the scenery is strikingly beautiful.

Fly

For those pressed for time or seeking an extraordinary view, consider taking a flight. Several airlines offer flights from Queenstown and Te Anau to Milford Sound.

While more expensive than driving or bus tours, this option provides incredible aerial views of the alpine scenery and saves considerable travel time.

Organised tour

Alternatively, various tours operate daily from both towns, providing a hassle-free way to enjoy the journey without worrying about navigation or road conditions.

This is the option I booked for my parents as it made the day easy for them and the only thing they had to worry about was what time they needed to be at the meeting point and if their camera was charged!

#1 Pick
milford sound new zealand

From Queenstown: Milford Sound Coach & Cruise Full-Day Trip

  • Top rated tour departing from Queenstown with scenic photo stops along the way
  • Cruise boat has 3 indoor and outdoor viewing decks
  • Live commentary with lunch included
#2 Pick
Enchanting view of Milford Sound, where snow-capped peaks loom over the deep fjord, their white summits contrasting with the lush greenery below and reflecting in the glassy waters, highlighting the dramatic and diverse landscape of New Zealand's Fiordland. Another reason why Milford sound is worth visting!

From Te Anau: Milford Sound Coach, Cruise, and Walks

  • Top rated tour departing from Te Anau
  • Short walks and scenic stops with an experienced nature guide
  • Admire rainforests, waterfalls, and wildlife
  • Packed picnic lunch

FAQ: Milford Sound, New Zealand

How much time do you need at Milford Sound?

Ideally, you would want to set aside a full day to truly appreciate the breathtaking beauty of Milford Sound. This will allow you plenty of time to go on a scenic boat cruise, journey through the Fiordland National Park, and even take part in some kayaking.

However, if you’re pressed for time, a minimum of two to three hours should be sufficient to soak up the main sights. Remember, it’s not just about the destination but also the journey there: Milford Road itself is renowned for its enchanting landscapes and numerous stop-off points.

So whether it’s for a few hours or an entire day, your visit to Milford Sound promises to be an unforgettable experience.

Is it safe to drive to Milford Sound?

is milford sound worth visiting 5 1

Absolutely, it is safe to drive to Milford Sound, provided you take some precautions. New Zealand is known for having pretty windy roads and the south island is no exception so make sure you allow yourself plenty of time.

The journey to Milford Sound itself is a spectacular experience with breathtaking landscapes along the route.

However, like any alpine driving, it does come with its unique challenges. Weather conditions can change rapidly, and during winter months there might be icy road conditions or even snowfall that could make driving difficult for those unaccustomed to such environments.

I would recommend carrying snow chains in the winter just incase.

Remember that we drive on the left hand side of the road of New Zealand too so if that’s something you’re not used to then perhaps booking a tour might be the best option, then you can just relax and enjoy the view along the way!

Can you stay in Milford Sound?

Absolutely, you can stay in Milford Sound but due to limited accommodation in the area there’s only one option which is the Milford Sound Lodge.

Most people when they visit Milford Sound would stay in Te Anau or Queenstown and make the journey over on a day trip. To drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound it takes about an hour and 45 minutes.

Then to drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound it takes about 3 hours and 45 minutes so Te Anau is a good option for accommodation if you want to be a bit closer.

Is Milford Sound worth it in the rain?

Yes, Milford Sound is worth visiting even in the rain! In fact, it could be argued that it’s especially magical during rainfall. The landscape transforms dramatically, showcasing a different kind of beauty.

Milford Sound is actually known as the rainiest place in New Zealand so it’s highly likely you’ll get rain when you visit! It rains about 200 days out of the year.

So don’t let a little rain dampen your spirits or your plans to visit Milford Sound – pack a good rain jacket and get ready for an unforgettable adventure!

Can you visit Milford Sound in winter?

is milford sound worth visiting 6

Sure thing! Visiting Milford Sound in winter is an absolute treat. The snow-covered peaks create an even more mind-blowing landscape.

The skies are clearer, and the air is crisp, giving you uninterrupted views of the stunning surroundings.

Plus, you’ll enjoy a quieter Milford Sound with fewer crowds. Just remember to bundle up and check the weather before hitting the road, as it can get a bit icy.

Final Thoughts: Is Milford Sound Worth It?

Considering its breathtaking beauty, wide range of experiences, and the universal acclaim it receives, it’s pretty obvious that Milford Sound is indeed worth visiting.

Nature’s beauty is on full display here – it’s a must-see that’ll leave you wanting to remember every moment. From cascading waterfalls to towering cliffs and diverse wildlife, prepare to have your mind blown.

Whether you opt to soak in its majesty on a boat cruise under the towering cliffs or decide to hike along its rugged terrains for a closer communion with nature, one thing’s for sure – visiting Milford Sound is not just worth it; it’s a must-do to complete your New Zealand adventure.

Other than Milford Sound, New Zealand is an incredible country brimming with numerous other hidden gems waiting to steal the spotlight. So make sure to explore everything it has to offer!

Curious about where to head next? I invite you to join me on my next adventure as we uncover the “Best Day Trips from Queenstown“.

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