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How to Visit Milford Sound From Queenstown, New Zealand

How to Visit Milford Sound From Queenstown, New Zealand

A quick but useful travel guide for those planning a trip to Milford Sound from Queenstown. How to get here, what to expect and inspiring photography from one of the world’s most beautiful fjords.

The alluring Milford Sound. Imagine cruising down misty fjords, with endless waterfalls sweeping down the Jurassic cliffs on either side of you. What if I told you that you could witness these scenes by jumping on a quick bus to Milford Sound from Queenstown?

I’ve visited New Zealand’s South Island several times and always make a stop at the incredible Milford Sound. Whether you’re into a self-drive itinerary or trying to find the most cost-effective tour from Queenstown, my guide will have you covered.

Featured in: Top Things to do in Queenstown, New Zealand

How to Get to Milford Sound

There are two main options for getting to Milford Sound from Queenstown. The first is to rent a car and drive through to Fiordland National Park, or to simply book a tour with transport included. I've taken both of these options, and below I'll give you a rundown of how to do it.

Option 1: Milford Sound Bus Tour from Queenstown

Those without the luxury of their own transport can purchase a Milford Sound package from Queenstown. There's no shortage of tours operators, most offering similar packages that often take the same boat ferry at the fjord (Milford Sound is actually a fjord, not a sound).

The main difference will be the bus that takes you through the National Park. However, the stops along the Fjordlands tend to vary also.

But, to save you doubling up by booking the same trip through a more expensive middle-man, I'll link to the best ones that with the best rates below.

1. Cheapest Coach & Cruise Combo

This is the bus tour that I booked when I first organised my trip to Milford Sound from Queenstown. The trip is run by Real Journeys, the most popular and economical option for those based in Queenstown without a vehicle.

To this day, I'd still recommend this option for most travellers as the trip is much cheaper than most others. Furthermore, the bus stops at some scenic locations in the Fjordland National Park to stretch the legs and see the epic sights the region has to offer.

2. Small-Group Van & Cruise Combo

For those who would like to experience the beauty of the fjord on a day trip from Queenstown without feeling like a tourist, the Small group van & cruise tour is a great option. These small-group tours are becoming more popular by the year and offer a more personal experience.

3. Epic Half-Day Helicopter Trip

For those of you who want to see Milford Sound in style and don't want to waste a day on a bus, this epic Milford helicopter day trip might be your ticket. This option is an epic half-day adventure from Queenstown that takes you over the Fiordland mountains by Helicopter.

It also includes a cruise and return helicopter to Queenstown.

waterfall in milford sound

Option 2: Self Drive to Milford Sound

Those with a van or vehicle can drive directly to the Sound by themselves. However, you will need to drive around Lake Te Anau and through National Parklands. The drive is nearly 250 km and you will definitely want to stop for several photo opportunities.

You will pass glaciers, waterfalls, lookouts, and epic hiking opportunities. This part of New Zealand feels like it's straight off the silver screen. It will take roughly 4 hours of driving to reach Milford Sound from Queenstown, so if you're looking to see it on a day trip, you better leave early.

Once you arrive at the Milford Sound Visitor Centre, you can take the chance of squeezing a spot on the busy boats or just book your ticket online in advance.

peter's lookout drive we seek travel

Tip: How to Get Around in New Zealand

Rent a car! New Zealand is very safe for motorists & driving is the best way to explore the country.

Make sure to book in advance using a comparison site like DiscoverCars to get the best deals. Or, if you want a camper, my favourite in NZ is Spaceships.

milford sound waterfall on a day trip from queenstown

What to Expect from a Boat Journey Through Milford Sound

Undoubtedly, visitors can get the best views of Milford Sound from the deck of one of the many cruise boats. If you're taking the day trips mentioned above, this is included.

However, if you have your own transport to Milford Sound from Queenstown, check out the options for the best boat trips below.

Premium Cruise on a Glass-Roof Catamaran:

This one is currently discounted and quite popular since it's only a little dearer than the bigger tourist boats. If you're after a premium experience on Milford Sound for a cheap price, this is your best bet.

Nature Cruise:

This cruise is provided by Real Journeys, arguably the most popular boat option on Milford Sound. This price is for the boat journey only, so you will need to drive here yourself.

As you cruise down the fjord, you will get to witness some epic surging waterfalls, wild seals sunbathing on the rocks and the famous Mitre Peak sticking through the cloud cover.

seels relaxing on milford sound

What is the Best Time to Visit Milford & The Fjordlands?

Milford Sound is usually on the list of most visiting New Zealand's South Island. However, is there really a best time to go to Milford Sound? With a mean annual rainfall of nearly 6500 mm (252 inches), it's recognised as the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand. It is also one of the wettest in the whole world!

Most people that visit Milford Sound from Queenstown experience at least a little bit of rain. In saying that, a few showers on your cruise down the Sound will excite those looking to witness the endless flow of temporary waterfalls.

milford sound from queenstown waterfall and rainbow

While it is quite wet all year round, the hottest months are in Summer, from January to February. During this time, temperatures can get up to 27 degrees Celsius. The cooler Winter months drop as low as 15 degrees Celsius.

Due to the consistent rainfall and moderate heat, there isn't the best time to visit Milford Sound. It totally depends on what you want to see. Personally, I prefer the Spring months for better hiking opportunities on the South Island.

milford sound waterfalls
glaciers in the westfjords

More New Zealand Travel Guides and Adventure Inspiration

I hope that you have enjoyed this quick guide on how to experience Milford Sound from Queenstown. If you're travelling in New Zealand and interested in finding some more travel and adventure inspiration, please check out some of my other blog posts below.

weseektravel pinterest milford sound from queenstown new zealand