A visit to Milford Sound is usually high on the bucket list for most visitors to New Zealand. Milford Sound is located in the remote Fiordland National Park, South Island, with only one long windy road as access to the area. There are several ways to access Milford Sound, including bus and coach travel, self-drive or air travel by means of a fixed wing plane or helicopter. The method you choose will depend on the amount of time you have, your budget and what type of traveller you are.
Day tours to Milford depart the towns of Queenstown or Te Anau. The most economical way to reach Milford Sound is to self drive or take a coach and join a cruise. If you choose to drive to Milford Sound, it’s fair to say you’ll miss a lot of the dramatic scenery along the way, on a coach you can sit back and relax and take in the stunning scenery.
The drive from Queenstown is a approximately a 4 hour drive, and from Te Anau around 2 hours. The road can be very busy over the summer months, with coaches and cars full of tourists making their way towards Milford in the morning, resulting in your trip taking longer than expected. So if time is of consideration and budget allows we recommend taking a scenic flight either by helicopter or fixed wing plane. Via Helicopter is the quickest way with around 30 minutes of flying time, you’ll also get a much better vista and are able to get closer to those impressive waterfalls and hanging cliffs presenting abundant photo opportunities! There are a number of options, from a straight fly over or you can choose to land at Milford and join one of the cruises available for a leisurely 2 hour cruise along the sounds. Or perhaps upgrade to a helicopter flight that lands atop Mt Tutoko glacier (the highest peak in Fiordland National Park), and a secluded West Coast beach. A less expensive option to a helicopter would be a fixed wing aircraft, the flying time for the fixed wing is slightly longer at 45 minutes, however this choice does not allow for any glacier or beach landings but it does allow the option to join a cruise at Milford. There are a couple of cruise options; a scenic 1 hour 40 minute cruise for those with less time available and an extended itinerary at 2 hours, 30 minutes.
A relatively new option is a flight from Queenstown on a fixed wing plane, over the Wakatipu Basin and into Fiordland taking in views of the Milford Sound, upon landing take a short boat ride to the start of the Milford Track, and enjoy a 3 1/2 hour guided walk on part of the Milford Track, following Arthur River on a well formed track, then Lake Ada to Giant Gate Waterfall. After the walk you’ll return to the visitors centre and join a cruise through the sounds, returning to Queenstown by a flight. This is a great option for anyone wanting to walk a portion of the Milford Track with limited time.
As you can see there are several great options to see this 8th wonder of the world, ask our team which option best suits your itinerary and pocket.
Kay Campbell is a luxury travel consultant for Luxury Adventures. Talk to us about planning your next visit to New Zealand, Australia or the South Pacific Islands.