We recommend visiting Milford Sound via helicopter from Queenstown
We recommend visiting Milford Sound via helicopter from Queenstown

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 in the South Island. There is only one long windy road as access to the area. But there are several ways to access Milford Sound. Including via bus and coach travel, self-drive or by either fixed wing plane or helicopter. The method you choose will depend on the amount of time you have, your New Zealand travel budget and what type of traveller you are.

Google map of Queenstown to Milford Sound via vehicle
Google map of Queenstown to Milford Sound via vehicle

Self Driving vs taking a coach to Milford Sound?

Day tours to Milford Sound depart the towns of Queenstown or Te Anau almost every day of the year. The most economical way to visit 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 approximately 3 hours 45 min, and from Te Anau around 2 hours. The road can be extremely busy over the summer months. Coaches and cars full of tourists all make their way towards Milford Sound in the morning. This can result in your trip taking longer than anticipated.

If you don’t want to spend all day in a vehicle visiting Milford Sound, consider a helicopter or fixed wing flight

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 mins of flying time from Queenstown. You’ll also get a much better vista and get closer to those impressive waterfalls and hanging cliffs for photo opportunities! There are a few different options to choose from. Either a straight fly over or you can choose to land at Milford and join one of the cruises available. 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 fixed wing option offers a similar experience at around half the cost

A less expensive option for visiting Milford Sound by helicopter is via a fixed wing aircraft. The flight time for the fixed wing is slightly longer at 45 mins but around half the cost of a helicopter. This choice doesn’t 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 min cruise for those with less time available and an extended itinerary at 2 hours, 30 mins.

Landing at Milford airport in a fixed wing aircraft
Landing at Milford airport in a fixed wing aircraft

Fly to Milford Sound, walk part of the Milford track then take a cruise in the sounds, before flying home

A unique option to visit Milford Sound is a flight from Queenstown on a fixed wing plane, followed bay a walk and cruise. Your flight path takes you over over the Wakatipu Basin and into Fiordland with spectacular views of Milford Sound. Upon landing take a short boat ride to the start of the Milford Track. Then enjoy a 3 1/2 hour guided walk on part of the Milford Track. Follow the Arthur River on a well formed track, then on to 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 flight. This is a great option for anyone wanting to walk a portion of the Milford Track with limited time. Just so you know this trip can also be done on a helicopter insead.

One of the many waterfalls in Fiordland
One of the many waterfalls in Milford Sound.

As you can see there are several great options to visit Milford Sound. Ask our team which option best suits your itinerary and pocket.

Read more about related helicopter flight options around New Zealand

Luxury Adventures – Tailoring luxury travel in New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific Islands since 1999.

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