Milford Sound is one of the most popular tourist hotspots in New Zealand, and it’s not surprising why, with dramatic landscapes, waterfalls and wildlife galore, it is a delightful experience.
We are often asked for our opinion on the best way to see this stunning UNESCO heritage site so we’ve put together some information to help you choose the best way to visit Milford Sound from Queenstown.
The helicopter trip to Milford Sound is spectacular – take in Mountains, glaciers, rain forests, waterfalls and the west coast of the South Island from above. The benefits of opting for a helicopter for this flight is their incredible manoeuvrability, allowing you to observe wildlife and waterfalls up close, and travel within the pristine valleys instead of above them.
The most popular option is a heli / cruise / heli package, where you will land at Milford Sound Airport, and board a cruise, which allows you to truly experience the scale of the fjord from the water level. Most Heli/Cruise/Heli packages also include a landing on both the way out to Milford Sound, and the way back, and often this includes a snow or ice landing where possible.
A helicopter is by far our favourite way to experience Milford Sound and a once in a lifetime activity which will leave you with fond memories to take away from your holiday!
With similar views to the helicopter flight, the fixed-wing planes are a cheaper option to fly to Milford – each person has a window seat, and the flight takes around 35-40 minutes on average. Unlike the helicopter, you won’t stop along the way, but you will fly over glorious glaciers and get some beautiful arial views.
Again, the most popular option is the fly / cruise / fly, which allows you to land at Milford Sound Airstrip (it seriously must be a contender for the most beautiful airstrip in the world…) and embark on a cruise to take in the landscape from a different perspective. Like the helicopter flight, we think this is a really special way to see the fjord – from above to see the entirety in all its majesty and from the ground to appreciate the scale.
The road from Te Anau to Milford is pretty wonderful – the scenery is second to none, and there are enough scenic stops along the way to stretch your legs without feeling too claustrophobic in the car. Despite what google maps might tell you, any local will know the drive normally takes around 4-5 hours (including stops) due to its windy nature and stunning viewpoints. It’s not the best drive for anyone that suffers from motion sickness, so do keep that in mind if you are travelling with children. On arrival in Milford Sound, you can easily find the ferry terminal and check-in for your cruise. Most cruises are between 90-120 minutes and will take you in a loop around the sound to see the waterfalls and wildlife. Beyond the boat cruises, there are very limited alternative activities in Milford – most visitors will drive-in, do a cruise, and drive back in a day, so it can be quite a long day spent mostly in the car.
Access Milford by heli, plane or car, but for a lovely peaceful experience, an overnight cruise (only available in summer) is a lovely option. Whilst during the day you will find a trail of boats looping around the fjord, the overnight experience is very different. With just a couple of boats staying overnight, you can get to experience Milford Sound at its most peaceful.
The team at MajorDomo are experts in luxury accommodation and can find you the perfect holiday home, luxury lodge, or boutique hotel for your next Queenstown stay, but we also love to help our guests choose the best local experiences when staying with us. Get in touch with our team to learn more about our accommodation and concierge booking services!