While Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s most famous places, it can be rather difficult to find the ‘nitty gritty’ facts online about the best way to build your Milford Sound Experience into your vacation. To help you make ideal use of your time, we have put some handy facts here for you.
Where is Milford Sound?
Milford Sound sits within Fiordland National Park in the southwest of New Zealand’s South Island. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and Milford Sound is visited (despite its remote location) by over 600,000 people every year. This makes it one of New Zealand’s most visited natural attractions – and it is worth it!
Milford Sound is bounded by steep cliffs and dense rainforest. It is remote, un-spoilt and continues to impress even the most experienced traveler with its beauty.
What is Milford Sound?
Despite the name Milford Sound, it is actually a fiord and is the only fiord in New Zealand that is accessible by road. At the end of the road is a very small village which is the place referred to as Milford Sound. Milford Sound village is in the south-east corner of Milford Sound itself and this is 15 km (9miles) inland from the Tasman Sea which separates New Zealand from Australia
Where exactly is Milford Sound?
Milford Sound New Zealand MapMap Co-ordinates for Milford Sound:
Latitude -44.672108, Longitude 167.924763
While Milford Sound is achingly close (approximately 70km “as the crow flies”) to the tourist hub of Queenstown, and even closer (approximately 17km “as the crow flies”) to Glenorchy. Milford Sound is a LONG way away from anywhere by New Zealanders' preferred mode of transport – the car!
Just about 'in the middle of nowhere'!
Drive times and distances to Milford Sound from surrounding places:
Milford Sound is 120 km (75miles) or 2 hours from Te Anau, (a charming village and best “launch pad” to Milford Sound)
Milford Sound is 307 km (191 miles) or 4 hours from Queenstown, (adventure capital of New Zealand)
Milford Sound is 340 km (211 miles) or 5 hours from Glenorchy, (beautiful village between Queenstown and the other end of the Routeburn Track)
Milford Sound is 279 km (173 miles) or 4 hours from Invercargill, (New Zealand’s southern most city)
Interestingly, Milford Sound is very close to the start of many of the great walks in Fiordland National Park. You can drive in, admire Milford Sound and then launch into your hiking adventure on the way back! This is a very popular option for people walking the Routeburn Track and they ask us to relocate their car to the other end while they walk. This saves so much time backtracking and you can see more of New Zealand. Find out about Easyhike vehicle relocation’s here.
Milford Sound is only 33 km (21miles) or 45 mins from The Divide (where the Routeburn track starts/finishes, depending on which way you walk!).
Milford Sound is only 89 kms (55 miles) or 1.5 hours from Te Anau Downs, where the famous Milford Track starts. Milford Sound is of course where the Milford Track finishes as well!
Milford Sound is only 122 km (75 miles) or 2 hours from the start of the Kepler Track.
How do I get to Milford Sound?
Milford Sound is accessible by road, air or foot. All of these options offer a unique New Zealand adventure, and stunning Fiordland scenery. For many years, the main reason tourism boomed in the area was because of its famously scenic walks. Including the world famous Milford Track.
As walking is what Easyhike is all about, let’s start with pulling on your boots and walking to Milford Sound along the famous Milford Track!
Milford Sound – by foot via the Milford Track
The first visitors to Milford Sound were the NZ Maori. They, of course, travelled on foot and the grand walks in and around Milford Sound continue to be a reason for travelers to visit Milford Sound today.
The Milford Track is 53.5 km long and cuts an overland route over the highest point on the track, the Mackinnon Pass. It has been described as one of the finest walks in the world with over 14,000 people visiting to walk the track each year. It has now been walked for nearly 130 years and is still impressing people from all walks of life!
The Milford track can only be walked one way, and is accessed at either end by water taxi. Huts on the track book out (like a rock concert!) every great walks season and you have to confirm your plans well in advance to secure hut bookings. Ie. plan a year or so in advance.
Easyhike can help with your walk planning and logistics by providing the level of service that suits your plans from taking care of everything (Milford Track Premium Package), to just the essentials (Milford Track Essentials Package), to just your transport (Milford Track Flexi Pack or Car Relocation).
Our Milford Track Premium Package is topped off with a little bit of luxury at the end of your walk with our Milford Sound Experience including a private chalet for two in Milford Sound, with meals and a cruise on Milford Sound next day to finish.
Milford Sound – by road via the Milford Highway
I mentioned Milford Sound is remote – there is a lot of driving involved! You will be travelling on State Highway 94 (or the obviously named “Milford Highway”). Remember Milford Sound is the only Fiord accessible by road? This is only possible due to a tunnel which takes you literally through the mountain to get there.
The two resort towns that ‘feed’ Milford Sound are Te Anau and Queenstown.
The drive from Te Anau, while only 120km (75miles) can take up to two and a half hours due to a number of factors including amazing photo opportunities and short side walks along the way!
If travelling from Queenstown, the round trip is a mind-numbing 10-12 hrs (the scenery is stunning, but it is a long day!). The journey is however a very memorable one, the Milford Road is one of the most scenic experiences you can have on wheels and showcases the varying terrain of Fiordland National Park beautifully. As mentioned, you also travel inside the Homer Tunnel (opened in the 1950’s). It is 1.2km’s of engineering history. Its unlined granite walls and 1:10 gradient make it an experience in its own right.
The drive is rated as one of the most photographic drives in the world and well worth the effort. However, if you are an inexperienced driver, or are unfamiliar with New Zealand’s narrow/windy roads, your trip may be much more enjoyable if you let someone else do the driving. Buses run regularly from Te Anau or Queenstown. We can arrange this for you, or relocate your car while you enjoy either the Milford Track or the Routeburn Track.
Milford Sound – by air via scenic flight
Flying is certainly the fastest way to get to Milford Sound! The small airport nestled under Mitre Peak can be very busy. Both fixed wing aircraft, and helicopters operate in the area and provide a completely different view of Milford Sound and its National Park surroundings. The cost to fly in can be prohibitive for many travelers, but if time is of the essence, this is the way to go (even if you fly just one way)! The other factor that can stop visitors from choosing this option is the fact that the weather can play a big part in your ability to land (or not!). Many flights are cancelled due to weather so a back up plan is ideal.
What do I need to know?
So you plan to visit Milford Sound on your travels? Awesome! As we have said – Milford Sound is remote and some extra effort is required for those flawless travel plans. Here are a few things you should know so there are less surprises during your trip…
There is no cell phone coverage in Milford Sound.
In fact – you cannot rely on mobile phone coverage at all once you leave Te Anau for Milford Sound.You really are in another world so disconnect and enjoy the break from the outside world while you visit.
You need to start your trip with a full tank of fuel.
If driving yourself, this is a must. It is a long round-trip and while there may be fuel available at Gunns Camp and in Milford Sound, it is priced at a premium and not always available. Fill up before making the 240km round trip and you will be just fine!
You need to prepare for the drive.
If driving in winter/snowy weather, you may need to carry chains. The Milford Road, while scenic and steeped in history, can be dangerous and is best treated with respect. Be prepared and always check the latest road conditions before travelling – milfordroad.co.nz or 0800 4 HIGHWAYS.
You need to dress well
Milford Sound does have its own little micro-climate, but it is still in Fiordland which sees a staggering annual rainfall of over 6,412 mm (252 inches) each year. Snow, ice, and the weather coming in from the Tasman Sea means you can literally experience 4 seasons in one day – even in summer! Dress appropriately with warm and waterproof layers so that you can enjoy your experience!
Don’t forget about the sandflies!
You may have heard about these little black flies which love to bite your exposed skin. Early Maori legend even has it that the god Tu-te-raki-whanoa had just finished creating the landscape of Fiordland, but the landscape was so stunning in beauty that it stopped people from working and they stood around staring in awe. The goddess Hinenuitepo became so angry at these unproductive people that she created the sandfly to bite them and get them moving again! Best way to combat these guys is cover up or use insect repellent.
Can I stay in Milford Sound?
Yes! But do book early! There are camping options and cabin accommodation along/near the Milford Road (Gunns Camp, Knobs Flat and various DOC camping sites).
In Milford Sound itself, you can stay at Milford Sound Lodge which is nestled in amongst the mountains next to the river. These private chalets are a wonderfully relaxing option for some time out and do get booked up very quickly so you need to book well in advance.
Milford Sound has been described as the 8th wonder of the world. It is easy to find, impossible to ignore and possibly the very best spot to explore before or after your Fiordland Great Walk. If you are wanting to combine hiking with a visit to Milford Sound – get in touch and we will help you with the ideal travel options to make best use of your time. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written: 12 articles
Easyhike offers a simple solution for planning your hike, allowing more time for what you enjoy. Leave your car at the trail and we'll drive to the other end whilst you hike. We specialize in Milford, Routeburn and Kepler Track hiking packages.