Situated on the west coast of the South Island, Milford Sound / Piopiotahi is a must-see with its towering peaks, cascading waterfalls and jaw-dropping views.
Famously described by Rudyard Kipling as the 'eighth wonder of the world', Milford Sound / Piopiotahi is breath-taking in any weather - with its fiord's cliffs, mountainous peaks and waterfalls as high as 1000 metres. When it rains in Milford Sound, and it often does, those waterfalls multiply with magnificent effect.
Many people begin their visit to the Sound from Queenstown or Te Anau, being approximately four hours from Queenstown and two hours from Te Anau.
Things to do in Milford Sound
Explore Milford Sound on a coach and cruise tour, go kayaking, or lace up your walking shoes and tackle some of the stunning tracks in the area.
Cruise Milford Sound
Boat cruises – during the day or overnight – are an excellent way to experience the Sound. Adventurous types might also like to head out sea kayaking, diving or flightseeing. To learn more about the local marine life, visit the underwater observatory at Harrison Cove and marvel at the black coral, 11-legged sea stars and delicate anemones.
Go kayaking in Milford Sound
Kayaking offers paddlers an unforgettable opportunity to see the region's spectacular fiords at sea level as well as explore untouched waterways and lakes.
For the truly adventurous, enjoy an overnight kayaking adventure in Doubtful Sound.
Diving and snorkelling in Milford Sound
Black coral, native to the Fiordland area, can be viewed in Milford Sound. Despite it's name, living black coral is actually white and often has a colourful kaleidoscope of other sponges, corals and snake stars that attach themselves to the black coral, they are usually bright yellows, greens and oranges. Only when the coral has died does it become black in colour.
Black coral trees are known to grow to five metres high and can be viewed at just 10 metres deep. There are a variety of sponges, hyroids, coral, ascidians and bryozoans.
Hike the Milford Track
If you enjoy hiking or trekking, theMilford Track is for you. The four-day track begins at the northern end ofLake Te Anau and winds its way through some of the world’s most vivid wilderness. Your journey ends with a boat trip from Sandfly Point to the Milford Sound wharf.
During the Great Walks season (from the start of October until the end of April) the DOC huts on the Milford Track book up months in advance. If you're keen on hiking the Milford Track, it's best to plan and book well in advance.
Getting to Milford Sound
There are many ways to get to Milford Sound, such as by self-drive, coach, cruise tour or air travel.
The road into Milford Sound is almost as beautiful as the fiord itself. Make the most of the trip and explore some of Fiordland's best short hikes, including stops such as the Mirror Lakes, the Lake Gunn Nature Walk and Monkey Creek. It's worth noting that the drive is narrow and winding. It is also prone to damage from flooding and slips, and can be covered in snow in winter. If you plan on driving to Milford, it's best to check the conditions before your drive and allow plenty of time and to drive carefully.
Going by coach or a cruise tour also allows you to spend more time enjoying the incredible landscapes along the way. Most coaches will stop along the way so you have the chance to take photos and admire the scenery.
When travelling by road, visiting the Sound takes a full day so you'll want to stay a night or two. If you're short on time the fastest way to get to Milford Sound is to take a scenic flight from Queenstown.
The weather in Milford Sound
Fiordland is one of the wettest areas of New Zealand. It is known for its high rainfall and can have cool temperatures all year round. On average, Milford Sound receives rain 182 days of the year.
In summer, temperatures are usually around 18 degrees Celsius (64 degrees Fahrenheit) and 4 degrees (41 Fahrenheit) in winter. No matter when you choose to visit, wear warm layers and bring a waterproof jacket.
Is Milford Sound worth it in the rain?
Milford Sound is even more beautiful in the rain. More rainfall means the waterfalls are more spectacular, and when mist drapes itself over the mountain tops it only adds to the mythical beauty of the fiord. You're likely to get splashed with water when on a Milford Sound cruise anyway, so put on your raincoat and some waterproof shoes and embrace the weather!