Visitors often ask, are they better off driving themselves into Milford Sound from Queenstown or get on one of the tour buses? For most people the answer is quite simple, a bus tour offers numerous distinct advantages over self-driving to Milford Sound. The least being the hassle of driving on a road where conditions aren't always ideal.
The Road, let’s have a brief overview of the road to Milford Sound. Even though, as the crow flies, Queenstown is only 80km from Queenstown, that space is filled with high mountains, deep lakes and dense rainforest. A return road trip involves 604km of winding road. You have to weave your way around and through some serious wild and mountainous country. It’s worth it, because every kilometre is spectacular, however if you are driving, this road demands concentration, you are bound to miss something that is easily seen and pointed out from the elevated viewing platform of a bus. Remember you have to drive back, you will arrive back in Queenstown definitely feeling like you have driven all day.
The Cost, take into account the price of fuel, the amount of kilometres, car hire, insurance, the boat cruise etc. Driving yourself will probably work out pretty similar, except you don't have someone driving for you. Note: there are no gas stations in Milford Sound and the last shopping to be done is at Te Anau!
The View, the buses are custom built for getting the best view of the scenery, the full support of a good reclining seat with lots of leg room over a 9 hour drive is hard to beat. The added height of the bus gives a better view, and remember a lot of the trip is through very high yet spectacular alpine valleys, a coach with large windows and a glass roof gives you unsurpassed views.
The Knowledge, knowing what you are looking at and what to look for. This area is incredible and the more you know about it’s unique geology and history the more fascinating it becomes. The drivers / guides are long time locals who are passionate about this place. A fascinating part of these tours are the amazing stories, details of the flora and fauna, geography and history that add a huge and not to be missed dimension to that once in a lifetime Milford Sound visit. Most importantly these guys will make sure you don't miss those must see places along the road, easily missed when you are driving.
The Convenience, when you go to Milford Sound in a coach they have the day planned perfectly. You are picked up from your accommodation and on the bus for an early start to make the most of the day. The bonus, the morning light in this area is amazing. You arrive in Te Anau at the right time for coffee and a bite. Before leaving you are reminded to get what you need, while you can. At Milford Sound the coach drives straight up to the boat terminal, where you can get straight on the boat. With very limited parking space in Milford Sound, finding a convenient place to leave your car can be a challenge - it's a busy and very confined place.
One major bonus of visiting Milford Sound by coach that most travellers don't take into account is the luxury of being able to have a nap on the return trip and be fresh enough to go out and enjoy Queenstown that evening. Queenstown at evenings are legendary and the great dining and night life should not be missed at any opportunity. Take the bus, and make that trip of lifetime to spectacular Milford Sound the best it can be.