Situated on the west coast of the South Island, hours from the nearest town, Milford Sound is where plunging cliffs and raging waterfalls meet inky dark waters. This is New Zealand's wild side at its absolute best.
Famously described by Rudyard Kipling as the 'eighth wonder of the world', Milford Sound was carved by glaciers during the ice ages.
Breathtaking in any weather, the fiord's cliffs rise vertically from the dark waters, mountain peaks scrape the sky and waterfalls cascade downwards from as high as 1000 metres.
When it rains in Milford Sound, and it often does, those waterfalls multiply with magnificent effect.
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.
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.
Milford Sound & Fiordland's land-before-time landscapes are best explored by kayak. If you're lucky, you might even spot a bottlenose dolphin or fur seal.
Kayaking offers paddlers an unforgettable opportunity to see the region's spectacular fiords at sea level as well as explore untouched waterways and lakes.
Paddle up close to the thundering Sutherland Falls, which rank as some of the tallest in the world, and see if you can spot some of the local resident wildlife - dolphins, seals, and the Fiordland Crested Penguin call the region home. For the truly adventurous, enjoy an overnight kayaking adventure in Doubtful 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.
If you enjoy hiking or trekking, the Milford Track is for you. The four-day track begins at the northern end of Lake 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.
The road to Milford Sound 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, you should allow plenty of time and drive carefully.
Milford is approximately four hours from Queenstown, and two hours from Te Anau.
An easier alternative can be to take a bus as part of a coach and cruise tour. This option also allows you to spend more time staring at 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 from Queenstown, visiting Milford 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 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.
The small village of Milford Sound also has limited places to stay so pre-booking is advised or choose from the many options in Te Anau or Manapouri. If you're hungry there's a café in the village, or you can enjoy food and drink onboard your boat cruise.
Fiordland is one of the wettest areas of New Zealand. It is notorious for 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.
Milford Sound is even more beautiful in the rain. More rainfall means the waterfalls are 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!