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Milford Sound: Travel Information, Town Facts & Best Activities

Date: 1 October 2021

The Milford Sound is known for many things; lush rainforests, waterfalls, the Milford Track Great Walk, and the stunning (but sometimes challenging) Milford Road. Keep reading to discover transport options to get to Milford Sound including benefits and disadvantages of each, as well as things to do in Milford Sound and facts about the township.

About Milford Sound

Milford Sound is a fiord (not a sound) which was created by the erosion of ancient glaciers over 600 million years ago. The township has a very small number of shops, which are gas stations, a café (inside of the information centre), and other offerings for visitors in the area such as scuba diving tours and an observatory. There are plenty of walks around this area, as it is located in the Fiordland National Park.

Group of friends on a cruise in Milford Sound on a sunny day

RealNZ Boat cruise in Milford Sound

5 Quick Facts About Milford Township

  1. The Milford Sound township has a permanent population of approximately 120 people in total.
  2. This township is very small, however up to 1 million tourists visit this area annually.
  3. There is no cell phone coverage in Milford Sound.
  4. Currently there is only one accommodation provider in town, however there are plenty of DOC Huts and camping areas to stay in for a small fee.
  5. There is one road into Milford Sound commonly known as the Milford Road, which is State Highway 94.

Best Activities in Milford Sound

Being one of New Zealand’s top visitor attractions, the Milford Sound has plenty of activities and things to do- from scenic cruises to fishing and hiking. Here’s some of the best activities to do in Milford Sound:

  • Kayaking in the Milford Sound is a great way to witness the surrounding wildlife and nature. You’ll get plenty of time to explore, with your guide pointing out paddling tips and unmissable sights.
  • The Milford Track is one of Department of Conservation’s (DOC) Great Walks, which takes about 4 days to complete. You’ll need to book a bed in the huts and arrange a transfer to the Milford Track.
  • The Milford Sound Observatory is New Zealand’s only floating underwater observatory. This will take you 10 meters below sea level, where you can view marine life such as black coral species, which are usually found at 500 meters below in the ocean.
  • Book a scenic cruise for a guide will take you to the best sightseeing spots around Milford Sound. You’ll see wildlife, spectacular waterfalls and untouched native bush.
Group of friends kayaking in Milford Sound

Kayaking in Milford Sound with Real Journeys

Transport to Milford Sound

There are limited options for ways to transport into the Milford Sound; these include booking a bus or coach, self-driving or by air if you’re leaving from Queenstown. Below we’ll discuss how to travel to Milford Sound, along with the perks and disadvantages associated with these.

Self-Drive to Milford Sound

Self-driving to the Milford Sound is a very popular option for transport to get there. The Milford Road is the only access road into the Milford Sound, which starts in Te Anau. This route is roughly 120km, but don’t be fooled to think this is a quick drive! State Highway 94 is known for it’s steep incline at points, as well as winding corners which makes this drive take approximately 4 hours 15 minutes (288km) in total from Queenstown or 121km from Te Anau, which works out at roughly 2 hours (depending on weather conditions). It’s packed full of beautiful scenery to stop and enjoy during the drive, so make the most and stop for a few breaks! This road is known to be mentally demanding for drivers, so rest breaks are a must.

Benefits of self-driving to Milford Sound:

  • Make the most of this beautiful drive and stop along the Milford Road at many great sightseeing attractions, such as Eglinton Valley, Homer Tunnel and The Chasm.
  • Take as long as you like when you are self-driving; you’re on your own schedule!
  • This road is suitable for campervans and sleepervans to drive

Disadvantages of self-driving to Milford Sound:

  • If you’re unfamiliar with driving in New Zealand or have little experience, it will be more enjoyable if you let someone else do the driving.
  • The Milford Sound collects over six meters of rain annually, which means this road can sometimes temporarily close due to slips or water on the road.

Bus or Coach to Milford Sound

Taking a coach or a bus to Milford Sound is great because you can take in the amazing scenery without having to focus on driving too. There are many companies which run bus tours and coaches to Milford Sound, with many making at least one stop for you to get the perfect photo opportunity. Some coach tours also talk about areas when passing, making a more interesting and insightful journey to your destination. Due to the steep road and stops for photo opportunities, busses tend to take at least 30 minutes longer compared to travelling in a car.

Coach on the way to Milford Sound with snow capped mountains

Bus coach transport on the Milford Road, NZ

Benefits of bus or coach to Milford Sound:

  • Your experienced bus driver will know this road well- they’ve probably driven it more times than you can count! Rest assured knowing you’re in safe hands to sit back, relax, and take in the incredible surrounding vistas.
  • Your bus driver is also likely to know where people like to stop and take photos the most!

Disadvantages of bus or coach to Milford Sound:

  • These trips can sometimes have a leisurely pace to them- these tend to be slower than driving.
  • During peak seasons, bus and coach tours can often be full, meaning you’ll need to book in advance to ensure your spot.

 

Fly to Milford Sound

Travelling to Milford Sound by air from Queenstown is another transport option. This will take considerably less time, totalling roughly 40 minutes in the air when departing from Queenstown. This mode of transport is another great way to take in the beautiful scenery from a different perspective, however, will be pricier.

Alt Tag: Scenic flight tour in Milford Sound, NZ

Benefits of flying to Milford Sound:

  • Use your flight as both transport and a scenic flight between Queenstown and Milford Sound- The view is unreal.
  • Flying instead of using the Milford Road will decrease your travel time significantly, making it from Queenstown to Milford in less than a quarter of the time.

Disadvantages of flying to Milford Sound:

  • Milford Sound transfers by air can be much more pricy than other transport options.
  • Weather of the unpredictable Milford Sound could affect flight plans, which may mean your flight could be postponed.
  • Booking tends to be essential for air transport to Milford, with some companies requiring a minimum number of people too.

 

Milford Sound has to be one of the best places to visit in New Zealand for so many reasons- if you’re wanting more inspiration check out 8 reasons why Milford Sound is a ‘Must Do’ in New Zealand, or browse our list of experiences in Milford Sound.

The Milford Sound is known for many things; lush rainforests, waterfalls, the Milford Track Great Walk, and the stunning (but sometimes challenging) Milford Road. Keep reading to discover transport options to get to Milford Sound including benefits and disadvantages of each, as well as things to do in Milford Sound and facts about the township.

About Milford Sound

Milford Sound is a fiord (not a sound) which was created by the erosion of ancient glaciers over 600 million years ago. The township has a very small number of shops, which are gas stations, a café (inside of the information centre) and other offerings for visitors in the area such as scuba diving tours and an observatory. There are plenty of walks around this area, as it is located in the Fiordland National Park.

Alt Tag: Real Journeys Boat cruise in Milford Sound

5 Quick Facts About Milford Township

  1. The Milford Sound township has a permanent population of approximately 120 people in total.
  2. This township is very small, however up to 1 million tourists visit this area annually.
  3. There is no cell phone coverage in Milford Sound.
  4. Currently there is only one accommodation provider in town, however there are plenty of DOC Huts and camping areas to stay in for a small fee.
  5. There is one road into Milford Sound commonly known as the Milford Road, which is State Highway 94.

Best Activities in Milford Sound

Being one of New Zealand’s top visitor attractions, the Milford Sound has plenty of activities and things to do- from scenic cruises to fishing and hiking. Here’s some of the best activities to do in Milford Sound:

  • Kayaking in the Milford Sound is a great way to witness the surrounding wildlife and nature. You’ll get plenty of time to explore, with your guide pointing out paddling tips and unmissable sights.
  • The Milford Track is one of Department of Conservation’s (DOC) Great Walks, which takes about 4 days to complete. You’ll need to book a bed in the huts and arrange a transfer to the Milford Track.
  • The Milford Sound Observatory is New Zealand’s only floating underwater observatory. This will take you 10 meters below sea level, where you can view marine life such as black coral species, which are usually found at 500 meters below in the ocean.
  • Book a scenic cruise for a guide will take you to the best sightseeing spots around Milford Sound. You’ll see wildlife, spectacular waterfalls and untouched native bush.

Alt Tag: Kayaking in Milford Sound with Real Journeys

Transport to Milford Sound

There are limited options for ways to transport into the Milford Sound; these include booking a bus or coach, self-driving or by air if you’re leaving from Queenstown. Below we’ll discuss how to travel to Milford Sound, along with the perks and disadvantages associated with these.

Self-Drive to Milford Sound

Self-driving to the Milford Sound is a very popular option for transport to get there. The Milford Road is the only access road into the Milford Sound, which starts in Te Anau. This route is roughly 120km, but don’t be fooled to think this is a quick drive! State Highway 94 is known for it’s steep incline at points, as well as winding corners which makes this drive take approximately 4 hours 15 minutes (288km) in total from Queenstown or 121km from Te Anau, which works out at roughly 2 hours (depending on weather conditions). It’s packed full of beautiful scenery to stop and enjoy during the drive, so make the most and stop for a few breaks! This road is known to be mentally demanding for drivers, so rest breaks are a must.

Benefits of self-driving to Milford Sound:

  • Make the most of this beautiful drive and stop along the Milford Road at many great sightseeing attractions, such as Eglinton Valley, Homer Tunnel and The Chasm.
  • Take as long as you like when you are self-driving; you’re on your own schedule!
  • This road is suitable for campervans and sleepervans to drive

Disadvantages of self-driving to Milford Sound:

  • If you’re unfamiliar with driving in New Zealand or have little experience, it will be more enjoyable if you let someone else do the driving.
  • The Milford Sound collects over six meters of rain annually, which means this road can sometimes temporarily close due to slips or water on the road.

Bus or Coach to Milford Sound

Taking a coach or a bus to Milford Sound is great because you can take in the amazing scenery without having to focus on driving too. There are many companies which run bus tours and coaches to Milford Sound, with many making at least one stop for you to get the perfect photo opportunity. Some coach tours also talk about areas when passing, making a more interesting and insightful journey to your destination. Due to the steep road and stops for photo opportunities, busses tend to take at least 30 minutes longer compared to travelling in a car.

Alt Tag: Bus coach transport on the Milford Road, NZ

Benefits of bus or coach to Milford Sound:

  • Your experienced bus driver will know this road well- they’ve probably driven it more times than you can count! Rest assured knowing you’re in safe hands to sit back, relax, and take in the incredible surrounding vistas.
  • Your bus driver is also likely to know where people like to stop and take photos the most!

Disadvantages of bus or coach to Milford Sound:

  • These trips can sometimes have a leisurely pace to them- these tend to be slower than driving.
  • During peak seasons, bus and coach tours can often be full, meaning you’ll need to book in advance to ensure your spot.

Fly to Milford Sound

Travelling to Milford Sound by air from Queenstown is another transport option. This will take considerably less time, totalling roughly 40 minutes in the air when departing from Queenstown. This mode of transport is another great way to take in the beautiful scenery from a different perspective, however, will be pricier.

Alt Tag: Scenic flight tour in Milford Sound, NZ

Benefits of flying to Milford Sound:

  • Use your flight as both transport and a scenic flight between Queenstown and Milford Sound- The view is unreal.
  • Flying instead of using the Milford Road will decrease your travel time significantly, making it from Queenstown to Milford in less than a quarter of the time.

Disadvantages of flying to Milford Sound:

  • Milford Sound transfers by air can be much more pricy than other transport options.
  • Weather of the unpredictable Milford Sound could affect flight plans, which may mean your flight could be postponed.
  • Booking tends to be essential for air transport to Milford, with some companies requiring a minimum number of people too.

Milford Sound has to be one of the best places to visit in New Zealand for so many reasons- if you’re wanting more inspiration check out 8 reasons why Milford Sound is a ‘Must Do’ in New Zealand, or browse our list of experiences in Milford Sound.