In the Southern hemisphere, there is a particular fjord that is described by Rudyard Kipling as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’. And that fjord is Milford Sound. Visiting it is no doubt a must-do in the South Island of New Zealand. Millions of people flock to visit the Fjordland yearly. Here’s everything you need to know about Milford Sound, New Zealand and how you can admire the natural beauty with a bit of peace and intimacy.
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Cruising Through the Fjord
There are several ways you could explore Milford Sound, including cruising, kayaking and walking. Yes, Milford Sound is stunning no matter wherever you are at but honestly, being out on the water gives you a more fantastic experience, as compared to from land.
Milford Sound is a narrow and long fjord that stretches 16 kilometres and the cruise allows you to see the WHOLE fjord as it travels all the way out to the Tasman Sea. You will be able to see waterfalls and have a much higher chance of seeing wildlife, including seals, dolphins and penguins!
Furthermore, the cruise is the most family-friendly option, where there are special rates for your children and infants. Your whole family would definitely have a comfortable and unforgettable time at Milford Sound.
Taking a Milford Sound Cruise with Peace and Intimacy
There are so many cruise operators out there, offering different exclusive experiences of their own, from budget to luxury ones. Which operator should you choose?
To be frank, since you are already here in New Zealand after a very costly flight, why not take a cruise that will give you the best experience to remember? We believe in order to do that; the operator should have the lowest passenger to cruise ratio. This will, at least, guarantee you some peace and quiet with the picturesque natural beauty of Milford Sound, making full use of your time here.
Aligning with what we have said, the Guidesify Team tried Cruise Milford, where the operator’s main USP is having an extremely low passenger to cruise ratio, i.e. a ridiculously low limit of 75 passengers on a 150-passenger cruise. That’s half the capacity of what the cruise was built for!
To put this major perk into perspective, imagine a situation where the cruise is swarmed with large rowdy groups of travellers. Imagine the screaming and yelling while the hordes take group photos; the utter disregard for nature and ruining your perfect, once-in-a-lifetime shots of this heavenly beauty. Now halve that.
Smaller is better.
Cruise Milford’s cruise boat is noticeably smaller than the rest of the major tour operators. You will notice the stark contrast of the sizes when you’re there at the terminal. This means that your boat can get closer to the wildlife and the waterfalls, how awesome is that!
This is why we chose Cruise Milford NZ in a heartbeat.
Rain or Shine – It Doesn’t Matter
Now that you’ve decided to go on a Milford Sound cruise, you must be thinking about what the best weather and time to visit Milford Sound is. Well, the good news is Milford Sound is beautiful regardless of rain or shine. Fjordland National Park is one of the wettest places in the world and you’re likely going to experience rain there!
If the weather forecast shows that it’s going to rain, do not let it dampen your mood because, in fact, the rain further intensifies and amplifies the waterfalls – one of the main highlights, making your experience even more magical. It’s all part of the Milford Sound experience.
Well, don’t worry about being there on a ‘perfect’ day and just appreciate that each day offers a rich experience, like no other!
Wildlife in the Fjordland
So besides nature, the mountains, waterfalls, what else is there? Of course, wildlife! Milford Sound is home to a diverse array of wildlife.
There are more than 60 bottled-nose dolphins that inhabit the sound so it’s really common for them to come up close to say hi to your cruise! We also heard that if you’re really lucky, you might even get to see whales occasionally.
Additionally, Milford Sound is home to the New Zealand fur seals and can be often seen frolicking under the sun at Seal Point. (We actually saw the same species of seals in Kangaroo Island, South Australia too!)
Like we said earlier, Cruise Milford’s boat is considerably smaller so we had the opportunity to view the seals really up-close in the wild.
There are two species of penguins found regularly in the fjord – the Little Blue penguin and the Fiordland Crested Penguin. The Little Blue Penguin is relatively common while the latter is an endangered species, one of the rarest species in the world. They are very distinct with its blonde feather by its eyes and bright orange beaks.
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to spot any penguins but, maybe you will be lucky enough.
Keep your eyes peeled!
Decided to Visit Milford Sound? – Getting There
Milford Sound is the fjord raved by everyone (amongst the other fjords in Fjordland) because it is connected to Milford Road/Milford Highway/State Highway 94, making it really accessible for everyone. Just driving there is already a stunning experience in itself.
Visiting the 8th wonder of the world requires you to disconnect in order to connect with nature. There is zero mobile coverage throughout the journey from Te Anau to Milford Sound. We recommend downloading an offline version of the map on Google Maps, which will effectively mitigate this problem.
You can either depart from Queenstown (4 hours drive) or Te Anau (2 hours 30 minutes drive). Bear in mind that the above-mentioned duration does not include the times where you can’t help but to stop and admire the paradisiacal views. Some notable stops include Mirror Lakes, Monkey Creek and The Chasm.
The Milford Road is windy, bendy and long as you climb through the Southern Alps. Additionally, it is also busy with tourists trying to get to their destination before it gets dark so take extra caution.
Do note that if you’re driving from Te Anau, there are no fuel stops for the whole 240km (return journey) so please ensure a full tank of fuel before setting off.
Tips: Say no more to wasted trips. You can check online if the road is closed! While driving, be ready to go through an iconic 1-way tunnel known as Homer Tunnel. Our car was greeted with curious Keas too while waiting for our turn to cross the tunnel!
New Parking Fees Apply – Park Somewhere Else!
Since 1st October 2019, there is a car parking charge at Milford Sound that you should be aware of and will cost $10/hour.
There is a car park further away at Deepwater Basin Road which is still free of charge. Fortunately, a free shuttle service will operate between the car park and the terminal building which comes around every 20-30 min. You would have to plan a little bit of extra time to park there and make your way to the terminal. There is a big sign on the free car park saying Park and Ride. It’s the first car park you will see when driving into Milford Sound.
Go By Coach – If You Don’t Want to Drive
For those who are not confident of driving on these windy and bendy roads, fret not. Cruise Milford NZ has coach transfers/day tours available for you, from both Te Anau and Queenstown. The coach transfers usually include coffee stops, comfort, safety, and most of all, photo stops at the scenic spots along the spectacular Milford Sound Road.
Rest assured, you will be guaranteed a perfect day trip to Milford Sound!
Fly with Style to Milford Sound (From Queenstown)
Tired of being on the road with loads of tourist or have coached to Milford Sound before? Fly to Milford Sound, enjoy the cruise and then fly back to Queenstown, like a boss.
Just driving to and fro to Milford Sound New Zealand, along with the cruise, requires a whole day. So if you only have half a day set aside for Milford Sound or perhaps have a plane to catch, Cruise Milford provides the perfect fly-cruise-fly option for you.
You will leave and come back to Queenstown in 4 hours, which is more than half the time required by bus. This option also provides you with even more privacy, giving you a more enchanting experience with New Zealand’s most dramatic scenery.
Know something about Milford Sound New Zealand that is not covered here? Let us know and our readers will thank you!