Milford Sound is known as the 8th wonder of the world. Known for its raw landscapes, waterfalls, and unbeatable beauty. This is one of the most visited places in New Zealand, it might even be more popular than the adventure capital, Queenstown.
Most visitors only get one chance to visit this part of New Zealand, so I’m here to help you make the most of it!
This blog will help you plan your Milford Sound road trip and include the places I recommend you visit, plus some tips to help beat those crowds and some excellent tours to go on.
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Table of Contents
Getting to New Zealand
To complete this road trip, you can either fly directly into Queenstown or travel from other cities like Christchurch or Auckland. I use Skyscanner to help find the best deals on flights! You can also read my blog here on my top 10 tips to finding cheap flights.
Getting there from Queenstown
When it comes to getting to Milford Sound from Queenstown you can either; drive yourself or join a tour. There are some pros and cons to each option, so I’ve made a list to help you decided which one is best for your travel style.
If you have your own car or campervan, you are best to complete this road trip yourself. If you don’t, you can get a rental car for this trip.
- More time to go at your own pace, and stop off at your own stops
- You can complete more hikes; most tours don’t include the best hikes in Milford Sound
- Choose where you want to stay along the road trip
- More chances to get places to yourself
- You need to plan a route, however, if you follow this 3-day itinerary, that’s done for you!
- The road is very windy, so you if you are driving, you won’t be able to look at all the scenery around you
NOTE: Sometimes the road to Milford Sound is shut, due to bad weather. If you are driving yourself, especially in winter, make sure to check the road conditions. You will need snow chains and know how to use them. You can check the road conditions here.
By joining a tour, it means you don’t have to worry about anything but enjoying your time in Milford Sound. You don’t need to plan anything, just sit back, and relax! This is the best option for people who have limited time or don’t have access to a vehicle.
- No need to plan anything or worry about driving
- Transport and accommodation are included (accommodation only in some tours)
- You don’t get to choose where to stop or for how long
- Most tour companies operate at the same time, so places will be busy
- You won’t get to complete most of the hikes Milford Sound has to offer
Staying in Milford Sound
There is only one place to stay, which is located in Milford Sound. That is the Milford Sound Lodge. The Lodge offer unpowered and powered campsite, as well as rooms and cabins. The prices here are not cheap. In fact, one night just camping will cost you $70NZD per night. It is worth staying at least one night here to truly enjoy Fiordland National Park.
There are several DOC camping options just outside of Milford Sound town. The closest being Cascade Creek, Upper Eglinton and Kiosk Creek. I spent one night in Cascade Creek and It offered beautiful views of the surrounding landscapes. There are plenty of sites to choose from, shelters and drop loo toilets. A campsite here will cost you $15NZD pp/pn. These can be booked online or paid upon arrival.
You can also opt to stay in Te Anau, and drive into Milford Sound – which is an option, but you will need to take into account the extra driving time.
Milford Sound Tours
There are several tour companies that operate from Queenstown to Milford Sound.
Day Tours from Queenstown
There are a tonne of Cruise/day tour options, but I personally recommend this one. The has a glass roof, so you won’t miss a thing on your tour! The cruise involved has a smaller boat, so you will get a much better experience onboard.
Multi Day/City tours
If you are looking to book a tour that visits Milford Sound but also other destinations in New Zealand, tourhub.co offers plenty. My favourites are the Luxury Gold Southern Drift, A 12 day trip which starts and finishes in Christchurch. Another cheaper option is the Drift – Southern Drift tour, which is more of a slower pace.
Milford Sound – 3 Day Itinerary
6.30am: Leave Queenstown as early as possible, preferably before 7am. This is essential if you want to miss the crowds of the tour buses!
7am: Stop off at Devil’s staircase lookout. This show up on Google maps and is a very impressive lookout point. If you have a drone, make sure to put it up here!
8am: Stop off in Mossburn for fuel. This is by far the cheapest place to get fuel on this road trip. If you don’t stop here, make sure you fuel up before Milford Sound, as the fuel is very expensive in the town.
10am: Visit Mirror Lakes. After a long, but scenic drive through Te Anau and into the Fiordland National Park, you will arrive at Mirror Lakes (on the left). On a calm day the lakes give a perfect reflection of the Mountains. Even if the weather isn’t In your favour, it’s still a great place to stop for 15mins!
11am: Hike Key Summit. Key Summit is a 6.8km return hiking trail, which will take around 2-3hrs to complete. The hike is a series of switch backs, with a few short steep ascents, but nothing major. If it’s a clear day you will be rewarded with beautiful views over the surrounding landscapes. I hiked on a cloudy day, but it was still a beautiful hike and I would defiantly recommend you complete this one!
2pm: Drive to Cascade Creek with a few stops. Cascade Creek campsite is where you will be staying tonight, it is only a short 10min drive from the Key Summit Car park. Make sure to stop off at Lake Gunn on the way back.
Spend the rest of your day relaxing and taking a short stroll around the trails of the campsite.
9am: Hike to Lake Marian. This is a 10km return hike, which follows waterfalls and through forests. Your ending point will be the most beautiful Alpine Lake I have ever seen. It is best to try get here before the winds pick up, so you get that glass effect. However, it is still beautiful on a windy/cloudy day. The walk is steep and muddy in some sections. As well as has some pretty uneven footing. This track will take you roughly 3 hrs to complete, including chill out time at the end!
12pm: Short stop at Christie Falls and the Chasm. Christie Falls is a waterfall on the side of the road and is worth stopping to have a look. You will only need to spend about 5-10mins here. Or you can hike the short walking trail if you have some time. The Chasm is a short walk from the carpark. It’s a waterfall that has carved its way through the rock and left behind a unique rock formation. Note: The Chasm is currently shut at the time of this blogs publishing.
1pm: Arrive in Milford Sound. While waiting for a few hours to check into your accommodation at Milford Sound Lodge, walk the Milford Sound trail. This short trail leads you to the foreshore, and gives beautiful views of the Sound.
TIPS: Park your car in the Deepwater Basin carpark, this will save you spending money on parking. There is a walking trail that goes from the car park to the Milford Sound foreshore and the cruise terminal. There is also the Milford Sound swing, but I’d like to note it isn’t as pretty in person as it is in pictures!
Today you will have half the day to explore Milford Sound before heading back to Queenstown or onto your next destination! I recommend going on a Milford Sound Cruise or Kayaking trip. I went on a cruise with RealNZ and it was wonderful. We only had about 25 people on the cruise, which meant there was a lot more space to move around and to take pictures. Southern Discoveries is the most popular cruise; however I’d recommend going for one of the smaller companies to get a better experience.
If you have time and some money, you can also look into a Milford Sound Scenic flight!
If you leave for Queenstown in the afternoon, you will be back before dark. It takes roughly 4 hrs to get back to Queenstown from Milford Sound. Make sure to check out my blog for 10 epic things to do around Queenstown!
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