New Zealand is famous for its immense natural beauty and Milford Sound doesn’t disappoint. Hidden away in Fiordland National Park, in the far south-western corner of the South Island, this iconic landmark lives up to the hype. Getting there is all part of the adventure.
The ‘Eight Wonder of the World’
Purportedly dubbed the ‘Eight Wonder of the World’ by English writer Rudyard Kipling, Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist destinations. Mighty Mitre Peak towers 1,692 metres above the indigo waters that open out onto the Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) marine reserve where seals and dolphins play.
How to get to Milford Sound
Milford Sound can only be reached on land by following the SH94 road from Te Anau. It is a two-hour non-stop drive that encompasses the fastest ascent of any road in New Zealand – the highest point is 940 metres above sea level! Built between the 1930s and 1950s, it wasn’t until the 1970s that SH94 opened year round. This scenically stunning road passes by Te Anau Downs, the Mirror Lakes and Lake Gunn before traversing through the rough-hewn Homer Tunnel. There is a very real risk of avalanche so take note of the warnings in place – the road can close without notice. This doesn’t stop the half a million-plus tourists who descend on the fiord every year.
Milford Sound tours
If you don’t fancy tackling the drive yourself, there are numerous escorted coach trips from Queenstown or Te Anau you can join. Alternatively, you can soar above the mountains on a flightseeing tour by plane or even helicopter!
What is there to do in Milford Sound?
The main thing to do is admire the amazing panorama of Mitre Peak rising above the waters of Milford Sound. There are a couple of ways to do this. Enjoy a walk along the foreshore beside the beech forest. Alternatively, join one of the boat rides departing from the docks. Book your journey to and/or around Milford Sound with one of the operators running there in advance to avoid disappointment.
Little and Great Walks
There are plenty of places to pause en route to Milford Sound and enjoy a walk in the great outdoors. See the Earl Mountains reflected in the still waters of the Mirror Lakes on an easy ten-minute walk or tackle two footbridges on the Chasm Walk. This easy 400-metre-long walk reveals rocks formations worn smooth by the passage of water of the years. More experienced walkers can set off a half-hour walk to see Bowen Falls tumbling over the mountainsides. Find out more information here.
Best time of year to visit Milford Sound
A big question is when is the best time of year to visit Milford Sound? The weather is tumultuous at best but that’s what makes this part of the world so beautiful. In fact, it receives the most rainfall in all New Zealand – a staggering 6.4 metres a year! Locals say spring is the best time of year to see Milford Sound as this is when it rains most and the many waterfalls and rivers are in full swing. Alternatively, winter offers the promise are crisp, clear yet cold days so wrap up warm. The road conditions can be treacherous at this time of year and snow chains are essential (May to September). Summer is the most popular time of year to visit as it is considerably warmer and there’s less chance of the road closing. However, you are more likely to get snarled up in the rush for one of the boat departures. Check out the Department of Conservation’s road trip tips and the latest conditions on NZ Transport Agency’s website before you set out.