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All About Milford Sound: A Fiordland Gem Nicknamed the "8th Wonder of the Natural World

What is Milford Sound?

Milford Sound Cruise

Imagine a place where peaks pierce the skies, and silhouettes reflect in the still waters of a fiord. That’s Milford Sound for you, a sanctuary of natural wonders in the heart of New Zealand’s Fiordland. Often hailed as the 'eighth wonder of the world', Milford Sound was carved by glaciers during the last ice age. 

Here you’ll find mountains reaching heights of up to 1,000 meters, surrounded by verdant rainforests that cascade down to the fiord's edge. Amongst the inky waters, rare fauna await you. Complete with some of New Zealand’s tallest waterfalls, this spot is also one of the wettest places on earth. 

Beyond its natural beauty, Milford Sound is a place of adventure. Cruise through the fiord, and glide past cascading waterfalls or kayak through the still waters — the choice is yours.  For the intrepid hiker, you’ll also find one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, the Milford Track here.

Read on to learn about Milford Sound, the only fjord in New Zealand accessible by road.

Quick Facts about Milford Sound

Milford Sound, New Zealand
  • Official name: Milford Sound / Piopiotahi
  • Location: Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
  • Topographical type: Fiord
  • Biggest waterfall: Stirling Falls (1,554 meters) 
  • Native animals: Fur seals, dolphins, crested penguins, and whales
  • Major activities: Cruising, trekking, hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, heli-hiking, and heli-fishing.
  • Area: 15 kilometers (9.4 miles) long, 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) wide, and up to 291 meters (955 feet) deep
  • Age: Over 2 million years old
  • Accessible by: Coach, car, boat, or plane
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site: Yes (1990)
  • Number of visitors per year: Over 1 million
  • Function: Natural attraction, tourist destination

Plan Your Visit to Milford Sound

The scenery view of landscape of Milford Sound

Timings

Milford Sound is open throughout the year

  • Guided cruises: 8:50 AM, 11:10 AM, 1:30 PM, and 3:55 PM (daily)
  • Guided walking tours: 8:30 AM and 8:45 AM
  • Day trips from Queenstown/Te Anau (with transfers): 7:30 AM onwards (Queenstown), November 1 to April 30: Daily 8 AM to 5 PM; May 1 to October 31: Daily 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM (Te Anau)
  • Milford Sound scenic flights: 9 AM
Couple enjoying the view at Milford Sound

Location

Milford Sound is nestled within Fiordland National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site located in the southwestern corner of New Zealand's South Island. The fiord is approximately 12 kilometers long and runs inland from the Tasman Sea.

The easiest way to get to Milford Sound is from these 2 towns:

  • Queenstown(288 km): 4 hours 15 mins (approx)
  • Te Anau(121 km): 2 hour 15 mins (approx)

You can opt for transfers by coach, flight, or car.




Book your Milford Sound Cruise & Tours

2-Hour Milford Sound Cruise
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2 hr.
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From Queenstown: Milford Cruise, Lunch & Return Transfers
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4 hr. 30 min. - 12 hr.
Transfers Included
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From Te Anau: Milford Cruise, Nature Walk, Lunch & Return Transfers
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8 hr. - 9 hr.
Transfers Included
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From Queenstown: Scenic Flyover & Milford Sound Cruise
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4 hr. 30 min. - 8 hr.
Transfers Included
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Milford Sound Scenic Flyover Tour from Queenstown
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1 hr. 19 min.
Transfers Included
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Milford Sound Cruise with Underwater Observatory Access
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3 hr.
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Milford Cruise, Underwater Observatory Tickets, Kayaking & Lunch
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6 hr.
Meals Included
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Adventure Activities in Milford Sound

Scenic Flights, Milford Sound

Scenic Flights

Soar above Milford Sound in a helicopter or small plane, and see the fjord from a bird's-eye perspective.

Kayaking in Milford Sound

Kayaking

Paddle alongside towering cliffs, waterfalls, and lush rainforests. Get a close-up view of marine life like dolphins and seals.

Visitors on the Milford Forest Walk

Hiking

The Milford Track, a world-renowned 53.5-kilometer trail, offers a multi-day adventure through the park's diverse landscapes.

Couple Snorkelling

Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

Dive into the inky waters of Milford Sound and discover a vibrant underwater world of kelp forests and dolphins.

Couple Snorkelling

Rock Climbing

Challenge yourself on the granite cliffs of Fiordland National Park, where you'll find a variety of climbing routes to suit all skill levels.

History of Milford Sound

Milford Sound boasts a rich history dating back millions of years. Shaped by colossal glaciers during the Ice Age, Māori legends credit the fiord's creation to the demi-god Tuterakiwhanoa. In 1812, Captain John Grono became the first European to marvel at Milford's beauty, naming it Milford Haven. This sparked a wave of interest, drawing explorers and artists. In 1888, Donald Sutherland's vision led to the construction of Milford Sound's first hotel, turning it into a gateway for adventurers. Today, it remains a sanctuary for diverse wildlife, including the endangered Fiordland Crested Penguin and Hector's Dolphin, making Milford Sound a haven for both history and nature enthusiasts alike.

Frequently Asked Questions About Milford Sound

What is the Milford Sound?

Milford Sound, also known as Piopiotahi, is a breathtaking fiord located in New Zealand's Fiordland National Park. Carved by glaciers during the last ice age, it is often hailed as the 'eighth wonder of the world.' The fiord features towering mountains, and lush rainforests, and is renowned for its diverse wildlife.

What’s the best way to experience Milford Sound?

The best way to experience Milford Sound is to take a guided cruise or a hike through Milford Track. You can also explore the area through scenic flights, or diving.

Why is Milford Sound famous?

Milford Sound is famous for its stunning natural beauty, with peaks reaching up to 1,000 meters, cascading waterfalls, and rare fauna. It's also the only fjord in New Zealand accessible by road. The rich history dating back millions of years, coupled with its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, adds to its fame.

What can I do at Milford Sound?

At Milford Sound, you can embark on cruises, trekking, hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, and even engage in heli-hiking or heli-fishing. The area offers a range of adventure activities for nature enthusiasts and those seeking an immersive experience.

How can I get tickets to Milford Sound?

Tickets for Milford Sound can be obtained online. Consider booking in advance, especially during peak seasons, to ensure availability.

Where is the Milford Sound located?

Milford Sound is nestled within Fiordland National Park, located in the southwestern corner of New Zealand's South Island. Accessible by road, it's approximately 288 km from Queenstown and 121 km from Te Anau.

What can I see at Milford Sound?

At Milford Sound, you can witness iconic landmarks such as Mitre Peak, majestic waterfalls like Stirling Falls, interconnected fiords, and unique spots like the Milford Discovery Centre & Underwater Observatory, Harrison's Cove, Sinbad Gully, Seal Rock, and Stirling Island.

Are guided tours available for the Milford Sound?

Yes, guided tours are available for Milford Sound. You can opt for guided cruises, or walking tours, or choose comprehensive day trips from Queenstown or Te Anau. These tours provide insights into the rich history, diverse wildlife, and captivating landscapes.

What are the timings for Milford Sound?

Milford Sound is open throughout the year. Guided cruises, walking tours, and scenic flights have specific daily timings. Day trips from Queenstown/Te Anau have different schedules based on the season. It's advisable to check and plan your visit accordingly.

How much time do you need at Milford Sound?

The amount of time you spend at Milford Sound depends on your chosen activities. Guided cruises, tours, and hikes can take 2 to 5 hours, while a comprehensive exploration might span a full day. Plan your itinerary based on the experiences you wish to enjoy.

How big is Milford Sound?

Milford Sound is approximately 15 kilometers (9.4 miles) long, 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) wide, and reaches depths of up to 291 meters (955 feet). It's a sizeable and awe-inspiring natural marvel.

How old is Milford Sound?

Milford Sound is over 2 million years old, shaped by the colossal glaciers during the last Ice Age. Its age adds to the geological significance of this natural wonder.

Are there any hiking or trekking opportunities in the Milford Sound area?

Yes, the Milford Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, offers a world-renowned 53.5-kilometer trail. It provides an excellent opportunity for hiking and trekking, allowing you to immerse yourself in the diverse landscapes of the park.

What wildlife can I expect to encounter in and around Milford Sound?

Milford Sound is a haven for wildlife, including fur seals, dolphins, crested penguins, and whales. The area is also home to the endangered Fiordland Crested Penguin and Hector's Dolphin, making it a paradise for nature enthusiasts.