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Milford Sound Underwater Observatory

4.5(332 Ratings)
Panoramic Views
Panoramic Views
Frequent Departures
Frequent Departures
Sightseeing & Onboard Meal Options
Sightseeing & Onboard Meal Options



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5.0(1)

Milford Sound Cruise with Underwater Observatory Access

from
NZ$165
Instant confirmation
Mobile ticket
3 hr.
Highlights
Inclusions
Need to know
Cancellation Policy
  • Plunge into a natural adventure with New Zealand's only floating underwater observatory and a 2-hour Milford Sound cruise with lively commentary.
  • Descend 10m to observe underwater life at the observatory. Gaze at black coral, fish, and other wildlife while enclosed in an AC viewing room.
  • Witness the sheer grandeur of the fiord's landscapes, from the thundering waterfalls to the tranquility of the rainforests and towering peaks.
  • Enjoy the thrill of spotting wildlife, from seals basking in the sun to dolphins frolicking in the water, or even rare Fiordland Crested Penguins.
  • Have a close encounter with nature and the best viewing experience aboard a small boat as you drink glacial water and touch natural artifacts.

Inclusions

  • 2 to 3 hour Milford Sound cruise
  • Live commentary
  • Entry to Underwater Observatory
  • Tea & coffee
  • Tip: Look out for Mitre Peak, one of the most photographed features in Milford Sound due to its distinctive shape.
  • This experience is wheelchair and pram/stroller accessible.
  • Ramp is available on the boat for easy access.
  • Milford Sound is a natural environment so wildlife sightings cannot be guaranteed.
  • The operator reserves the right to amend timetables, cancel cruise departures, and substitute vessels at any time for safety or operational reasons including due to unsafe weather conditions or vessel maintenance.
  • These tickets can't be cancelled or rescheduled.
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4.5(217)

2-Hour Milford Sound Cruise

from
NZ$125
Free Cancellation

You can cancel these tickets up to 24 hours before the experience begins and get a full refund.

Instant confirmation
Mobile ticket
2 hr.
Highlights
Inclusions
Need to know
Cancellation Policy
  • Explore Milford Sound on this sightseeing cruise, which takes you near its majestic cliffs and glacier-carved waterfalls unlike any other.
  • Join the skipper in the open wheelhouse and enjoy coffee and tea onboard. Look out for sunbathing seals, dolphins, or rare seasonal Fiordland Crested Penguins.
  • Sail by Stirling Falls, cascading from a staggering 508 feet, feeling the cool glacial mist. Savor a hot cup of tea or coffee onboard.

Inclusions

  • 2-hour Milford Sound cruise
  • Stops at points of interest
  • Informative commentary from the skipper
  • Complimentary tea & coffee on-board

Exclusions

  • Transfers
  • Tip: Gas stations are absent on the Milford highway, so be sure to top off your tank in Te Anau.
  • Book online to save time and avoid offline hassles such as waiting on the dock for the next ship to arrive.
    Wear waterproof clothing or non-slip socks as there is a good possibility of getting wet as you go near waterfalls.
  • Wheelchairs and prams can be brought on board as long as they fold to fit through the entrance of the boat.
  • You can cancel these tickets up to 24 hours before the experience begins and get a full refund.
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NEW

Milford Cruise, Underwater Observatory Tickets, Kayaking & Lunch

from
NZ$295
Instant confirmation
Mobile ticket
6 hr.
Meals Included
Highlights
Inclusions
Need to know
Cancellation Policy
  • Create unforgettable memories on a guided Milford Sound cruise and kayaking adventure in Harrison Cove to see its diverse marine life.
  • Descend into the only floating observatory in New Zealand and witness rare black coral and colorful fish, all thanks to a unique natural phenomenon.
  • Get guided kayaking instruction, perfect for beginners. Immerse yourself in the crystal-clear waters and soak in the breathtaking views.
  • Enjoy a delicious picnic lunch prepared onboard as you cruise the majestic fiord with complimentary tea or coffee.

Inclusions

  • 2-hour cruise of Milford Sound
  • Nature guide
  • 1 to 1.5 hour kayaking experience
  • Specialist kayak guide
  • Kayaking equipment
  • Entry to Milford Sound Underwater Observatory
  • Picnic lunch
  • Complimentary tea and coffee
  • Tip: Treat yourself to an overnight stay at a chalet in Milford Sound and enjoy its serene atmosphere after the crowds have left.
  • Children aged 14 and under must be accompanied by an adult in a double kayak for the kayaking experience.
  • Timetables, departures, and vessels are subject to change due to safety precautions, weather conditions, or maintenance requirements.
  • These tickets can't be cancelled or rescheduled.
More details
Cruises in Milford SoundMilford Sound Underwater Observatory

Visit Milford Sound Observatory | New Zealand’s Only Floating Underwater Observatory

Milford Sound is home to many natural wonders including glacial fiords dating back to the Ice Age, lush rainforests formed from being the wettest place in New Zealand, and one of the wettest in the world, and even rare endangered species like Fiordland-crested penguins. But what truly takes the crown is its unique marine ecosystem. Here you can step 10 feet underwater without getting a drop on yourself at Milford Sound’s Underwater Observatory.

Read on to learn all about the underwater observatory at Milford Sound, what to expect, and other important information to make your visit seamless.

What is the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory?

Milford Discovery Centre

This observatory at Milford Sound is New Zealand’s only floating underwater observatory. Accessible only by boat, you can witness Milford Sound’s deep-water emergence where freshwater meets saltwater from the sea. Owing to this phenomenon you’ll get to see species like the black coral, amongst many others, come to shallower waters instead of their natural home leagues under the sea. This is also your ticket to surround yourself with Milford Sound’s inky black water.

Milford Sound Underwater Observatory in a nutshell

Milford Sound, New Zealand
  • Official name: Milford Sound Underwater Observatory
  • Location: Harrison Cove, Milford Sound / Piopiotahi, Southland, New Zealand
  • Date of opening: July 1990
  • Timings: Open daily from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM 
  • Depth: 10 meters below the water surface.
  • Unmissable sights: Black coral, sea anemones, sponges, colorful fish species like butterflyfish and trumpeter, playful Fiordland dolphins (if you're lucky!), and glimpses of penguins.
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site: Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park are part of the Te Wahipounamu UNESCO World Heritage Site, inscribed in 1990.
  • Number of visitors per year: Approximately 75,000 visitors annually.
  • Function: Underwater observatory

Why visit Milford Sound Underwater Observatory?

Dolphins in Milford Sound

Witness a kaleidoscope of hidden marine life

Observe colorful fish species like butterflyfish and trumpeters flitting among the kelp forests. Set sights on the rare black coral forests. With a bit of luck, you might even spot playful Fiordland dolphins or cheeky penguins!

Lake Quill, Sutherland Falls on the scenic flight from Milford Sound to Queenstown, Fiordland, New Zealand

Experience Milford Sound from a new perspective

Go beyond the breathtaking cliffs and waterfalls to discover the thriving underwater world, 64 steps below. Unlike zoos and aquariums, it’s you who’ll be enclosed while nature flows freely.

Spotting fur seals lying on rocks at Milford Sound

Become a citizen scientist

Your visit helps fund programs that protect the delicate underwater environment of Milford Sound. Learn about the challenges faced by this unique ecosystem and the vital role played by the observatory.

Milford Sound

Enjoy an accessible underwater adventure

Unlike scuba diving, the observatory offers a comfortable and dry environment for exploring the underwater world. No diving experience or special equipment is needed, making it perfect for all ages and abilities.

Plan your visit to Milford Sound Underwater Observatory

Timings
Location
Milford Discovery Centre

Timings: 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM; daily

Best time to visit: Summer months (December-February) offer warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours. However, rainfall can be higher. Winter months (June-August) have cooler temperatures and shorter days but offer calmer seas and potentially clearer underwater viewing.

To avoid peak crowds, visit during weekdays or shoulder seasons (spring and autumn).

Milford Discovery Centre

Address: Harrison Cove, Milford Sound 9600, New Zealand

Find on Maps

The Milford Sound Underwater Observatory is located in Harrison Cove, a picturesque inlet within Milford Sound/Piopiotahi, Southland, New Zealand. It's accessible only by boat tours offered by Southern Discoveries.

Highlights of Milford Sound Underwater Observatory— your underwater safari

Ready to trade mountain peaks for coral castles? Dive beneath the waves at the Milford Sound Observatory and witness a hidden realm teeming with fascinating creatures and otherworldly landscapes. Here's a sneak peek at the underwater treasures you can expect:




History of Milford Sound Underwater Observatory

Milford Sound, 1989, marked the emergence of a dream. John Roberts, a local visionary, envisioned an underwater observatory beneath the turquoise surface. Undeterred by skepticism and budget constraints, John's passion for the fiord's hidden wonders propelled him forward. Five years later, in 1994, his dream materialized as the world's first floating underwater observatory opened its hatches, unveiling the mesmerizing kaleidoscope of life below. Milford Sound's once-secret world was revealed, and John earned his place as a local legend, forever known as "Aquajohn."

Delve deeper into the observatory's offerings, discovering a piece of the legendary 1968 shipwreck "Wahine" amidst the exhibits. Fast forward to 2017, when the Milford Sound Discovery Centre merged with the observatory, creating a hub for both above- and underwater wonders. As you explore, anticipate future chapters with research labs, underwater art installations, and live-streamed glimpses of the fiord's hidden wonders.

Frequently Asked Questions About Milford Sound Underwater Observatory

What is the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory?

It's New Zealand's only floating underwater observatory, offering a window into the fascinating marine life hidden beneath Milford Sound's turquoise waters. Accessible by boat, it allows you to observe creatures and ecosystems that thrive beyond the surface, even without diving.

What can I see at the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory?

Expect a kaleidoscope of marine life like black coral forests, colorful fish, playful dolphins (with luck!), and glimpses of penguins. You'll also witness underwater waterfalls and discover hidden stories of shipwrecks and Maori fish traps.

How deep can I go at the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory?

The observatory descends 10 meters below the water surface, offering a comfortable and dry vantage point without any diving experience needed.

When is the best time to visit the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory?

Summer offers warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours but expect more rain. Winter boasts calmer seas and potentially clearer views but with cooler temperatures and shorter days. Consider weekdays or shoulder seasons to avoid peak crowds.

How do I get to the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory?

The observatory is accessible only by boat tours.

Do I need special equipment at the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory?

Absolutely not! The observatory provides a safe and accessible environment for all ages and abilities.

What's the highlight of the underwater safari at the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory?

Black coral forests, bioluminescent light shows (especially in summer evenings), and dancing kelp forests with shy nudibranchs and flitting fish are some top contenders.

Can I learn about the history of the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory?

Yes! Discover the story of visionary John Roberts, nicknamed "Aquajohn," who brought this underwater dream to life in 1994. You'll even find a piece of the legendary 1968 shipwreck "Wahine" on display.

Is the observatory connected to any conservation efforts?

Your visit helps fund essential programs protecting Milford Sound's delicate underwater environment. You'll learn about the challenges faced by this unique ecosystem and the observatory's vital role in its conservation.

How old is the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory?

This watery wonder opened its hatches in 1994, making it over 29 years old! It was the brainchild of local visionary John Roberts, who dreamt of sharing the fiord's underwater secrets with the world.

Is the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory good for people with disabilities?

Absolutely! The observatory is fully wheelchair accessible and offers comfortable viewing platforms for everyone to enjoy the underwater magic.