Milford Sound in New Zealand is a fiordland with such amazingly beautiful scenery. Every time I visit, I'm in-love and wonder why I don't come more often. Water is everywhere - waterfalls appear down the mountains after it rains, blue clear cool rivers, reflective lakes, snow even in summer and the sea comes in around the fractured land. It's at the bottom of the South Island and a 4.5 hour drive from Queenstown.
A lot of people base themselves in Te Anau and drive from there. It's about 2 hours from Te Anau to Milford Sound. Stock up in Te Anau with food and petrol. Once you leave, there are limited options. A couple of emergency petrol pumps... but they are not always working.
Once you leave Te Anau, the scenery just keeps improving. You'll want to stop along the way. Grab a map from the information centres or download here. They have marked out the places to stop along the way. Most people drive in and take a half day cruise with Go Orange, Jucy, Real Journeys and Southern Discoveries, but there are plenty of other activities.
Lake Marian Track
- Instead of a half day trip, consider an overnight cruise with Real Journeys
- To get THE photo of Milford Sound, go on the Piopiotahi Milford Foreshore Walk, which is right next to the Milford Sound carpark
- Kayak in Milford Sound. There are 3 main companies - Roscos Milford Kayaks, Go Orange and Real Journeys
- Take a plane or helicopter ride. A few companies are Real Journeys, Air Milford and Milford Flights
- Tackle one of the famous multiple day hikes like Milford Track or the Routeburn Track. These need to be pre booked, as they are popular
- Try a day trip with kayaking and walking part of the Milford Track
- There are so many hiking tracks in the area, it's crazy! Gertrude Saddle, Key Summit Track or Lake Marian Track are a few of the more well known day hikes
- I've heard that the diving is amazing, as dark water sits on top and you see wildlife usually seen at deeper depths. I've been told you need to be experienced as it's not an easy dive, going through a layer of dark water.
- Be prepared as the weather turns quickly. If you are hiking, take warm wet weather clothing
- When the sun is out, you can easily get sunburnt. The hole in the ozone layer is unfortunately right above New Zealand, which means the suns rays are extra strong. I've seen plenty of burnt tourists
- There are sandflies in the area! They are highly annoying, small bitting insects. They find you when you stop walking. Take insect repellent with you
- The Kea are very cheeky birds that will go for your food and like to rip the rubber off vehicles. Resist feeding them, as our food disagrees with them and you'll shorten their life expectancy
- Parts of the road becomes one-way. Keep an eye out for the road signs
- The traffic lights for the one way tunnel stop at 8pm
- If it's been raining, some of the tracks are very muddy
- There is an ugly alga called Didymo slowly destroying the beautiful rivers. Keep an eye out for the "Check, Clean and Dry" signs and clean your shoes when going to different waterways. You can find out more at the information centre and buy a pack with a spray bottle to clean shoes. Or make your own spray solution with water and 5% dishwashing liquid/nappy cleaner or 2% of household bleach.
- Keep on the paths. It's very easy to become lost in the bush. Follow the orange arrows. The other colours are for the doc rangers (conservationist).
Lake Marian Track
- There are plenty of basic doc campsites with long drop toilets along the route
- The other affordable accommodation options are:
Knobs Flat with camping, non-powered sites and studio units. The first you'll come upon
Gunns Camp with camping, non-powered sites, dorms and cabins. Along a gravel road
Milford Lodge with dorms, cabins and non-powered sites. Closest to Milford Sound
- There's plenty of accommodation in Te Anau. The town has all the creature comforts like wifi.
How to get around
- Hire a car so you can stop for photos and explore all the many small walks - and you'll want to stop. A website that compares rental companies is VroomVroomVromm and a cheap company is Rent-a-Dent
- Rent a campervan or motorhome. VroomVroomVromm also has a camper van / motorhome section. Jucy camper vans are very popular - actually all vans and motorhomes are an extremely popular option - just more expensive
- You can take a bus from Te Anau or even Queenstown and then go on a cruise. The bus from Queenstown makes it a loooong day. Some of the companies are Jucy, Real Journeys and Southern Discoveries
- Tracknet is great for taking you from Te Anau to the start of hiking tracks
- Then there are the bigger organised tour companies like Stray, Contiki and Kiwi Experience aimed at young backpackers.
Before the tunnel
There is so much more I still want to explore in the area. I'm keen to try some of the big hikes and one day I would love to try the diving. I will be visiting many more times in the future.
Is Milford Sound on your travel wish-list? Do you have a question? Ask in the comments below and I will try to answer.