Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s great bucket list attractions: a beautiful fiord bounded by steep cliffs and dominated by the distinctive Mitre Peak. Well over half a million visitors each year come and see what the fuss is about, and few leave disappointed. That’s even more impressive given that this is one of New Zealand’s wettest regions. Here’s what you need to know before planning your perfect Milford Sound visit.
How to plan the perfect Milford Sound visit
Embrace the weather
This is a tricky one. Milford Sound receives almost seven metres of rain annually, making it the wettest place in the nation. Even in the relatively dry winter season, typically Milford Sound still sees sixteen days of rain in the month. The chances of picking a dry day with clear blue skies are low, so adjust your expectations accordingly. But all that water doesn’t have to ruin your visit. The downpours create spectacular waterfalls along the cliffs that line the fiord and the strong winds that also characterise the area can swoop in and lift those curtains of water, flinging them back into the air with a total disregard for the laws of gravity. Who said you need sunshine for a top notch Milford Sound visiting experience?
Be prepared to share the perfect Milford Sound view
This is no wilderness area, so accept the fact that you won’t have Milford Sound to yourself. Most visitors come for the day, travelling from Te Anau or even Queenstown, stopping off on the way for a series of stretch-the-legs photo stops before rocking up around lunchtime. Boat cruises leave throughout the day, though, so get up early, drive yourself and save the photo stops from Te Anau for the return journey to be sure of getting a spot on the 9am boat. Even better, beat the day trippers and stay overnight in the area.
There’s a range of accommodation options to choose from. Milford Sound Lodge, a mile and a half from the boat dock, offers riverside chalets, backpacker dorms and campervan parking surrounded by lush rainforest. By adding at least an extra day, you’ll be able to witness the Sound at its most tranquil, with the chance to experience a more serene and spiritual place than you’ll find once the tourist mayhem kicks off.
Change your perspective
You’ll be happy you took a cruise along the fiord to the Tasman Sea, admiring dramatic rock outcrops and seals basking in the sunshine. Happy, that is, until you change your perspective: by getting lower to the water, or flying high over the fiord, the scenery ramps up to a whole new level. Helicopter or light plane scenic flights provide an unmissable opportunity for a perfect Milford Sound visit in impressive Fiordland National Park setting. Take to the water on a guided kayaking trip and as you crane your neck to scour the cliff tops for bird life, you’ll start to appreciate their true scale.