Milford Sound, New Zealand: The Eighth World Wonder

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Where is Milford Sound?

Milford Sound is located on the South West side on the South Island of New Zealand. It is a part of the Fiordland National Park. The closest town to Milford Sound is Te Anau, it is also fairly close to Queenstown.

What is Milford Sound?

Mistaken as a "sound", Milford Sound is actually a Fiord, or a glacier carved mountain. The Fiord is a large body of water surrounded by giant cliffs the jut out of the ocean. Known as one of the wettest regions in the world, Milford Sound receives an average of 6,412 mm (252 in) of rain per year. That's a lot of rain! For comparison, Phoenix receives an average of 8 inches of rain per year and Seattle 37 inches. The rainfall at Milford Sound is what creates the spectacular waterfalls that attract visitors from around the world. On a rainy day visitors can see hundreds of waterfalls cascading down the cliff-sides and into the ocean. It’s spectacular!

How do you get to Milford Sound?

There are several ways to get to Milford Sound. You can book a day tour through a tour company, drive yourself, or take a scenic flight! Most of the day tours and scenic flights leave early in the day from Queenstown. If you have a rental car you can drive to Milford Sound (we recommend driving if possible). Milford Sound is 3 hours and 50 minutes from Queenstown or 1 hour and 40 minutes from Te Anau. There are many scenic places to stop along the way, (as are most places throughout New Zealand) so plan for extra time to stop and enjoy the scenery! We were definitely not prepared for the incredible scenery during the 1 hour and 40 minutes ride from Te Anau. You could spend an entire day stopping and documenting the entire area.

What do you do at Milford Sound?

The most popular way to see Milford Sound is on a boat cruise. When you arrive you’ll see signs for a parking lot and then be directed to the boat terminal. There are about a dozen different boat booking companies! You can book a tour upon arrival however, if you’re visiting during peak season you should book online in advance. There are also several booking companies in Queenstown that will take care of the bus coach as well as the boat tour.

The boat cruise lasts around 90 minutes and is an incredible ride through the fiord to see the waterfalls up close. Many of the boats even get you underneath the waterfalls! That was definitely a highlight for us! Some of the cruises provide light refreshments or drinks. The cruise is also a fantastic way to learn all about the history of the fiord and how it was created.

what to bring

  • Rain jackets or ponchos - It rains most of the year so expect to get wet! If you’d like to go underneath the waterfalls during the boat cruise then you’ll need a poncho or plan or getting soaked.

  • Food for the day - You’ll be spending an entire day driving and exploring. Pack enough food for your family and bring water!

  • Camera or GoPro - You’ll want to document these amazing waterfalls! If you watched the video at the top Mike shot that with his GoPro, such a great way to document the experience.

  • Baby carrier and/or stroller - We had both of these items and used them! The stroller is nice for babies to nap in (the boat rocks them to sleep). The carrier is great because you can enjoy the outside decks with the baby strapped to you. It can get very slippery up top on the decks so to be safe we always had Whitney strapped to us!

why we loved milford sound

Milford Sound was hands down our favorite site in New Zealand! The scenery was jaw dropping and completely out of this world. We couldn’t believe how incredible the Milford Sound waterfalls were! Of all the New Zealand waterfalls we saw during our month long visit, these were the most spectacular! We also got to see seals and penguins swimming in the ocean. Everything about this place was incredible and represents the beauty of New Zealand. Be sure to add it to your list of sites on the South Island it is not to be missed!

Cruise and Accommodations

We used Juicy Milford Sound for our boat cruise. Click here to visit Juicy Milford Sound website.

For accommodations we stayed at Loch Vista in Te Anau. This place was beautiful and had amazing views of the lake in Te Anau. This place is perfect for families or larger groups! Click here to view and book Loch Vista.