Milford Sound is one of the most popular and arguably the most beautiful tourist destinations in New Zealand. It is one of the best places for New Zealand sightseeing known for its towering mountains, steep cliffs, lush vegetation, and stunning waterfalls.
Milford Sound is located deep in Fiordland National Park on New Zealand’s South Island. Although the name suggests otherwise, Milford Sound is actually not a “sound” at all and rather a fiord – meaning it was carved by ancient glaciers, not rivers.
This ancient fiord has become so famous largely due to its beauty which has been admired by tourists for over 100 years. However, before tourists came, Milford Sound was a popular place for the Maori people who visited in search of Pounamu (New Zealand Jade or Greenstone).
The truth is, regardless of what brings you to Milford Sound one thing is for sure – you’re going to see some pretty spectacular sights! If you choose to explore Milford Sound on a cruise (and you should) you will be able to see the most impressive places first hand.
Benefits of a Milford Sound Cruise
A Milford Sound cruise is the best way to see the unmissable sights of Milford Sound for a few reasons. These include:
Milford Sound cruises with Southern Discoveries are very affordable. You can book a Milford Sound Cruise for as little as $46 in summer. There are also some great package deals available for those who want to combine a cruise with a coach ride or kayak.
Our boats used to guide you through Milford Sound are very comfortable. They feature upper and lower decks with both indoor and outdoor seating. You can also visit our fully loaded snack bar or take advantage of the free tea and coffee on board.
Our cruises run for up to two hours. This means you have plenty of time to take in the stunning views of Milford Sound but also relax at the same time. You can also extend your time in Milford by adding a visit to the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory or an hour of kayaking around Harrison Cove.
On a Milford Sound Cruise, you can get some of the best views of Milford Sound. Without venturing out on one of our cruises you’re unlikely to see any of the stunning spots mentioned below.
Six Unmissable Sights in Milford Sound
1. Mitre Peak
There are no sights in Milford Sound as iconic as Mitre Peak. Mitre Peak is plastered all over postcards and calendars. Getting your own photo of this stunning mountain is a must-do on any trip to Milford Sound.
Although Mitre Peak is impressive in photos it’s even more impressive in real life. This uniquely shaped mountain rises 1690 metres from the water and appears from the shore to be a single pointed peak. However, in real life, Mitre Peak is actually made of 5 peaks – all of which you will see as you cruise Milford Sound.
We’ll cruise out towards Mitre Peak giving you a stunning close-up before we pass to its right where you will see this mountain from a whole new perspective.
Mitre Peak is one of those places you can’t miss on a trip to Milford Sound but in order to see its true beauty, you must embark on a cruise through Milford Sound.
2. Fairy Falls
Fairy Falls is another one of Milford Sound’s gorgeous waterfalls and a must-see sight on any Milford trip. Although Fairy Falls isn’t a permanent waterfall in Milford Sound, it rarely dries up due to the consistent rainfall in Milford Sound.
Fairy Falls is a much smaller waterfall than Stirling Falls, but because of its location, it’s prone to creating stunning rainbows on sunny days and is the perfect place to try some pure glacier water.
When the weather allows, we will place a tray of glasses on the front of the boat on our Encounter Nature Cruise and our talented skippers will get the boat within inches of the waterfall to fill them up.
Trust us, you haven’t tried water this pure before!
Fairy Falls is simply an unmissable sight in Milford Sound which can only be visited by heading out deep into the fiord by boat!
3. Seal Rock
Seal Rock is another famous attraction in Milford Sound. As the name suggests, Seal Rock is home to New Zealand Fur Seals who use the rock to both sunbathe and rest between fishing expeditions.
Without jumping on a Milford cruise you’ll likely miss Seal Rock. Its location is deep in Milford Sound and from a distance, the seals that call this rock home are almost impossible to see. Luckily, our Milford cruises get as close as possible to Seal Rock and our onboard guides and skippers are masters at spotting them!
On our Milford cruises, we spend some time at the rock and ensure our visitors get the best view by maneuvering the boat depending on where the seals lay – meaning you get some quality seal time.
But seals aren’t the only wildlife you’ll see on a Milford Sound cruise. There can be plenty of opportunities to spot penguins, dolphins, and native birds as well!
4. Stirling Falls
Stirling Falls is Milford Sound’s second highest waterfall. At 155 metres it’s just shy of the top spot of 161 metres held by Bowen Falls. Although it may not be the largest, Stirling Falls is arguably the most beautiful.
Stirling Falls is a permanent waterfall in Milford Sound,which means you can see it any time of the year. In fact, it’s been around for 15,000 years! The best part about Stirling Falls being a permanent waterfall is that on all of our cruises you’ll get the chance to get a “glacial facial” as the skipper skillfully positions the boat within meters of the rock face.
Here, you’ll have the best view in the house regardless of whether you enjoy this from inside the vessel or out on our front viewing deck!
5. Milford Sound Underwater Observatory
If you truly want to get to know Milford Sound then you must go deep below the water’s surface. How do you do that? With a visit to our Milford Sound Underwater Observatory.
Milford Underwater Observatory is a great way to see what’s happening underwater without having to brave the icy cold water. At the underwater observatory, you’ll see Milford Sound from 10 metres below the surface in New Zealand’s only floating underwater observatory.
Here you get a 360-degree view of Milford Sound as our informative guide explains everything there is to know about Milford Sound’s unique ecosystem that lies below the surface. If you’re lucky, you may even get to see some of Milford Sound’s marine life such as dolphins!
6. Harrison Cove
Harrison Cove was the first place settlers anchored in Milford Sound. This rather large bay is home to extremely calm crystal clear waters and impressive towering cliff faces. It’s also the place where the Harrison River meets Milford Sound. This river transports pure glacier water from the surrounding mountains to Milford Sound.
From the shores of Milford, Harrison Cove cannot be seen so heading out on a boat cruise is a must.
All of our cruises visit this iconic spot but if you truly want to explore Harrison Cove then joining one of our Milford Sound Cruise & Kayak trips in Harrison Cove is a great idea! Our kayaking guides will safely guide you through the fiord as they provide informative commentary. Some of the highlights include tasting the water from the Harrison River, spotting penguins, and experiencing Milford Sound’s sheer size from a tiny kayak.
Southern Discoveries Milford Sound Cruise Options
If you want to see all of the amazing sights mentioned above, then you must book a boat cruise! You have a few different options of cruises to choose from:
Scenic Cruise – Enjoy Milford Sound’s stunning scenery aboard our large, purpose-built Catamaran. Scenic Cruises run for 1 hour and 45 minutes and cruise the entire length of the fiord. On board enjoy our large indoor and outdoor viewing platforms and comfortable seating. The cruise includes free tea and coffee as well as commentary by our skipper.
Nature Cruise – Our Nature Cruises are all about Milford Sound’s unique flora and fauna. As we cruise the fiord, our nature guide will share some unique facts about Milford Sound’s plants and wildlife all while keeping a close eye out for seals, dolphins, and penguins. On this cruise, you will also get to feel the power of Stirling falls and have the opportunity to get showered under the waterfall!
Encounter Nature Cruise – Our Encounter Nature Cruise is a very unique cruise that will have you not only spotting amazing wildlife but also drinking pure glacier water right from Fairy Falls. Our Encounter Nature Cruises are aboard our smallest boat meaning you can get as close to the action as possible.
Compare the different Milford Sound cruise trips we offer and find the one that’s best for you. If you want to know more, contact us for more information or to book your Milford Sound tour. Get exploring with Southern Discoveries.