How to prepare for a Milford Sound bus trip

8 March 2019

Milford Sound is arguably the most famous tourist attraction in all of New Zealand. Every day, thousands of excited visitors embark on a once in a lifetime bus journey from Te Anau or Queenstown to Milford Sound. Taking a bus to Milford and jumping on a boat cruise is the most iconic Milford Sound tour you can experience! 

The bus trip to Milford Sound is an adventure all on its own and along the way you will witness some of the stunning landscapes that have made New Zealand a top tourist destination. With that said, a Milford Sound bus trip isn’t short, and properly preparing for your Milford Sound day trip is a great way to maximise comfort.

Here’s everything you need to know about a Milford Sound day trip and how to prepare for the bus journey to paradise.

Where does the bus to Milford Sound depart from? 

Our trips depart daily from Queenstown and on the way can pick up from Te Anau.

Our Milford Sound tour from Queenstown offers pick up from most hotels or main bus stops in town. This is a very convenient way to start your trip and makes the early morning rise that much easier. Pick  up is usually anywhere between 6.45am and 7.30am, depending on where you’re located and what trip you’ve picked. When you book your trip, just let us know where you’re staying in Queenstown and we’ll be able to arrange a pick up.

If your departing from Te Anau, check in is at our Southern Discoveries Visitor Centre. Te Anau is a much smaller town than Queenstown and getting to our visitor centre is very convenient due to its central location.

How long is the bus trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound? 

From Queenstown, the stunning journey to Milford Sound takes around 4.5 hours. This trip isn’t all about the final destination  – it’s too gorgeous to rush and getting there is half the fun! We make plenty of stops to take in the amazing views, stretch your legs and use the restrooms.

The longest stop is around the halfway point in Te Anau. Here you can get off the bus for about 30 minutes to get your morning coffee fix at a café.

This stop is timed perfectly as the next part of your Milford Sound tour from Queenstown is the most exciting!

From Te Anau to Milford Sound, the journey takes around 2.5 hours but includes some beautiful views and photos opportunities as you drive through Fiordland National Park.

How comfortable are our buses? 

The short answer is – very comfortable! In fact, our transport to Milford Sound is via a coach, not a bus. Our coaches are larger and more luxurious than buses. They feature a glass roof so that you don’t miss a thing and comfortable seats so you can travel in style. We also offer 75MB of free WiFi and all seats have USB charging points to make sure you have plenty of battery to take photos once you arrive.

Get plenty of sleep! 

The best advice for preparing for a Milford Sound bus trip is to get plenty of rest the night before. Queenstown’s nightlife is great, but save it for a night when you don’t have much planned for the following day. Make sure you get to bed early and get a good night’s sleep before heading to Milford – this way you’ll have the energy to fully enjoy the experience.

When booking your Milford Sound trip, be sure to book when you can commit your entire day. Visiting Milford Sound on a bus trip is a full-day activity and chances are you will be tired when you return back to your hotel.

Also, don’t worry about planning your trip to Milford around the weather either. Milford Sound in the rain is just as beautiful (if not more beautiful) and our tours are suited for both rain and shine!

7 Things to Pack for Your Milford Sound Day Trip 

There are a few things that you should consider bringing with you to Milford Sound. Some of them are:

  1. Snacks – Bringing along some healthy road trip snacks on your day trip to Milford Sound is a great idea. Although lunch is provided on your cruise having some extra snacks to keep your body fueled and energy levels high.
  2. Music – In between your driver’s commentary, one of the best ways to take in the scenery is with music. Come up with some great playlist ideas before embarking on your trip. You can download a playlist that is especially made for enjoying the New Zealand scenery, or just get a classic road trip playlist ready to go!
  3. Neck Pillow – The early morning wake up makes resting your eyes that much more tempting. Our coaches are very comfortable however, bringing a neck pillow is sure to make getting rest much easier. On our journey back to Queenstown from Milford Sound, many visitors choose to take this time to get some shut-eye.
  4. Rain Jacket It rains over 200 days a year in Milford Sound, and although this rain creates hundreds of stunning waterfalls, it is still a great idea to cover up so you can stay dry!
  5. Bug Repellent – If you haven’t already met the New Zealand sandfly, you sure will in Milford Sound! These little guys can leave a nasty bite so packing some bug repellent is a great idea.
  6. Camera – Of course this goes without saying, but bringing a camera is the best way to capture an everlasting moment in Milford Sound!
  7. Sunscreen – Sunburn is one sure way to tire you out much faster on your Milford Sound cruise. Using sunscreen is a great way to be sun smart and keep your energy levels going all day! A hat and sunglasses for the sunny days are also a must.

5 Milford Sound Bus Trip Highlights 

After you reach Te Anau, the real adventure begins! The drive on the road to Milford between Te Anau and Milford Sound is stunning and we make plenty of stops at some of the most beautiful places! Some of these highlights are:

  1. Eglinton Valley 

Our first stop after Te Anau on our way to Milford Sound is Eglinton Valley and it’s a very impressive sight to see! The Eglinton Valley was once filled with giant glaciers that carved their way through thick rock to create what you see today. This valley is the first resemblance of the region’s ancient glacier past which you will later see more of in Milford Sound itself!

  1. Mirror Lakes

The next stop is the very famous and beautiful Mirror Lakes. Mirror Lakes are small lakes that, on a calm day, give off perfect reflections of the Earl Mountains that lay behind them.

The lakes are viewed via a boardwalk that winds its way along the edge of the lakes. This boardwalk is 400 meters long and is a perfect spot to stretch your legs on your journey to Milford Sound.

  1. Monkey Creek 

Monkey Creek is a glacier fed spring located in the Hollyford Valley which is home to some of the most breathtaking NZ scenery. The water from Monkey Creek is so pure that you can drink it right from the spring. Here, you can fill your water bottle and taste some of the purest water in the world all while taking in the stunning views of the surrounding mountains!

  1. The Homer Tunnel 

The Homer Tunnel is not a stop on our trip to Milford Sound, but rather a tunnel we drive through! The Homer Tunnel is the only road access to Milford Sound and before its construction finished in 1954, the only way to Milford Sound was via horseback or walking. The Homer Tunnel is 1.2 kilometers long and passes through solid granite rock – just one of the reasons the tunnel took 19 years to complete.

  1. The Chasm 

The last stop on our bus journey to Milford Sound is the Chasm. This stop is time dependent, but if you do get to see it, you’re sure to be impressed. The Chasm is a series of beautiful waterfalls that have carved the surrounding rock into smooth swirling rock features over time. The power from the rushing water is simply mesmerising!

Milford Sound Cruise Options 

Of course, your tour from Te Anau or Queenstown to Milford Sound is all for one reason – to explore Milford Sound! One of the best ways to do this is on a Milford Sound cruise and we have a few different options to satisfy any visitor.

Nature Cruises 

Our Nature or Encounter Nature cruises are about discovering Milford Sound’s unique wildlife. Onboard you will have the opportunity to spot seals, penguins and even dolphins! Along with spotting wildlife, our Nature Cruise also explores the many waterfalls with a unique stop to taste pure glacier water! This is all done with the live commentary of one of our experienced and knowledgeable nature guides who have a keen eye for spotting wildlife.

Scenic Cruise 

Our Scenic Cruise is all about the magnificent views of Milford Sound. On this journey, we cruise the entire length of the fiord all that way out to the Tasman Sea. Our captain will provide live and interesting commentary and point out some of Milford Sound’s most unique characteristics and facts.

Discover More Cruise 

Our Discover More Cruise through Milford Sound is the ultimate experience. Not only is it our longest cruise, but it also includes a very unique and interesting stop at Milford Sound’s only Underwater Observatory. On this cruise, you will get the chance to taste pure glacier water, explore waterfalls, see amazing wildlife and much more.

 This cruise also has the option to add an amazing Milford Sound kayaking experience to your trip, which is a highlight for many of our visitors!

So, there you have it! Unlike some people think, the bus trip to Milford Sound is most definitely not a boring journey. A day trip to Milford sound is sure to be an experience you won’t soon forget. With our range of trips available, there is something for everyone! You can find out more information or book your Milford Sound trip directly online here!

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