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Everything you need to know about Milford Sound

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Milford Road trip

We get so many questions about Milford, like how long does it take to get there? Will I see any wildlife? What’s the weather like? So we decided to make it super simple for you and put together a list of the most common questions we get asked about Milford Sound.

Is Milford Sound the wettest place on earth?

Milford Sound is one if the wettest inhabited places on the planet. On average, in Milford Sound it rains 200 days a year. Milford Sound collects around 7.5m of rainfall, which is about twice that of the Amazon (3.5m). Don’t be put off by the rain though, more rain just means more waterfalls cascading down the mountainside.


How long does it take to get to Milford Sound?

From Queenstown we recommend that you allow 5 hours to drive to Milford Sound, this will give you time to stop in Te Anau for a snack if needed. From Te Anau it is about two and a half hours and this allows for time to stop at some of the short walks and photo opportunities on the stunning Milford Road.

For those wanting to get the most of their time in Fiordland, why not spend a nigh (or two) in Te Anau? With walks, biking, sailing, one of the best cinema’s in NZ, it’s a perfect jumping off point into the park.

Will I see wildlife in Milford Sound?

Milford Sound is a National Park so they likelihood of seeing wildlife is high. But all wildlife is just that, wild, so we can’t guarantee it. On the Milford Road, keep an eye out for some cheeky Kea they love to jump on your car near the Homer tunnel.

On your cruise you could be followed by a pod of bottlenose dolphins and keep an eye out for New Zealand fur seals basking on the rocks. If you’re lucky, from July to November you may spot some Fiordland Crested Penguins/Tawaki during their breeding season.

Is Milford Sound the 8th wonder of the world?

Milford Sound is often called the unofficial 8th Wonder of the world. It was Rudyard Kipling who first described it as the 8th Wonder of the World after he visited. While it has never been officially been given this title, we think it should be.

How long do you need at Milford Sound?

Most people visit Milford Sound in a day, either on a coach day trip from Queenstown or Te Anau, a flight from Queenstown or most choose to drive themselves. A day trip allows you to explore the Milford Road before cruising the fiord and taking in the breath-taking scenery. If you choose our Discover More Cruise your trip will also include a visit to New Zealand’s only floating underwater observatory where you can explore life beneath the surface.

But if you really want to make the most of Milford we recommend spending a night at the Milford Sound Lodge, that way you could also add kayaking to your trip, explore some of the short walks in Milford and of course check out the Insta famous Milford Swing. In our opinion two days in Milford is better than one.

Where do I park for my Milford Sound Cruise?

The main car park in Milford Sound is located a short 5-10 minute walk from the visitor terminal. It’s a scenic walk along a path through native forest with views over the fiord. To park here the cost is $20 for five hours. This car park is run by Milford Sound Tourism and your money for parking will go towards maintaining the facilities and infrastructure in Milford Sound.

There is a second car park is located at Deepwater Basin and it is free. From here it is about a 20-30 minute scenic walk to the Visitor Sound Terminal.

Can I camp in Milford Sound?

There are no Department of Conservation campgrounds in Milford Sound. The closest camping sites are on the Milford Road at Gunn’s camp or Knobbs Flat. You can stay in Milford Sound at the Milford Sound Lodge, they have beautiful chalets and powered sites for campervans, however you can’t pitch a tent here.

How many waterfalls are in Milford Sound?

There are two permanent waterfalls in Milford, Stirling Falls and Bowen Falls, but when it rains there are thousands of temporary waterfalls. We also have some semi-permanent waterfalls, Fairy Falls and the Palisade Falls, both can last up to two weeks without rain. And if it goes that long without rain in Milford, it’s considered a drought.

Why is it called Milford Sound?

Milford Sound was originally called ‘Milford Haven’, after the homeland of Captain John Grono who discovered it. It was later renamed Milford Sound by Captain John Lort Stokes and then officially called Milford Sound/Piopiotahi when Ngai Tahu Claims Settlement Act of 1998 came into effect.

Does anyone live in Milford Sound?

Yes there are about x200 amount of people living in the Milford Sound village. All those who live in Milford work for one of the local cruise operators, Milford Sound Lodge, one of the fishing boats or Milford Sound Tourism. Al inhabitants live in staff accommodation that is supplied by their employer.

What is the best time to visit Milford Sound?

The beauty of Milford Sound is that it is stunning in all weather and is the perfect place to spend a wet weather day. No matter the season you will still be in awe of the fiord and how impressive the landscape is.

What do you wear on a Milford Sound cruise?

As the weather in Milford can be very wet and quite changeable, we recommend preparing for all seasons. Take a rain jacket, even it’s not raining you’re going to want this for your glacial facial under Stirling Falls. Comfortable footwear if you plan on exploring some of the short walks and warm layers as you will want to spend most of your time on the outside deck taking in the views.

Can you see Milford Sound without a cruise?

Milford Sound has some great short walks in the area, and they allow for some stunning views over the fiord, But, if you’ve driven all this way and you really want to take in the full grandeur of the fiord you really must experience it from the water.

Are there sandflies in Milford Sound?

Unfortunately, these pesky little flies do call Milford Sound home. They’re not so bad on the cruise but do like to come say hi when you’re wandering around the foreshore so we aways recommend that you take some bug spray to Milford with you.

Is Milford Sound a fiord or sound?

Although called Milford Sound, Milford is actually a fiord. A sound is a valley formed by the flooding of a river valley. Fiords are glacial carved valleys containing a body of water, typically sea water.

Can you drive to Milford Sound?

Yes, you can drive to Milford Sound, it is about a five-hour drive from Queenstown and two and a half from Te Anau. You can self-drive or you can relax on one of our coaches and let the driver do the hard work while you sit back and relax and enjoy the journey.

Is Milford Sound saltwater?

Milford sound is seawater but quite often the top layer of water on the fiord is freshwater. As a high volume of rain pours into a relatively small surface area, and salt and fresh water mix very slowly, the fresh water begins to pool on the surface.

Can you cruise Milford Sound in winter?

Yes you can cruise Milford Sound 365 days a year. Milford Sound is beautiful in winter with snow-capped mountains it’s stunning.

Are cruises suitable for kids?

Quick answer, 100% yes! Milford Sound is a great activity for the whole family. We get families with kids of all ages visiting us to explore the fiord. Your young adventurers will love getting close to waterfalls and if you book our Discover More Cruise the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory will be a real highlight. Kayaking is also a great option for families with kids over the age of five, we have double kayaks which are perfect for families.

How old is Milford Sound?

As a fiord Milford Sound was formed by a process of glaciation over millions of years. It was believed to have been discovered by Māori over 1,000 years ago. While very few lived in the fiord, they visited frequently collecting food and takiwai, translucent greenstone. The first European to discover Milford Sound was Captain John Grono in 1812 and it was first settled in 1877 by Donald Sutherland.

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