Milford sound is nestled in Fiordland National Park, a world-famous UNESCO World Heritage site. To reach the natural wonder, you have to traverse stretches of mountainous terrain almost as spectacular as the fiord itself, so it’s no secret that the journey to Milford Sound is also an epic adventure!
Catching our transport coach or flying into Milford Sound with our partners Glenorchy Air, Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters, or Air Milford are two of the most common and most breathtaking ways to cross the park. With each, you have the ability to relax and take in the view while your transport does all the hard work. However, choosing wheels or wings can definitely change the way you experience the journey to Milford Sound.
So, should you fly or coach (or both!) into Milford Sound? Here’s some things to consider.
How long it takes
Taking the route that the crow flies directly through the skies is always going to be quicker! Flying over the mountains and into Milford Sound takes less than an hour, while the journey by coach can take up to five-six hours each way including plenty of stops for photos along the way.
A shorter travel time reduces the total time you need to allow for the whole adventure, so flying could be the perfect fit for your holiday plans. If you’re trying to squeeze multiple activities into one day or a shorter trip to experience everything Queenstown has to offer, taking a flight to Milford Sound can be the ideal way to achieve this, while not sacrificing anything on your to-do list.
A flight to Milford Sound reveals such expansive views that there are never words big or poetic enough to describe it. You’ll see the mountain peaks stacked one after the other, fading until they curve off the earth. A view from the sky is a unique perspective in more ways than one; not only can you see well-known landmarks from a completely new angle, but you’ll also get to experience spotting untouched glaciers, waterfalls, and alpine lakes that can ONLY be seen from a scenic flight. With such a breathtaking landscape all to yourself, you’ll be on cloud nine for a long time.
The coach option is not without its own pristine views from the land – and we’ve recently launched our new multi-lingual commentary app to make your road trip even more interesting.
To break up the drive, the coach stops at multiple viewing platforms and rest stops, making the journey by road its own experience. The Mirror Lakes is a must-do while on the coach ride; small lakes in the shadow of the Earl Mountains are often so still that they mirror the peaks and forest, reflecting a second landscape in the water.
Further down the road to Milford as you wind into the mountains, you won’t miss any rockface or snowdrift through the glass ceiling and large viewing windows that line the coach. There is truly no feeling like being surrounded by huge mountains in every direction, and this is an unmissable benefit when choosing to coach.
Interaction with the landscape
A scenic flight over the Southern Alps can etch vivid memories and forge a lasting connection with the timeless vista, a humbling dance between humanity and nature. But despite being able to see further from the air, the longer coach can help you experience the landscape in a richer and more interactive way. Smell the lakes and mountain air when you stop for sightseeing, watch a cheeky Kia try to pickpocket a sandwich on the side of the road, and memorise each peak in detail as they linger in your window, providing constant companionship during the longer drive.
Queenstown is known to be the adventure capital of New Zealand and although you may not be keen to dance with adrenaline, this is the ideal holiday location to test your mettle if you’re not a frequent flyer. With a shorter, higher, and more thrilling experience, the flight into Milford Sound could be the adrenaline rush and step out of your comfort zone that you’re looking for during a Queenstown visit.
This is a big factor to consider during any activity on your Queenstown holiday; you should think about what you would like to prioritise and the priceless memories you’d like to go home with!
While flying into Milford Sound comes with a higher price, it also comes with a higher level of convenience, an almost crowdless experience with skies all to yourself, and the ultimate exclusive views that you won’t see from anywhere else on the ground.
“It was a beautiful experience…worth every penny,” said ‘NiclasKeilen’ on TripAdvisor about flying to Miflord Sound with Glenorchy Air!
If you’re mainly keen to experience the epic beauty of Milford Sound on a nature cruise, have a full day to dedicate to Fiordland, and love the anticipation of the journey, then you’ll love the comfortable coach experience for the price!
Planning for the weather
Milford Sound is one of the wettest places in New Zealand and can often be seen with a moody blanket of mist clinging to the cliffs. While the coach can also be called off due to weather, travelling by road tends to be much more reliable and less affected by inclement weather than catching a plane or helicopter. If you don’t have time in your holiday to reschedule a cancelled flight, or seeing Miflord Sound is a non-negotiable on your bucket list, you could choose a coach to give yourself the best chance of making it to Milford.
Want the best of both worlds?
It is very possible that the incredible positives of each option have only confused you more, so we thought we should let you know that there is a third option; don’t choose!
Our popular Coach + Cruise + Fly adventure will allow you to experience the anticipation and worthwhile rest stops of the coach as you head into the fiord, the untouched beauty of a Milford Cruise, and then breathtaking views on a scenic flight or helicopter ride back to Queenstown. Find the flight or heli option when booking either the Nature or Discover More cruises.
Ultimately, the decision between flying and taking the coach depends on your preferences, budgets, and schedules, but whether it’s a plane or paved roads that gets you there, this natural wonderland promises to be a destination worth traveling the world for.See more latest news