Wondering how to slot gacor maxwin get to Milford Sound in New Zealand’s South Island? Read my detailed guide on all the options with tips, advice, and first-hand knowledge to help you plan your trip.
Nestled within the dramatic Fiordland National Park of New Zealand’s South Island, Milford Sound’s stunning vistas and breathtaking fjords make it arguably the most unmissable attraction in the country.
However, getting to Milford Sound is often tricky, given that the only access is via the iconic Milford Road or via a helicopter over the Southern Alps.
While this scenic road offers great photo stops like the Eglinton Valley and the Mirror Lakes, it’s notably prone to closures, especially due to avalanches near the Homer Tunnel. Unfortunately, common interruptions like this mean many visitors miss this South Island highlight.
But, don’t worry. I’ve had the privilege of visiting Milford Sound four times during my trips to New Zealand, both on organized bus tours and solo DIY road trips. Through this guide, I’ll be sharing everything I’ve learned about how to get to Milford Sound. I’ll also break down the different transport options, from day trips from Queenstown, to self-drive itineraries. I’ll also include essential tips that I wish I’d known the first time I visited.
Quick Answer: The Most Convenient Ways to Get to Milford Sound
The three best ways to get to Milford Sound is to rent a car and drive here yourself, book one of the many bus tours, or take a scenic flight.
Here are my three top-rated tours that offer a memorable trip and good value. Each includes the must-do Milford Sound cruise which travels out and into the mouth of the Tasman Sea.
Where is Milford Sound?
Milford Sound (which is actually a fjord, not a sound) is situated in the southwest of New Zealand’s South Island, within the Fiordland National Park.
Specifically, it lies approximately 120 kilometers northwest of the closest town, Te Anau, and around 288 kilometers from Queenstown.
As you can see in the photo above, Milford Sound might seem close to Queenstown on a map. However, to get there, you’ll first drive around the entirety of Lake Wakatipu. From there, you have to follow State Highway 94 around the majestic Southern Alps before continuing through the town of Te Anau, and eventually into the heart of Fiordland National Park.
The first time I visited Milford Sound the journey took way longer than I anticipated. So, don’t make that mistake and prepare for at least a 4-hour drive from Queenstown.
Overview of the Transport Options to Milford Sound
Alright, let’s dive into the different transport options for getting to Milford Sound.
- Coach & Bus Tours: This is the most popular way to get to Milford Sound and explore the Fiordlands. There are various tour companies departing from Queenstown and Te Anau and this usually takes an entire day, leaving early in the morning at around 8:00 am.
- Helicopter & Scenic Flights: Another popular way to visit Milford Sound. These trips typically depart from Queenstown and Wanaka, landing at Milford Sound Airstrip after a 40-minute to 1-hour flight, taking the cruise and then returning.
- Self-drive: If you’re renting a car or campervan, a great way to get to Milford Sound is to take a road trip. This is best done overnight, staying near the fjord or in Te Anau. Below I’ll include detailed directions with my recommended itinerary.
- Bonus: Hike in: It’s possible to reach the Fiordlands from Glenorchy near Queenstown by hiking through the Routeburn Track over three days to The Divide and taking a pre-organized bus to Milford from there (1 hour).
|Coach & Bus Tours||Queenstown, Te Anau||Full day (approx. 12 hrs)||$200-$350 NZD|
|Heli & Scenic Flights||Queenstown, Wanaka, Te Anau, West Coast||40 min – 1 hr (flight each way)||$300-$600 NZD|
|Self-drive||Flexible (e.g., Queenstown)||Varies (overnight recommended)||Cost of rental/fuel|
|Hike in (Bonus)||Glenorchy||3 days hike + 1 hr bus||$130 – $250 NZD (bus & DoC fees)|
Truthfully, there is no “best way” to get to Milford Sound, since each option will depend on your preferences. Also remember, you don’t need to book a tour to Milford Sound. You can drive here independently. However, if you’d like to take the famous Milford Sound Cruise, I do recommend booking this in advance because this is a busy attraction, with over 1 million people visiting the fjord yearly.
When it comes to transport, I want to make the decision easier. I’ll include a transport guide below breaking down each option with directions, pros and cons, and tips and advice based on my experience.
Road Closures & Important Things to Know About Driving to Milford Sound
When planning a trip to Milford Sound, it’s crucial to be aware that road closures are common, particularly on the stretch from The Divide and the Homer Tunnel to Milford Sound, along Milford Road (State Highway 94). These affect self-drivers and bus tours will also be canceled during these closures.
These closures can be due to a range of reasons including avalanches, rockfalls, and flooding, especially during the winter and spring months when heavy snowfall and rain are more frequent.
To stay informed and plan ahead, I recommend checking the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) website for real-time updates on road conditions and closures along this road.
When you’re planning your trip to Milford, I also highly recommend making a flexible itinerary and planning your visit to the Fiordlands on the first days, as weather conditions in Fiordland can change rapidly and cause several-day closures. I’ve been on Milford Road during sudden flash flooding (see the photo below) and let me tell you, things get crazy very quickly.
Remember, there are also no petrol stations between Te Anau and Milford Sound (although there is one at Milford once you arrive), so fill up before you leave. Lastly, booking a coach tour can be a hassle-free alternative, as they’re well-versed in handling the dynamic conditions of Milford Road.
How to Get to Milford Sound Via a Bus Tour From Queenstown or Te Anau
Getting to Milford Sound via a bus tour is one of the most stress-free options, and with the price of fuel in New Zealand, it often works out much cheaper than driving here yourself!
Being one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist towns, and one of the closest to Milford Sound, you can expect to find loads of different bus and coach tours departing here daily. However, the popularity means that it’s also a good idea to book early to secure a spot if you are limited with time.
The journey from Queenstown to Milford Sound by bus typically takes around 5 hours one way, depending on stops and the road conditions. Most tours make brief stops at scenic points like Mirror Lakes, The Chasm, and Monkey Creek. The Pure Milford tour that I took also stopped in Te Anau for coffee and a toilet break.
While tours vary in price and itineraries, most follow tour meanders around Lake Wakatipu, offering splendid views, before heading to Te Anau. From there, it winds through Fiordland National Park, offering glimpses of pristine forests, sparkling lakes, and towering mountains.
Below are some more popular options. You can also read my guide on getting to Milford from Queenstown for more options.
From Te Anau
Just over two hours drive from Queenstown, Te Anau is considered the gateway to Fiordland National Park and offers a closer starting point to Milford Sound compared to Queenstown. It’s also where many tours either start or make a quick stop.
For those staying in Te Anau, the journey from Te Anau to Milford Sound is shorter, typically around 2 hours each way to the Milford Sound Cruise terminal. This allows for more time to explore the Sound itself or make additional stops along the way.
The coach tours from Te Anau follow the same route along the shores of Lake Te Anau before entering the dramatic landscapes of Fiordland National Park. The roads here are surrounded by dense rainforest, rugged mountains, and cascading waterfalls, particularly after rain.
Here are some tour options that I’ve researched and can recommend based on my experience and the feedback of fellow travelers:
Travel tip: If you’re visiting New Zealand for hiking and nature, then I highly recommend staying in Te Anau. This is the gateway to several Great Walks, including the Kepler Track, Milford Track, and the Routeburn Track (West to East route).
What to Expect on an Organized Coach Tour to Milford
The first time I visited Milford was after my cycling trip across the South Island. Since I didn’t have a car, I booked a Milford Day Trip with Pure Milford. We set off on this coach tour early around 8:15 am from Queenstown. The coach was comfortable and our guide Ben was funny and offered us plenty of knowledge, sharing stories and facts.
We stopped at several scenic spots along the way, including the renowned Mirror Lakes and the Chasm. These are great spots because the native temperate rainforests here are really unique and unlike anywhere else I’ve been in the South Island. We even got to spot some Kea birds.
We also took short walks and stopped at the public toilets in Te Anau, which were a nice way to break up the journey.
The boat cruise in Milford Sound was of course the best part of the experience. Surrounded by the towering cliffs and waterfalls all around us. This was the first time I’d been on the Milford Sound Cruise, and I got to witness the scene in pouring rain, which is truly beautiful.
Useful Tips for Booking the Right Milford Sound Tour
When considering a Milford Sound tour, small group tours can be the best option, often offering personalized insights from your tour guides.
For those on a tighter budget or seeking a broader experience, many tour companies provide larger group bus tours, which can be a great option. However, I recommend delving into the reviews of your preferred tour companies as there are a lot on GetYourGuide and Viator.
Remember, early booking is definitely a priority, especially during the peak months of Summer (December to March).
Pros & Cons of Coach and Bus Tous
Also, one thing that I noticed is that due to the long drive distance from Queenstown, most bus and coach tours take the 1:00 pm and midday Milford Cruise departures. In terms of photography, this isn’t the best time for light, since the sun will be coming straight down onto the water, causing harsher reflections. This is also the busiest time to visit since all of the coaches arrive at roughly the same time.
Milford Sound From Above: Booking a Scenic Flight
Looking for the absolute best way to get to Milford Sound? Booking a scenic flight from Queenstown, Wanaka, Te Anau or even the West Coast offers incredible views over the Southern Alps while avoiding a long coach trip.
Best Scenic Flight Tours to Milford
While there are dozens of helicopter tours and small plane scenic flight companies in the South Island of New Zealand, I can personally recommend the epic Southern Alps and Milford flight by Milford Sound Scenic Flights.
This is one of the most renowned scenic flight companies in New Zealand and the tour offers great value for money. Departing from Queenstown, you’ll get to enjoy spectacular views of the mountains, waterfalls, and lakes of the Fiordland National Park before landing in Milford Sound in time for the cruise.
If you’re staying in other regions of New Zealand’s South Island, check out a full list of options below.
Scenic Flight Pros & Cons
How to Get to Milford Sound via a Self-Drive Road Trip
While bus, coach, and scenic flight tours are great, I’m a big fan of independent travel. Therefore it’s no surprise that my favorite way to get to Milford Sound is to simply drive here myself.
There are many reasons why I recommend that travellers get a rental car and explore this region independently. But, perhaps the most important reason is that a road trip along Milford Road is by far one of the most scenic drives in the world, and one of the most beautiful I’ve ever done.
Below I’ll provide some tips on renting a car or van, detailed directions for getting to the fjord, and a typical itinerary that includes the top photo stops and best places to visit along the way.
Road Trip Directions to Milford Sound
Since there really is only one road into Milford Sound (Milford Road), it is quite hard to get directions wrong. I would recommend using Google Maps or another navigation app, which will get you there without any issues. However, remember that cell reception is very limited in the Fiordlands, so it’s a good idea to download offline maps.
Need step-by-step directions? Here’s a summary from Queenstown with distances.
- Start in Queenstown: Your journey begins in the adventure capital of New Zealand. Ensure your vehicle is filled up with fuel here as there are limited stations along the way.
- Head to Kingston: Follow State Highway 6 south for about 47 kilometers around the eastern side of Lake Wakatipu.
- Drive towards Mossburn: From Kingston, continue on SH6 for another 50 kilometers before turning right onto SH94. Mossburn is not only a good spot for a break, but it’s also known as New Zealand’s ‘Deer Capital’. There’s also a fuel station here.
- Arrive in Te Anau: Continue on SH94, driving another 80 kilometers. Te Anau is the gateway to Fiordland National Park. It’s a good idea to make a brief stop here, perhaps to grab a coffee at Wapiti Bakery (they make great pies too).
- Enter Fiordland National Park: Continue along State Highway 94 from Te Anau. The journey from here to Milford Sound offers multiple lookouts and short trails. Key spots include the Mirror Lakes, Knobs Flat, Eglinton Valley, and the Homer Tunnel.
- Homer Tunnel: This 1.2 km long tunnel, carved through the Darran Mountain Range, is truly epic. There’ll be lights and a queue here since it’s a one-way tunnel (we’ve always spotted Kea Birds in the lineup). Remember to keep your headlights on. During Winter, there can be avalanche risks on the other side, so check for tunnel status before starting your trip.
- Descent to Milford Sound: Once you exit the Homer Tunnel, you’ll be met with the amazing sight of the Cleddau Valley. Continue your descent, passing The Chasm, a short walk that highlights the power of water shaping the rock formations.
- Arrival at Milford Sound: The journey concludes at the Milford Sound Visitor Centre, roughly 4-5 hours after departing from Queenstown. From here, you can embark on the cruise, kayak, or admire Mitre Peak’s iconic silhouette reflecting off the fjord from the jetty.
Typical Road Trip Itinerary & Photo Stops on the Way to Milford Sound
Below is a short travel itinerary for Milford Road from Te Anau. I’ve included the best stops that I can recommend along the road to Milford Sound. Remember, if your goal is to get to Milford early for your cruise, I recommend leaving early and perhaps making these stops on the way back out.
|Stop||Distance from Previous Stop||Drive Time||Description|
|Te Anau||Start Point||Start Point||Starting point; Consider grabbing snacks & fuel as this is the last major town before Milford Sound.|
|Te Anau Downs||30 km||20 minutes||A scenic stop along the lake. Also the starting point for the Milford Track.|
|Eglinton Valley||26 km||20 minutes||An epic U-shaped glacial valley and a prime spot for photography.|
|Mirror Lakes||3 km||5 minutes||Small lakes that provide excellent reflective views of the Earl Mountains on a calm day. Just a short walk.|
|Lake Gunn||20 km||20 minutes||A serene lake with pristine waters, surrounded by native forest. Great for a short nature walk.|
|The Chasm||30 km||35 minutes||A series of powerful waterfalls; a short loop walk takes you to two viewing platforms.|
|Milford Sound||10 km||15 minutes||Final destination; immerse yourself in the dramatic beauty of the fjord and take a boat cruise.|
Pros & Cons of a Self-Drive Road Trip to Milford Sound
Tip: Parking at Milford Sound
Parking at Milford Sound once you arrive is kind of annoying. It used to be the case that you could park for free at Deepwater Basin Parking&Bus, just 1.6 km from the cruise terminal (20-30 minutes). However, there are now signs here for limited 2-hour parking. I’m not sure if this is enforced, but I didn’t risk it the last time I went.
The second, official parking for Milford is just a short, 5-minute walk from the cruise terminal and is called “Milford Sound Public Carpark”. It costs $10 NZD per hour (I know right…) to park your car here. You can pay by card on the parking machines.
Road Closures & Things to Know About Driving to Milford Sound
Driving the scenic road to Milford Sound is a true New Zealand bucket list experience. However, here are some more important things to know:
- Road Closures & Conditions: Milford Road (State Highway 94) is the only road access route to Milford Sound, and it can close due to avalanches, snow, and heavy rain. Always check the road conditions on the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) website (linked above) for real-time updates before setting out, especially on a snowy day.
- Tunnel Navigation: The Homer Tunnel is a one-lane tunnel carved through a mountain and is a highlight on Milford Road. Be careful though. You will have to line up since it’s a one-way tunnel and only one direction of travel can proceed at a time. Turn your headlights on.
- Petrol & Services: There are no petrol stations between Te Anau and Milford Sound. Fill up your tank in Te Anau. Additionally, public toilets can be found at main rest stops along the drive in Fiordland National Park.
- Weather & Snow Chains: The region is known for its rapid weather changes. Even in summer, rain is frequent, and during winter, snow can blanket the road. Always carry warm clothing, rain gear, and snow chains if traveling during the colder months.
- Sandflies: During warmer months, these small biting insects are a nuisance in this region. Carry repellent and wear long sleeves.
- Safety tips: Mobile phone/cell phone reception is limited on the journey. Ensure your vehicle is in good condition, share your travel plans with someone, and always carry essential supplies like water, food, and a first-aid kit.
- No Rush: Again, this is one of the most scenic routes on earth. The drive offers truly epic views, waterfalls, and scenic spots. Allow plenty of time.
Alternative Routes and Contingency Plans
As I’ve mentioned, road closures to Milford are common. If there’s been bad weather and it’s the case during your visit, consider alternative options that still allow you to experience the beauty of the Fiordlands.
Below are some alternative attractions worth doing on a road trip to the South, even if Milford Road is closed.
- Doubtful Sound: Often considered the quieter cousin of Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound is another beautiful fjord. It’s larger and more remote. Additionally, you can embark on a day or overnight cruises from Lake Manapouri or Te Anau, so you don’t have to take the Milford Road.
- Te Anau Glowworm Caves: Located on the western shore of Lake Te Anau, a tour of these caves offers an enchanting experience. You can witness the magic of glowworms as they light up the dark interiors.
- Lake Manapouri: A picturesque lake surrounded by mountains, offering boat cruises and a good place for kayaking.
Accommodation: Staying near Milford Sound
Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Why only visit for a day? Below are the top three places that you can stay in the region that allow you more time to explore.
1. Milford Sound Lodge Luxury
Encapsulated by mountains with spectacular views of the surrounding waterfalls and offering a free breakfast it is hard to beat.
2. Tasman Holiday Parks Te Anau
Offering large apartment-style rooms, a hot tub and sauna, and only a 5-minute walk from Te Anau center. Perfect for those heading to Milford Sound for a day trip.
3. Milford Sound Overnight Cruise Unique
The most unique overnight experience floating around Milford Sound. With a chance to spot local wildlife whilst indulging in a 3-course dinner.
Camping Along the Road to Milford
If you have rented a camper, there are also many campsites along the way. These include:
- Cascade Creek Campsite (DOC)
- Gunn’s Camp
- Upper Eglinton Campsite (DOC)
- Kiosk Creek (DOC)
- Knobs Flat
- Deer Flat (DOC)
- Mackay Creek (DOC)
- Totara (DOC)
- Walker Creek Campsite (DOC)
I recommend using the CamperMate App to check reviews and current updates from the campervan travel community. My favourite campsite is the Cascade Creek site and can highly recommend it. This is a large clearing next to a beautiful forest and a flowing creek. You can also have campfires here. However, sandflies are a nuisance.
FAQ About Visiting Milford Sound
The most popular methods are by coach & bus tours, self-drive itineraries, and scenic flights. Self-driving offers the most flexibility.
Yes, there is a sealed, scenic road leading all the way to the end of the fjord with parking available. However, check regularly for updates on road closures as they are common.
The drive is about 288 km and typically takes around 4 hours without stops. However, the journey can be much longer if you decide to enjoy the numerous scenic spots and photo opportunities along Milford Road, so plan ahead.
The Milford Road leading to the fjord is one of the most scenic routes in New Zealand and a highlight of most travel itineraries to the South Island. I would say that visiting this deep section of the Fiordlands is an unmissable activity if you love nature.
Driving to Milford during winter can be dangerous and avalanches do occur. I recommend contacting the DoC for recommendations. However, after speaking to them myself, Ryan from the DoC office in Mount Cook National Park said that road chains are usually mandatory.
While the road is generally safe, it’s essential to check road conditions, especially during winter or rainy days. The Milford Road section, especially the Homer Tunnel, can be challenging.
There are no petrol stations once you leave Te Anau until you reach Milford Sound. The price of fuel at Milford Sound is also very expensive. So, it’s a top tip to fill up your tank there before heading out.
Apart from the famous Milford Sound nature cruise tour, you can also go kayaking, hiking, and even an underwater observatory activity (on boats).
Yes, there are public toilets available at various points but these sometimes close. I recommend checking my list of campsites above, many of these have public toilets.
The main thing to know when planning a trip to Milford Sound is that it is known for its unpredictable weather. I recommend packing a lightweight waterproof jacket (summer months) and quick-drying clothes. The cruise boats often drive straight up to the waterfall too, so you may get wet if you’re on the deck! Waterproof hiking shoes are a must if you want to take any of the short hikes along the stops. And even in the warmer months, temperatures can fluctuate, so always include some fleece or wool layers, or a heavier waterproof jacket. Also, bug spray is important to avoid sandfly bites.
Plan a Trip to New Zealand
Still organising your trip to New Zealand? If you prefer independent travel like me, read my guide on how to plan a trip to New Zealand. Alternatively, check out the useful resources below that I use to plan all my trips around the world for the past 5 years of non-stop travel.
More New Zealand Travel & Adventure Guides
I hope you’ve found this detailed guide to getting to Milford Sound in the heart of Fiordland National Park helpful.
If you’re still planning your trip or looking for inspiration for your trip to New Zealand, check out my South Island Guides below. I’ve visited New Zealand several times and written a bunch of guides including many of the Great Walks.