Let’s be honest, Milford Sound is not really “on the way” to most things so chances are if you are heading to Milford Sound you have planned this trip.
And with all things we plan and look forward to we want it to be as perfect as possible. So we’ve put together our guide for the 9 things we reckon you should do to make sure you have an amazing visit to Milford Sound.
#1 Allow extra time to travel
You’ll see the signs on the drive. Allow time to travel! The recommended time from Te Anau is 2.5 hours.
We were really lucky to travel on a beautiful day but there are still constant reminders about how changeable this environment can be. Avalanche warning areas are many and we are reminded of how quickly the weather can change when we go from blue skies to cloud and back again.
#2 Factor in time for stops
Okay, taking into account the avalanche warnings we mentioned above this is not the stretch of road that you want to venture off the beaten track.
Luckily there are loads of great spots that you can stop on the way that are all clearly signposted.
We made a couple of stops ;
The Mirror Lakes. Small lakes that provide outstanding reflections of the Earl Mountains. Best of all, the lakes are just a short stroll from the road.
The Chasm. They say a 15 minute walk to these rock chasms and waterfalls but I did it in 10!
The kids and James stayed behind and ordered coffee (yes, you heard right – there’s a great coffee cart here!)
And the kids talked to Kea’s that stroll around the carpark.
There are no photos that I can share with you that will truly show how spectacular this place is. Even the kids were saying wow as they craned their heads for a better view of the mountains or watched in awe as we drove through the 1.2km Homer Tunnel through the side of a mountain. It is in every way awe-inspiring and something you have to see for yourself.
#3 Try to visit at high tide
I hadn’t read anywhere about Milford Sound looking different based on the tides because so many of the photos are out in the fiords. But the entrance to Milford Sound is every bit as stunning and looks so much more stunning when the tide is in. So if you can, go at high tide.
#4 Choose your boat wisely
There are a lot of cruises on offer in Milford Sound so it pays to think carefully about the experience that you want.
For us we really wanted to visit the Underwater Discovery Centre so automatically this pointed us in the direction of Southern Discoveries.
We also wanted to get up close to as much as we could so we chose one of their smaller boats and added in the picnic lunch.
I can’t tell you what a great decision it was. Our host on the boat was amazing. She wandered around the boat while she talked and was really knowledgeable and open when you asked her questions.
We got close to seals and went under two waterfalls.
On the way back from the Underwater Discovery Centre we went on a bigger boat and it was nowhere near as personal.
#5 Pay a little extra for the good sailing times
The first thing that you’ll notice is that the prices are different for boat rides throughout the day.
It’s easy to be tempted by an early or later time but you need to factor in the 2.5 hours driving time, plus walking time to check in.
So once you’ve factored this in you may find that you are driving at night or leaving your comfy accommodations way too early in the morning.
We booked the 12.15 sailing time and that was perfect! We left Te Anau at 9am and got back at 6pm which meant we got to have a leisurely start to the day and got back before sunset and still had loads of time to explore.
#6 Prepare to get wet
It rains in Milford Sound a lot. Like really a lot. In fact it’s NZ’s wettest place, and one of the wettest places in the world. It rains on average 182 days of the year so chances are high you’re going to get a bit of rain.
And even if you are lucky like us to get a rain free day you’ll still want to get out on the front of the boat as you nudge your way under these amazing waterfalls.
And can we just take a moment here to look at James being super cool under the waterfall compared to me and the girls absolutely loosing it and grinning like mad….
#7 Bring your camera (and a spare battery and memory card)
You are going to want to take so many pictures!
Everywhere you look there is a vista more impossibly beautiful than the last.
My battery ran out while I was there and while I had a back up with me that one almost ran out too!
#8 Bring mozzie repellent
They’re not joking when they say bring mozzie repellent. There are midgies literally everywhere. Luckily they don’t seem to follow you out to the water but on the walk there they are everywhere.
#9 Stay in Te Anau
We looked at staying in Milford Sound and looking back we are actually glad we didn’t. We absolutely loved our day there but one day was actually enough.
It’s incredibly remote and the kids would have been bored in no time staying in the campervan park. And I do worry about above mentioned mozzies… 😉
Te Anau on the other hand is just perfect for the kids with loads to keep them occupied. We spent two nights in Te Anau – the first at the Top Ten Holiday Park and the second at Whakata in Fiordland – both of which we’d thoroughly recommend.
You can hear all about our stay in Te Anau over here….
Milford Sound is a truly magical place. And if you need more convincing here are some more photos we couldn’t squeeze in above…