For New Zealand travelers, Milford Sound is a non-negotiable stop, flaunting its cascading waterfalls, lush rainforest, and towering cliffs.

Opting for a cruise is the ultimate way to experience this remote wonder, but with numerous operators, choosing the right one can be daunting. Our guide simplifies the choice, presenting carefully selected options for a Milford Sound cruise and day tours from Queenstown for you to decide which suits you best. 

Learn how to select the ideal cruise and what to anticipate on your Milford Sound adventure. Uncover exclusive insights into must-see sights and insider tips, ensuring you make the most of your time on the fiord. 

Your dream cruise awaits! 

Other Recommended Articles:

Compare Milford Sound Cruises & Day Tours from Queenstown

Let's start with our exclusive collection of the most exceptional Milford Sound cruises. Milford Sound, a wonderland in New Zealand’s South Island, offers a plethora of cruises and day trips from Queenstown.

Comparing these options can be overwhelming, so we've done the legwork for you. We have handpicked the top-rated tours that in our opinion offer the best value for your money. These tours are divided into day trips from Queenstown and cruise-only options.

Below, you'll find convenient quick links to each tour, as well as detailed descriptions that emphasize the distinctive features, inclusions, and prices of each tour.

Quick Booking Links to 5 Top-Rated Tours

1. Best Milford Sound Day Tours from Queenstown + Cruise:

2. Best Cruise-Only Options:

Descriptions: Milford Sound Day Tours from Queenstown


  • Experience Milford Sound on a 12-hour day trip from Queenstown or Te Anau with a scenic cruise and round-trip coach transportation.
  • Discover the wonders of Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park through scenic photo stops and brief walks.
  • Marvel at rainforests, waterfalls, and wildlife from the comfort of three indoor and outdoor viewing decks during the cruise.
  • Enjoy lively commentary from local guides and complimentary tea service on the entire cruise.


  • Central Queenstown and Te Anau pickup and drop-off
  • Round-trip transportation
  • Experienced skippers and guides
  • Live commentary
  • Scenic photo stops and short walks
  • Scenic Milford Sound cruise
  • Access to 3 viewing decks
  • Complimentary tea and hot water
  • Lunch

Tour Details

  • Meeting Point: Pickup and drop-off are available from selected central Queenstown locations and along Frankton Road. 
  • Starting Time: 7:15 AM; Impoartant: Your tour departure time is not your pickup time. The pick up time and place will be confirmed after booking.
  • Duration: approx. 12 hours
  • Good to know: Infants 4 and under are free of charge and must be allocated their own seat


5*, Syed Masud – New Zealand; January 9, 2024 – Verified booking

Pure Milford bus arrived right on time to pick us. Debbie, the driver of the bus was extremely efficient in handling our bus through the terrain. The road was difficult but she drove extremely well. Her narration of surroundings as we proceeded was extremely informative and interesting. The cruise was also very enjoyable. As the activity provider, Pure Milford completely satisfied our expectations.

5*, GetYourGuide traveler – United Kingdom; January 8, 2024 – Verified booking

Fantastic from start to finish!! Pure Milford are highly professional. Comfortable, stylish coach with glass roof to explore mountains from all angles. Coach driver was very knowledgable and drove with a smile on his face all the time cracking some jokes along the way. The boy is super comfortable and not that rocky. Milford Sound is out of this world. Beautiful mountains and scenery including the iconic waterfall. If you don’t do this trip you have not seen much of the South Island. Make sure you book now.


  • Embark on a unique 5-hour adventure from Queenstown, combining a scenic flight and cruise over Milford Sound to witness the natural splendor from air and water.
  • Delight in a 40-minute scenic flight, ensuring each passenger a window seat for an unparalleled view of the breathtaking surroundings.
  • Be on the lookout for wildlife such as seals and dolphins while soaring over Milford Sound.
  • Upon landing, transition to the Milford Sound Boat Terminal for a 2-hour cruise with Mitre Peak Cruises on an intimate vessel, featuring insightful English commentary.
  • Benefit from complimentary hotel pick-up from all centrally located accommodations in Queenstown.


  • Scenic return plane flight from Queenstown to Milford Sound
  • 2-hour cruise in Milford Sound with Mitre Peak Cruises
  • Hotel pickup and drop-off from all centrally located locations in Queenstown
  • Free parking onsite for those that self-driving
  • Tea, coffee, and water onboard

Tour Details

  • Meeting Point: Pick-up from 26 pickup location options available. Please check email sent by the provider for specified pickup times and weather checks. 
  • Starting Time: 12:30 PM
  • Duration: approx. 5 hours
  • Good to know: Please note that individuals weighing over 150 kg (331 lbs) may are not suitable. Infants, classified as those under 11 kilograms, can join free of charge but must sit on an adult's knee during the excursion.


5*, GetYourGuide traveler – Australia; December 21, 2023  – Verified booking

This trip is a must do when visiting Queenstown. The whole experience was seamless from hotel pick up to FergBurger drop off (at our request) 😊 Our pilot, Liam, was professional & informative. The flight was incredible & scenery spectacular. He took us directly to our boat & picked us up from there. All too easy & relaxed. Milford Sound was also sensational - a pod of dolphins & seals relaxing in the sun - how lucky were we! Our hotel (The Heritage) also excellent, packed us a picnic which worked well for us. All in all a magnificent experience - spectacular scenery - wonderful staff. Absolute gold & wonderful memories for myself & two daughters. Thank you so much.

Descriptions: Best Cruise-Only Options


  • Embark on a 1 hour and 45 minutes Milford Sound cruise aboard an intimate boutique vessel with luxurious cabin seating.
  • Enjoy exclusivity with a smaller, less-crowded boat with max. 75 passengers to guarantee an uncrowded experience 
  • Witness wildlife encounters with New Zealand fur seals, dolphins, and penguins.
  • Savor free coffee, tea, and biscuits while the skipper narrates the scenic journey.
  • Pass by the iconic Mitre Peak and witness stunning waterfalls on this captivating tour.


  •  Complimentary coffee, tea and biscuits on-board all sailings

Tour Details

  • Meeting Point: Cruise Milford NZ counter (second counter on the left); Address: Milford Sound Visitor Terminal, Milford Sound, 9679, New Zealand
  • Starting Time: 10:45 AM; 12:45 PM; 1:45 PM; or 2:45 PM
  • Duration: approx. 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Good to know: No food sold on-board the cruise


5* Danica_W, Jan 2024 

We absolutely loved our cruise with Cruise Milford NZ. We were on one of the smallest boats out of the line-up, however this allowed for a really intimate and up-close experience with the fiord. The Captain was very informative and taught us a lot about this beautiful part of the world. We travelled with a baby and the experience was easy and the views were spectacular!

5*, Marilyn_B, Jan 2024 

We were able to get on an earlier cruise than the one booked and appreciated the flexibility of the staff. The smaller size of the boat meant that we were able to get very close to waterfalls as well as some seals sunning themselves on a rock. Milford Sound is stunning and we were delighted to get such a great tour.


  • Immerse yourself in the stunning vistas of Milford Sound aboard a vessel designed for optimal daytime viewing.
  • Explore the enigmatic underwater realm of Milford Sound at the unique Milford Sound Underwater Observatory, New Zealand's sole floating underwater observatory.
  • Descend 64 steps (10-meters) into an underwater viewing area to observe marine life through large windows.
  • Learn about the fjord's history, geology, and wildlife through engaging commentary.
  • Savor the pure taste of glacial water from waterfalls and stand beneath the majestic Stirling Falls.


  • Milford Sound cruise
  • Milford Sound Underwater Observatory
  • Complimentary tea and coffee
  • Access to top deck for viewing and panoramic photo opportunities
  • Large viewing windows and covered seating area

Tour Details

  • Meeting Point: Meet at Freshwater Basin, Milford Sound Highway 94, Milford Sound 9679, New Zealand
  • Starting Time: Check availability to view and select your preferred starting time.
  • Duration: approx. 3 hours


5*, Rachel – Australia; November 28, 2023 – Verified booking

We loved the 3-hour option (the longest of any cruises less than all day or overnight). The cruise itself was terrific, commentary was informative and getting up close and personal with the chop of the Tasman Sea and the stunning waterfalls was just brilliant. The underwater observatory was another highlight (this cruise is the only one to offer this diversion). Seeing the sealife as it is 10 metres under sea level was absolutely fascinating and the guide was very personable and knowledgeable. Maybe next time we might even get to see Mitre Peak 🙂


  • Explore the wonders of Milford Sound with Southern Discoveries’ 1-hour 45-minute nature cruise.
  • Ascend to the top deck of the purpose-built catamaran to enjoy 360-degree views, capturing stunning panoramic photos of the surroundings.
  • Experience highlights like the stunning Mitre Peak, or the awe-inspiring Stirling Falls.
  • Customize your experience by opting for a freshly prepared picnic lunch (vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free options available) or bringing your own packed meal.
  • Engage with lively and enlightening commentary on the fiord's history, geology, and wildlife from your skipper.


  • Milford Sound nature cruise
  • Complimentary tea and coffee
  • Picnic lunch (vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free options available)
  • Bottle of water
  • Access to top deck
  • Large viewing windows
  • Covered seating area
  • Nature commentary

Tour Details

  • Meeting Point: Meet at Freshwater Basin, Milford Sound Highway 94, Milford Sound 9679, New Zealand
  • Starting Time: Check availability to view and select your preferred starting time.
  • Duration: approx. 1.5 - 2 hours
  • Good to know: Lunches must be booked at least 24 hours ahead of travel. Timetables, cruise departures, and vessels may vary.


5* Alyssa – United States; November 25, 2023  – Verified booking

An absolute must do when visiting NZ. We loved this cruise, it was easy to book, easy to check in, and a big enough boat it didn’t feel overly crowded. We opted to self drive since we had a camper van and stayed at electric site at Milford Lodge (also highly recommend) and we’re glad we drove. The buses look nice and we heard you get commentary for the drive but we tend to get car sick and would have been miserable on that windy road. The drive itself wasn’t bad to do at all in mid Nov. The cruise was worth every penny and booking online was a breeze. We checked in at the counter so we didn’t need an app for our tix since we didn’t have data plan. Worked great. JUST BOOK IT!!

What is Milford Sound and what is it famous for

What is Milford Sound, and what is it famous for?

Milford Sound is a fiord in the heart of Fiordland National Park that was formed over millions of years by glacial erosion.

Known to be the wettest place in New Zealand, Milford Sound is a testament to the raw, untouched beauty of New Zealand. The fiord is famed for its hundreds of waterfalls, dramatic cliffs, lush rainforest, and diverse wildlife, such as dolphins, fur seals, and penguins. This remarkable blend has led to Milford Sound being frequently hailed as the "eighth wonder of the world".

Where is Milford Sound? 

Nestled in the southwest of New Zealand's South Island, Milford Sound lies within the Fiordland National Park, encompassed by the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site, covering 26,000 km².

Although Milford Sound is New Zealand's sole accessible fiord by road, it remains remarkably remote, with the nearest town, Te Anau, located 120 km (75 miles) away. The closest international airport is Queenstown Airport. This remote location adds to its untouched appeal, making it a must-visit for nature enthusiasts. 

You are currently viewing a placeholder content from Default. To access the actual content, click the button below. Please note that doing so will share data with third-party providers.

More Information
How to get to Milford Sound from Queenstown, New Zealand

How to get to Milford Sound from Queenstown, New Zealand 

The journey to Milford Sound is a highlight in itself, as the Milford Sound Road is considered to be one of the most beautiful drives in New Zealand. The road is scenic, winding through mountain roads, the remarkable Eglinton Valley and the Homer Tunnel.

Milford Sound is not directly accessible via public transportation. However, there are several convenient ways to reach this natural wonder from Queenstown.

Here are the best ways to reach Milford Sound from Queenstown:

  • By Guided Tour: Opting for a Milford Sound day tour is an excellent choice. Numerous guided tours depart from Queenstown, offering a hassle-free experience and valuable insights from knowledgeable guides. 
  • By InterCity Bus: For those on a budget, the InterCity bus is a viable option. Tickets are approximately $88 NZD each way. The bus journey also travels through picturesque landscapes, making for a memorable trip.
  • By Car: The drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound takes about 4 to 5 hours one way, depending on the time of year and road conditions. Tip: Allow extra time for the drive to soak in the beauty of the road and make stops, such as at the magnificent Mirror Lake.

Parking at Milford Sound

Parking at Milford Sound can be a challenge during peak season. The Milford Sound Cruise Terminal has a large parking area, but it fills up quickly. Plan to arrive early if you're driving yourself.

Costs: The main car park at Milford Sound has a fee of $25 for a 5-hour duration. Payment can be completed at on-site payment stations. The car park is conveniently situated, requiring only a brief 10-minute walk to reach the Milford Sound Visitor Terminal.

Free parking option: Free parking is available at Deepwater Basin Road Car Park (turn left after Milford Sound Lodge), about a 30-40 minute walk to the Visitor Terminal. Ensure you allow enough time for this walk when planning your trip.

How to Visit Milford Sound?

How to Visit Milford Sound?

Since there are limited places to stay in Milford Sound, the most popular way to visit is by taking a delightful day trip from Queenstown or Te Anau.

The preferred method to embrace this natural wonder is through a captivating cruise. Alternatively, you have the option to embark on a kayaking adventure, join a scenic flight, or even delve into the depths of the inky black waters with a scuba-diving excursion.

For an extra special adventure and a unique perspective, why not combine a cruise with a scenic flight? This lets you marvel at Milford Sound from both the water and air, offering different moods and viewpoints.

If you're on a budget, consider a self-drive adventure and take leisurely walks or hikes through Milford Sound's glacier-carved landscape. Don't miss the Milford Sound Lookout Track, the Lake Marian Track, and the Milford Sound foreshore walk for a dose of nature's wonders.

What to Expect from a Milford Sound Cruise?

Here's what you can anticipate on a typical Milford Sound cruise:

  • Departure: All cruises embark and return from the wharf at the Milford Sound Visitor Terminal.
  • Duration: The duration varies, ranging from 90 minutes to 3 hours, depending on the tour operator.
  • Boat Types: Numerous operators offer different types of cruises. You can choose from larger vessels that serve lunch or opt for smaller ones that provide an up-close experience with the fiord's remarkable natural features, including purpose-built catamarans.
  • Typical Itinerary: Cruises traverse the entire length of Milford Sound, providing continuous views of the stunning landscape. Your skipper shares insightful commentary as you journey down the south side of the fjord, venture into the Tasman Sea, and return up the north side. Stops may vary, but most trips include key attractions like Stirling Falls and Harrison Cove.
  • Food: Many cruises do not provide lunch, but many offer snacks along with complimentary tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and water. It’s advisable to pack your own food and drinks, as on-board food and drink sales may not be available on some cruises.
  • Safety: In cases where weather or other events could affect safety and comfort, the cruise may be postponed or, in rare circumstances, canceled.
  • Suitability: Wheelchair accessibility varies depending on your chosen cruise. Some tours offer wheelchair accessibility on their lower deck, while others may not. Additionally, information about children's suitability is available.
What to See on a Milford Sound Cruise?

What to See on a Milford Sound Cruise?

A cruise through Milford Sound promises a voyage into a realm of breathtaking natural wonders. Here are the key highlights you'll encounter:

1. Waterfalls:

One of the indisputable highlights of Milford Sound is its countless waterfalls. Among the most beautiful are:

  • Stirling Falls: One of the most photographed waterfalls in Milford Sound, it's an impressive 155 meters tall, often allowing boats to get close enough to feel the spray.
  • Fairy Falls: This enchanting waterfall is smaller but equally captivating, especially after rainfall, when it comes alive with a magical flow.
  • Bridal Veil Falls: Aptly named, its elegant, cascading waters resemble a bridal veil, offering a serene and picturesque sight.

2. Mitre Peak:

A remarkable mountain that rises directly from the depths of the sound to a height of 1,692 meters. Its dramatic presence is a defining feature of Milford Sound, providing an iconic backdrop for photos.

3. Wildlife:

Keep a keen eye out for the diverse wildlife that calls Milford Sound home. Look for playful dolphins, graceful New Zealand fur seals, and charming penguins as you navigate the pristine waters of this stunning fiord. With luck, you might even spot some whales. If you visit around November, there's a chance to catch a glimpse of the rare Fiordland Crested Penguin.

4. Harrison Cove:

A tranquil cove offering a more peaceful side of Milford Sound. It's a great spot for seeing native flora and fauna and often serves as a sheltered area for kayaking and smaller boats.

5. Seal Rock:

As the name suggests, this is a popular hangout for New Zealand fur seals. You can usually see them basking in the sun or frolicking in the water, offering a delightful wildlife encounter.

6. Dale Point:

The point where the fiord opens up to the Tasman Sea. It offers a stunning perspective of the sound, marking the transition from the sheltered fiord to the open ocean.

7. Dolphin Ponds:

These are serene areas where dolphins are often spotted playing in the calm waters. Keep your eyes peeled for these playful creatures, as they are known to swim close to the boats.

8. Cascade Range:

This is a series of smaller waterfalls that flow down the steep rock faces, especially vivid after rainfall. The sight of these numerous cascades set against lush greenery is truly mesmerizing.

When is the Best Time for Visiting Milford Sound?

When is the Best Time for Visiting Milford Sound?

Milford Sound boasts stunning beauty year-round, each season offering a unique experience:

  • Summer (December to February): This period marks the peak season, characterized by warmer weather and longer daylight hours, making it ideal for your Milford Sound Cruise.
  • Fall (March to May): Experience the transitional beauty of fall, with milder temperatures and the changing colors of the landscape.
  • Winter (June to August): Embrace a different kind of beauty with snow-capped mountains, fewer tourists, and an abundance of waterfalls, thanks to increased rainfall. However, be cautious of icy roads on the way to Milford Sound and the risk of avalanches during these months. Always check road conditions before heading out.
  • Spring (September to November): Often considered the best time for a visit, spring brings mild temperatures and fewer crowds, providing an ideal balance.

Consider scheduling your visit in the morning for better lighting conditions for photography and a quieter atmosphere with fewer visitors.

Weather in Milford Sound, New Zealand

With an average annual rainfall of 7 meters per year, Milford Sound is not only the wettest place in New Zealand, but also one of the wettest place on the Earth. Expect occasional heavy rain, creating numerous temporary waterfalls alongside the famous permanent ones, forming stunning cascades down the cliff faces.

Keep in mind Milford's seasonal temperature variations. Summer brings warmth, with average highs around 19°C (66°F), while winter introduces a refreshing chill, with lows around 9°C (48°F) from June to August. Plan accordingly for a rewarding trip.

What to Wear on a Milford Sound Cruise?

What to Wear on a Milford Sound Cruise?

Given the unpredictable weather in Milford Sound, we recommend dressing in layers for a versatile approach. Consider bringing waterproof jackets or a reliable raincoat, along with waterproof pants for added protection. It's advisable to avoid wearing jeans, as they can become uncomfortable when wet.

Regardless of the season, certain essentials are a must. Be sure to pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and insect repellent. Consider bringing a waterproof bag to safeguard your valuables from potential moisture. Additionally, ensure your footwear is comfortable and sturdy. These preparations will contribute to a more enjoyable and comfortable experience during your Milford Sound cruise.

9 Insider Tips for your Milford Sound Cruise in New Zealand

Maximize your Milford Sound day trip with these 9 insider tips for an unforgettable experience:

  1. Book in Advance: Secure your cruise spot by booking well in advance, especially during peak seasons (December to February). This ensures you get your preferred time and type of cruise.
  2. Choose Your Cruise Time Wisely: Morning cruises are often less crowded. Consider opting for midweek or visit during the shoulder season for a more tranquil and enjoyable experience.
  3. Weather Preparedness: New Zealand's weather can be unpredictable. Dress in layers and bring waterproof clothing to stay comfortable during your cruise, regardless of weather changes.
  4. Optimal Seating: For the best views, arrive early to secure a prime spot on the cruise. Outdoor decks offer unobstructed photo opportunities, so be ready to capture the breathtaking scenery.
  5. Pack Lunch and Snacks: As there are no shops or eateries around, bring your lunch or pack snacks and water. Some cruises may offer food and drinks, but it's advisable to have your own provisions, especially if you have specific dietary preferences.
  6. Motion Sickness Precautions: If you're prone to motion sickness, consider taking preventive measures before the cruise. Ginger candies or wristbands can be effective remedies.
  7. Limited Connectivity: Keep in mind that there is limited phone reception and no Wi-Fi in the Fiordland National Park. Prepare accordingly, informing others about potential communication challenges.
  8. Embrace the Rain: Be prepared for rainfall. The landscape transforms dramatically, revealing temporary waterfalls cascading down cliff faces. Embrace the unique beauty created by the rain.
  9. Wildlife Spotting: Keep a keen eye out for wildlife, including dolphins, fur seals, and penguins. Binoculars can enhance your chances of spotting these magnificent creatures.
9 Insider Tips for your Milford Sound Cruise in New Zealand

FAQs about Milford Sound Cruises in New Zealand

How long is a Milford Sound Cruise in New Zealand?

The duration of Milford Sound cruises varies, typically ranging from 90 minutes to 3 hours. The specific length depends on the tour operator and the type of cruise chosen.

What is Milford Sound?

Milford Sound is a stunning fiord located in the southwest of New Zealand's South Island. Formed over millions of years through glacial erosion, Milford Sound is renowned for its majestic scenery, including towering cliffs, lush rainforests, and numerous waterfalls. It is also home to diverse wildlife such as dolphins, fur seals, and penguins.

Is a Milford Sound tour worth it?

Absolutely, a Milford Sound tour is highly worthwhile. Milford Sound, often described as the "eighth wonder of the world," is a popular travel destination and a must-visit in New Zealand. The captivating natural beauty, diverse wildlife, and various tour options, such as cruises and scenic flights, make it an unforgettable experience and justify the visit's value.

How far is Milford Sound from Queenstown?

The distance from Queenstown to Milford Sound is approximately 290 kilometers (180 miles) by road. The journey typically takes around 4 to 5 hours, depending on the mode of transportation and road conditions. Keep in mind that travel times may vary, and the route includes scenic drives through picturesque landscapes.

Is Milford Sound a Wonder of the World?

Milford Sound is lovingly dubbed the "eighth wonder of the world" by many. While it doesn't hold an official title, its breathtaking beauty has captivated hearts and earned it widespread admiration.

Where to stay in Milford Sound, New Zealand?

Accommodation in Milford Sound is very limited, with popular choices being Milford Sound Lodge and the Peak Lodge. It's advisable to book well in advance, as these options tend to fill up quickly. Visitors often stay in nearby towns like Te Anau or Queenstown, with Te Anau being a popular choice due to its proximity. 

An interesting alternative is an overnight cruise, where you spend the night on the boat. >> Book here! 

Find other top things to do:

More top destinations: 

Africa  |  Asia  |  Australia  |  Canada  |  Europe  |  Finland  |  France  |  Greece  |  Iceland  |  Italy  |  Morocco  |  New Zealand  | North America  |  Norway  |  Oceania  |  Switzerland  |  Turkey  |  UAE  |  USA

More top experiences:

Adventures  |  Air Sports  |  Animals  |  Cruises  |  Culture  |  Food  |  Land Sports  |  Nature  |  Water Sports

For more inspiration:

You are currently viewing a placeholder content from Instagram. To access the actual content, click the button below. Please note that doing so will share data with third-party providers.

More Information