Cruising the Milford Sound

One of the obvious must-do’s while you’re in the South Island is seeing the Milford Sound. Almost all traveler’s you meet will have this somewhere on their itinerary and I’d say its one of the more affordable/worthwhile things to do as well. I was excited for the cruise, but more so looking forward to the scenic drive there. It makes for a full day trip if you spend the time at places en route, but you can easily make it a half day trip depending where you’re coming from.

HOW TO GET THERE

A lot of tour companies have organized trips from Queenstown (13 hour day trip) and Te Anau (8 hour day trip) that encompass the bus ride there, the cruise, as well as stopping at all the key sights for photos and what not. It’s a really long day going from Queenstown so I’d recommend going from Te Anau if possible (It’s a nice little town with great cafes, lake, and locals too, and you could check out the Glow Worm Caves while you’re there).

Since we had a car we opted to go from Te Anau, freedom camping overnight at a place called Henry Creek. This worked really well for us since we booked a 9 am cruise and didn’t have to get up extremely early for the drive.

 

WHAT TO EXPECT

Great scenery. The route from Te Anau to Milford sound is known to be one of most scenic routes you’ll take in NZ with stops en route that make it a fun-filled, sight-seeing day. It was a little hyped up for me so I was less awed by the scenery – almost disappointed – but the landscapes are breathtaking nonetheless. My favourite part was probably Homer Tunnel.

Stops en route (in order from Te Anau to Milford Sound) 

  • Mirror Lakes
  • Gunners lake
  • The Chasm
  • Homer Tunnel
The homer tunnel

WHAT CRUISE TO PICK 

Basically there’ll be an array of companies offering the same cruise such as Go Orange, Jucy, Real Journeys, Southern Discoveries.. You’ll see these companies all around Queenstown and the main tourist towns around the island. The cruises go for about 2 hours and have several departures a day. If you’ve got a car, do the 9am cruise! Main reason being less tourists because a lot of the tour buses will arrive for the 1pm onwards departures.

Oh – I’m pretty sure all tickets, no matter what company you go with, include a complimentary breakfast/lunch/snack so don’t think any agencies have done you a favour by ‘upgrading’ you!

BEST PIECE OF ADVICE?

If you don’t have a car, book a day tour from Te Anau. But If you do, opt for a 9am cruise. Go straight to Milford from Te ANau in the morning and then visit all the stops on the way back. This way you’ll get the least touristy cruise of the day and be at leisure all afternoon. 

Below are some pics of what we got to see on our cruise! 

Waterfalls up close. At times the boat would go right up and offer the opportunity for anyone to get wet!
If you’re lucky the seals will be out sunbaking and have no problem being photographed. We got quite close which is really cool. Another benefit of being on an early cruise with less of a crowd is you’re more likely to get a good position to take photos !

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