23 Best Things To In Milford Sound – Ultimate Guide

Milford Sound is considered the eighth Wonder of the World. And once you see it with your own eyes you will understand why. Milford Sound is widely known to be one of the World’s top travel destinations and is one of the best places to visit on New Zealand’s South Island. But most of the visitors only come to Milford Sound for the cruise. But there’s way more to do in Milford Sound than that! In this complete guide, you will find all the best things to do in Milford Sound. From the different cruises to beautiful walking tracks and other adventure activities to enjoy the stunning nature of Fiordland National Park. 

Check here the best Milford Sound tours on GetYourGuide

Check here the best Milford Sound tours on Viator


Go on a Milford Sound Cruise 

If you go to Milford Sound and haven’t done the scenic cruise tour… then you haven’t been to Milford Sound! Jokes aside, the Milford Sound Cruise is the number one reason that people visit Fiordland National Park and is the most popular way to see the Fiords. It is a must do as you will see some of New Zealand’s most beautiful landscapes during this boat trip. 

You can book many different Milford Sound cruises, varying in size of the boat and extra activities such as visiting the underwater observatory.

All of the Milford Sound cruises depart from Milford ferry terminal and cruise past Mitre Peak and the cascading waterfalls. You will see Lady Bowen Falls, Stirling Falls and Seal Point while searching the deep fiord for marine life including bottlenose dolphins and New Zealand fur seals.

→ Book here your Milford Sound Sightseeing Cruise with optional lunch

Read in our complete guide everything about the Milford Sound Cruise


Hike Lake Marian track 

Lake Marian track is a stunning day hike through ancient mossy rainforest that brings you to a magical reflection lake. During the hike, you will encounter various things such as a hanging bridge, a roaring river and a stunning reflection lake in a valley surrounded by mountain peaks and waterfalls. It is truly mesmerizing and some of the best day hikes you can do in Fiordland National Park. The variety that Lake Marian track has to offer is super interesting and well worth the 10 km out and back hike. 

Read in our complete guide everything you need to know about Lake Marian track


Take a scenic flight over Milford Sound 

A scenic flight is the perfect way to see the impressive landscape of Fiordland NP from the air. Depart from Milford Airport and track west. Climb alongside Bowen Falls and Mitre Peak for some great views of the fiords and its towering peaks. After the 20-minute helicopter flight, you will return to Milford base.

→ Book here your scenic flight over Milford Sound

Another way to see Fiordland National Park from above is when you book the scenic fly-cruise-fly tour from Queenstown. You will get a round-trip flight from Queenstown to Milford Sound followed by a boat cruise. Take in the spectacular views of the snow-capped mountains of the Southern Alps, remote valleys and waterfalls. During the flight, you will have an amazing aerial view of Lake Quill and Sutherland Falls as can be seen in the picture below. This experience will take your breath away and is a must-do if your budget allows it. Without a doubt some of the most scenic flights in New Zealand.

→ Book here your Milford Sound Scenic Fly-Cruise-Fly departing Queenstown


Do the Milford Sound foreshore walk 

The Milford Foreshore walk is a short 400-meter-long trail that starts at the parking lot in Milford Sound. It should not take you more than 30 minutes to complete and takes you along Milford Sound shore and to the hidden swing! The trail is completely flat and paved, making it easily accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. If you’re facing the water at the parking, the walk starts on your left side. 

If it’s low tide you will see lots of exposed sand, stones and mud so in that case you can also walk closer to the water. For photography, the stones can be a great foreground as well, but you’ll have to go off the paved path. 


Go on an epic Jet Boat journey through Fiordland National Park

Feel the adrenaline gushing through your veins during this two-hour adventure into the heart of Fiordland National Park. Step into the jet boat without windows or ceilings and feel the wind rushing past your head while the captain speeds and does stunts as you head to Lake Manapouri. Explore the beautiful ancient forest by foot before returning in the jet boat. An unforgettable experience!

See the mirror reflection at Mirror Lakes

The Mirror Lakes are a collection of beautiful reflection ponds and lakes on the way to Milford Sound. Therefore it is a perfect stopover to stretch the legs and enjoy the fresh air of Fiordland National Park. On a calm day the lakes are truly like a mirror, reflecting the Earl mountains and showing the sunken tree branches. Via a short walk on a wooden platform, you get to the lakes and take in the beautiful scenery. The best time to visit the Mirror Lakes is on a calm day with no to little wind. Only then you will be able to see the reflection of the Earl Mountains in the water. Generally, the water and wind is most calm in the early morning or around sunset. 

Read in our complete guide everything about the Mirror Lakes


Take in the views at Eglinton Valley 

The scenic drive to Milford Sound has many amazing photo spots, but Eglinton Valley is one of the only road-accessible valleys in Fiordland National Park. Located right beside the road, this large area of lowland beech forest with a stunning backdrop of snow-capped mountains asks for a photo and moment to take in the mesmerizing view. 


Go on a Milford Sound overnight cruise 

For a special way to experience Milford Sound after all the day tours have finished, this overnight cruise is a must. During this tour, you can truly take in the peace and beauty of Milford Sound on the Fiordland Jewel cruise boat. During the day, you will cruise Milford Sound and go on kayaking excursions. You will sleep in an ensuite cabin with sea views and a three-course dinner plus breakfast is included. The boat is also equipped with a top-deck hot tub where you can soak in the best views and completely come to rest.

→ Book here your Milford Sound overnight cruise


Hike the Key Summit track

The Key Summit track is a beautiful 8-kilometer day walk in Fiordland National Park that takes you through the ancient lush rainforests with a stunning view of the Southern mountains and alpine lakes at the end of the hike. Here you can explore this impressive alpine environment and learn more about how the landscape was formed. The well-maintained boardwalks will take you along several tarns with stunning views over the snowcapped Humbolt and Darran Mountains. Overall, the Key Summit track is a fun and diverse day hike in Fiordland National Park.


Go kayaking in Milford Sound

This Milford Sound Cruise is more intimate than the general nature cruise. Depart during a morning cruise on a smaller boat that travels outside of peak hours. This will give you prime viewing and more time on the water than other tours. You will listen to the informative commentary from the passionate skippers of Southern Discoveries and enjoy a provided picnic lunch. If you want to, you can include a kayak excursion and paddle Harrison Cove in a small group. Limited to 8 people you will have a very intimate experience to really take in the immense scale of the bluffs and explore Milford Sound in a unique way.

→ Book here your Milford Sound Cruise with Kayak Tour


Hike to Gertrude Saddle  

The Gertrude Saddle track is one of the best day hikes in New Zealand taking you up to a stunning viewpoint overlooking Milford Sound towards the Tasman Sea. This out-and-back trail of only 7 km (4.3 miles) in length doesn’t sound too difficult, but it’s absolutely not recommended for inexperienced hikers. 

There is a lot of scrambling involved and steel cables had been put in place to help people up the slippery, granite rocks. People have fallen to their deaths during this hike in the last decade, so take your preparations seriously if you decide to hike to Gertrude Saddle. 


One of the most important things is to watch the weather. You shouldn’t hike to Gertrude Saddle on a rainy day or directly after heavy rain or a storm. With clouds covering the peaks of Milford Sound it is also not worth it to do this hike as the views won’t be anything more than white cloud. It’s just not worth it as this hike is difficult, at some parts dangerous and you want to have good visibility. 

Nevertheless, if you’re in Milford Sound or Te Anau an it’s a beautiful clear, sunny day in summer, then hiking up to Gertrude Saddle will reward you with some of the most amazing views in New Zealand. 


Do the Chasm walk 

The Chasm is another common stop people make along the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound. It’s only a 10-minute drive from Milford Sound shore, so you can perfectly combine it before, or after, visiting Milford Sound. 

A short walk of only 400 meters takes you along several viewpoints to the Chasm. This powerful river and waterfall caused the rocks to erode and has created interesting shapes over time. A fun point of interest in Milford Sound if you have about 30 minutes time to explore. 

Stop at Milford Valley lookout 

After you’ve passed the Homer tunnel you will see the first glimpse of Milford Sound’s impressive mountains and waterfalls. Especially during and right after heavy rainfall you will see hundreds of waterfalls falling down the mountains. A truly mesmerizing view! On Google Maps you will see a few photo spots marked called ‘1855 Lookout’, ‘Hundred Falls’ and ‘Milford Valley Lookout’. All closely located to each other. Wherever is a safe spot to park you should pull over for a few minutes to take in these impressive views! 


Meet the Kea 

If you’re traveling for the first time to Milford Sound and haven’t been to other Alpine areas in New Zealand yet, you will meet the funny Kea. The Kea is the world’s only alpine parrot and is also known as the ‘Clown of the Alps’. They are compulsively curious, cheeky and funny at the same time. Especially in Milford Sound, they hang around the tunnel and other viewpoints where people often stop. 

We had such good laughs about them when one landed on the side mirror of our rental car and looked through the window to us. He tapped on the window as if he wanted to say ‘Come out, let’s play!’


It’s important to hold on to your belongings because the Kea’s love to steal things. Especially food, small things such as keys, wallets or other tiny, loose things they can snatch from you. Another thing to be aware of is that the Kea delights in eating rubber trim on cars! Watch out for this as any damage caused to your rental car may be recouped by the rental company.

Enjoy observing the Kea but always keep in mind to NOT FEED them!


Walk the Milford Sound lookout track 

One of the best short walks in Milford Sound is the Milford Sound lookout track. This 400-meter-long walk only takes about 20 minutes to complete but provides stunning views. The track can be found on Google Maps and starts at the right side of Milford Sound Public Parking when you face the water. 

Do the Lake Gunn nature walk

The Lake Gunn walk is an easy 45-minute loop on the edge of Lake Gunn that leads through picturesque beech forests. It takes only 45 minutes to complete and is 1.4 kilometers long and even accessible to wheelchairs! You will see many beautiful trees covered in moss and great views of Lake Gunn and the surroundings. 


Visit the Humboldt Falls 

The 275-meter tall Humboldt Falls is one of the prettiest and tallest waterfalls in Milford Sound you can visit. The well-graded 30-minute return walking track takes you on a short climb through the rainforest of Hollyford Valley to a lookout point on the Humboldt Falls. 

Cruise to the hidden Doubtful Sound

The lesser-known and quieter version of Milford Sound is Doubtful Sound. During this full-day tour you will journey across the clear waters of Lake Manapouri to Doubtful Sound. Make sure to keep an eye out for wildlife while taking in the scenery. You might see fur seals, bottlenose dolphins, and crested and little blue penguins if you’re lucky. Your naturalist guide will tell you everything and point out interesting sights.  

→ Book here your cruise to the hidden Doubtful Sound


Hike the Routeburn Track 

The Routeburn Track is another one of the ‘Great Walks in New Zealand’. This 32 km multi-day tramping track takes you along snow-capped mountain peaks, huge valleys, roaring waterfalls and sparkling alpine lakes. You will traverse both Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Park during the Routeburn Track. It is possible to start the Routeburn Track from either direction from The Divide (off Milford Road) or the Routeburn Shelter near Glenorchy. The track is well marked and signposted but you should do proper preparations before departing such as booking the mountain huts in advance with the DOC.

Here you can find pricing and booking instructions. Make sure to book your mountain hut months in advance in the summer season as they tend to be sold out quickly. 


Stay at Milford Sound Lodge 

One of the most unique stays in New Zealand is in Milford Sound at the Milford Sound Lodge. The mountain and river view chalets look out over the towering peaks of the Darran Mountains with waterfalls pouring down along the cliffs. Truly some of the most mesmerizing views you can have from an accommodation. We stayed here for two nights and highly recommend booking a stay at Milford Sound Lodge. You are not only close to the action of the Milford Sound cruise and the hikes you can do. But you can also fully recharge in your cozy cabin and order delicious food at Pio Pio restaurant.

→ Book your stay at Milford Sound Lodge here before rooms are sold out!


Go scuba diving in Milford Sound

Milford Sound is New Zealand’s most unique scuba diving site and the coral capital of the country. You will encounter sheer cliff faces, coral trees and unique sea life when you choose to go diving in Milford Sound. Descend scuba diving is the only company that operates scuba diving in Milford Sound. Experiences start at $200 USD and include all the gear.

Hike the Milford track 

The Milford Track is considered one of the finest walks in the world and can only be walked in one direction over 3 nights and 4 days. Being considered moderately difficult, The Milford track requires a fair level of fitness as long distances are hiked each day. The track is well marked and signposted but you should do proper preparations before departing such as booking the mountain huts in advance with the DOC.

Here you can find pricing and booking instructions. Make sure to book your mountain hut months in advance in the summer season as they tend to be sold out quickly. 


Wander through the Te Anau Glow Worm Caves

The closest town to Milford Sound is Te Anau. You will pass this small town along Te Anau Lake when driving from Queenstown to Milford Sound. Here you can see the magical natural phenomenon of glow worms in the caves of Te Anau. An informative guide takes you on this underground adventure starting with a cruise across Lake Te Anau. Once you have arrived at the caves, you can marvel at the shimmering illumination of thousands of glowworms as you glide through the quiet darkness of this magical underground world.

→ Book here your Te Anau Glow Worm Caves tour


About Milford Sound, the eighth wonder of the world

Milford Sound is a geological wonder that was once under the sea. Due to tectonic activity 400 million years ago the ground started to rise from the ocean to form the mountains that now tower over New Zealand’s Fiordlands. The valley of Milford Sound was then carved out by erosion of ancient glacial ice to become the 1,200-meter-high rocks that soar from the water as it is today. 

British writer Rudyard Kipling described Milford Sound as the 8th Wonder of the World. Once you see it with your own eyes you will totally understand why. Milford Sound is widely considered to be one of the World’s top travel destinations and is something you can’t miss to add to your New Zealand’s South Island itinerary. 

A fun thing to know about Milford Sound is that it’s actually not a sound! The word ‘sound’ is used to describe when a river valley is flooded with the sea and forms a gorge or valley. Whereas Milford Sound is actually a glacier-carved valley and therefore a fiord, hence its location in Fiordland National Park. 


What is the best time to visit Milford Sound?

Milford Sound is the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand and one of the wettest places in the world! The annual rainfall in Milford Sound is 7000mm, and it rains on average 182 days a year. So to be well prepared you should always bring a rain jacket when going out in Milford Sound. 

There isn’t really the best time of the year to go to Milford Sound. On a sunny day, you can see all the surrounding mountain peaks and on a wet day, the pumping waterfalls and mystical moody circumstances make Milford Sound mystical. Generally, you can expect Milford Sound to be much busier in the summer months from December to February, March and more quiet during the winter months. The landscape also changes a lot during these different seasons as the surrounding mountains will be covered in snow during the winter and are much greener in the summer months. 

Check here the best Milford Sound tours on GetYourGuide

Check here the best Milford Sound tours on Viator

Where to stay near Milford Sound

The best way to explore most of Fiordland National Park is to stay in either Milford Sound or Te Anau. Milford Sound only has one accommodation and restaurant option which is the Milford Sound Lodge. If you have a self-contained campervan then you have the option to stay at some camping sites. There is one other accommodation option near Eglinton Valley which is a great central base as well to explore Milford Sound and surroundings.

Te Anau on the other hand has more options for accommodations and facilities such as restaurants and supermarkets. However, from Te Anau it is an 80-kilometer drive to Lake Marian trailhead. 

If you’re planning to explore Fiordland National Park for a few days, then having your base in Te Anau is a great idea. With the ever-changing weather circumstances in Fiordland National Park, it is always a surprise to see how the landscape changes. And with so many places you can explore along Milford Road it is a great day trip into Fiordland National Park.

Milford Sound Lodge

Milford Sound Lodge is one of the most unique accommodations in New Zealand. Being the only accommodation close to Milford Sound, you will be immersed by nature. The mountain and river view chalets look out over the towering peaks of the Darran Mountains with waterfalls pouring down along the cliffs. Truly some of the most mesmerizing views you can have from an accommodation.

We stayed here for two nights and highly recommend booking a stay here. You are not only close to the action of the cruises and the hikes you can do. But you can also fully recharge in your cozy cabin and order delicious food at Pio Pio restaurant.

→ Book here your stay at Milford Sound Lodge


Eglinton Valley Camp

Set in Te Anau Downs, Eglinton Valley Camp offers cozy bungalow accommodations with stunning views on the mountains. The self-contained bungalows have a private kitchenette and bathroom, seating and a dining area, barbecue, terrace and private parking.

After a day of hiking or exploring the many things to do in Milford Sound, you can ultimately relax in the garden or shared lounge area of Eglinton Valley Camp. Rooms start at around $120 USD.

→ Book here your stay at Eglinton Valley Camp


Radfords on the Lake Te Anau

Radfords on the Lake is located across the road from Lake Te Anau with stunning lake and mountain views. The fully self-contained suites offer everything you need during your stay. From cooking utensils to a desk and comfortable bed, Radfords on the Lake in Te Anau is your home away from home. With lovely staff, daily cleaning and its central location, we couldn’t recommend Radfords on the Lake enough. We have stayed here ourselves and fully enjoyed it!

→ Book here your stay at Radfords on the Lake


How to get around in New Zealand 

To experience New Zealand to the fullest and at your own pace, renting a carcampervan or motorhome is the best way to get around. Which one of these options you choose depends on your preference and budget. If you love camping, being outdoors all day and you don’t mind a smaller living space, then renting a camper van is the way to go. It also gives you the freedom to sleep at some of the most beautiful camping spots, but for some of them you’ll have to make a reservation and plan your trip accordingly. The same goes for a motorhome which is bigger than a campervan and fits about 4-6 people. Here’s what you need to know about renting a car, camper van or motorhome in New Zealand. 

Car rental in New Zealand

Renting a car in New Zealand is the easiest and cheapest rental vehicle available. It will get you to all the best destinations with ease and gives you the freedom to stop for a break wherever you want. However, you should keep in mind that some roads in New Zealand are still gravel or that you have to cross shallow rivers to some destinations in National Parks. Therefore we personally recommend a mini SUV or SUV model to have enough clearance for these kind of roads.

We rented for 6 weeks a Mitsubishi ASX model and were super happy with this car! The best place to book your rental car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare different car models, prices, companies and terms and conditions. Make sure to secure the booking of your rental car as soon as possible to have the lowest price possible. Prices go up the closer you get to the pickup date.


Campervan rental in New Zealand

Traveling around in a campervan is one of the most popular ways for a road trip in New Zealand. With a bed, small kitchen and seating area you will have all the (basic) needs on four wheels. Make sure to check if your campervan has a shower or not because this might influence where you want to camp. A campervan allows you to camp at plenty of beautiful places, sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee. It will give you a true feeling of freedom and fully connects you with nature.

We recommend to book your campervan with Travellers Autobarn as they have a wide range of Station wagons, 2-berth campervans & 3-5 berth campervans to hire for all budgets. All Travellers Autobarn campervan hires in New Zealand come with free unlimited kilometers, a 10% discount to premium campgrounds, 24/7 roadside assistance & long-term rental discounts. Check the availability and prices today to secure your campervan for a New Zealand dream road trip!

More New Zealand travel guides

I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about the best things to do in Milford Sound. Make sure to put this incredible destination on your New Zealand South Island itinerary!

There are many amazing other things to do and places to visit on the South Island of New Zealand. So if you’re looking for more inspiration and ideas, head over to our other New Zealand travel guides.

Fiordland National Park

Best Milford Sound Cruises – The Complete Guide

20 best things to do in Te Anau – The Complete Guide

6 best scenic flights in Milford Sound you must consider booking

Lake Marian track – The Complete Guide

Mirror Lakes New Zealand – The Complete Guide

Key Summit track – The Complete Guide


30 best things to do in Queenstown – The Ultimate Guide

16 best hikes in Queenstown – The Ultimate Guide

10 best wine tours in Queenstown – The Complete Guide

12 best helicopter tours in Queenstown – The Complete Guide

Queenstown Hill walk – The Complete Guide

Ben Lomond track – The Complete Guide

Moke Lake loop track & viewpoint – The Complete Guide

Bobs Cove nature walk – The Complete Guide


20 best things to do in Glenorchy – The Complete Guide

Glenorchy walkway & lagoon track – The Complete Guide

Earnslaw Burn glacier valley and waterfalls – The Complete Guide

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