„Milford Sound day trip … if you’re debating it at all, you just have to do it.”
This is the advice we received countless times from friends and family before our last trip to New Zealand.
The formulation of the statement made no sense to me at first. I had known for years that Milford Sound was considered one of the top travel destinations in the world and that several organizations and individuals, including Rudyard Kipling, had even declared it the unofficial eighth wonder of the world.
Why should we discuss it? I thought.
After coming to New Zealand and looking for ways to visit Milford Sound for myself, the question became a little more understandable.
How do I get to Milford Sound?
Milford Sound is a fjord – a steep, narrow inlet carved into the earth by glacial activity – in the southwest of New Zealand’s South Island. Although it is only 44 miles northwest of New Zealand’s most popular tourist hub, Queenstown (as the crow flies), the steep canyon walls make it accessible only by road, the Milford Sound Highway, which runs 73 miles north of the small town of Te Anau.
Accessing Milford Sound from Queenstown takes 178 miles each. In view of the winding and undulating terrain, the journey takes a full 5 hours.
Some visitors to New Zealand are fortunate to have enough time to take a few extra days to stay in the small towns in and around Fiordland National Park and enjoy Milford Sound and the surrounding area at a much more leisurely pace .
I’ve found there are a lot more visitors like me but only have enough time on their itinerary to get to Queenstown. In this situation, the debate about a visit to Milford Sound comes alive.
Is it worth taking a day trip to Milford Sound?
Is it worth experiencing Milford Sound as a day trip that requires a 5 hour drive in each direction and only takes a few short hours to get the sound?
In my experience and opinion it is.
When I asked myself the question, I decided to take the advice of everyone who had experienced a Milford Sound tour before me and made a commitment to visit it one way or another. As we were using Magic Bus to travel around New Zealand on local transport, we didn’t have our own car to make the trip so I had to look for options for day trips around Milford Sound.
How to visit Milford Sound
After doing some research, I decided to go with Kiwi Discovery. It would be a 5 hour bus ride each way, with a 90 minute boat ride through and around Milford Sound when we arrived.
Here are some other options for booking a Milford Sound tour:
The ride to the Sound was spectacularly beautiful and the bus ride itself couldn’t have been more comfortable. It was a relatively new bus with a glass ceiling so all passengers could look up and better see the towering cliffs along the Milford Sound Highway.
We stopped at various viewpoints along the way to admire the sights of various rivers, waterfalls and canyons. We arrived at Milford Sound around 2:00 PM and immediately boarded a large ship for our Milford Sound cruise.
Our cruise around Milford Sound took a total of 90 minutes. We started at the innermost part of the sound and walked all the way out to the Tasman Sea, turning into bays and facing waterfalls.
Because the landscape in the sound was so spectacular, the 90 minutes we spent on the boat went by really quickly. Even so, it was such a unique and great experience that I thought it was well worth the 10+ hours of travel it took to make this happen, and …
I would recommend this to anyone else who debates about it as well.