Milford Sound, often referred to as the “eighth wonder of the world,” is a stunning fjord located in New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park.  Indeed, with its towering cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and diverse wildlife, Milford Sound is a must-visit destination.  As a result, choosing the right tour is crucial to fully experience its beauty.  This guide covers everything you need to know about the best Milford Sound tour.

Overview of Milford Sound

Overview of Milford Sound

Geographical Location and Features

Milford Sound is located on the southwest coast of New Zealand’s South Island, within Fiordland National Park.  In fact, the fjord stretches 16 kilometers inland from the Tasman Sea.  Moreover, it’s surrounded by sheer rock faces that rise 1,200 meters or more on either side.  Key features include the iconic Mitre Peak, lush rainforests as well as numerous waterfalls, such as the Stirling and Bowen Falls.

Historical and Cultural Significance

Milford Sound was carved by glaciers during the ice ages and discovered by European explorers in the 19th century.  Accordingly, the area holds significant cultural importance for the Maori people, who named it Piopiotahi, after the thrush-like piopio bird.

Types of Milford Sound Tours

Boat Cruises

Boat Cruises

Boat cruises are the most popular way to explore Milford Sound.  These tours offer panoramic views of the fjord’s dramatic landscapes, waterfalls, and marine life.  Most cruises last between 1.5 to 2.5 hours and include commentary on the area’s natural history and wildlife.

Kayaking Tours

Kayaking Tours - Best Milford Sound tous

For a more intimate experience, consider a guided kayaking tour.  In any case, these tours allow you to paddle through the fjord’s calm waters.  Naturally getting up close to waterfalls, wildlife, and the lush rainforest.  Kayaking tours typically last about 4 to 5 hours and include safety briefings and equipment.

Scenic Flights


Scenic flights provide a bird’s-eye view of Milford Sound and the surrounding landscapes.  These tours offer stunning aerial views of the fjords, mountains, and rainforests.  Flights can be taken from Queenstown or Te Anau and often include a landing in Milford Sound for further exploration.

Hiking and Nature Walks

Hiking and Nature Walks

Guided hikes and nature walks are available for those who prefer to explore on foot.  Popular trails include the Milford Track, known as “the finest walk in the world,” and shorter walks like the Milford Foreshore Walk, which offers spectacular views of the fjord and Mitre Peak.

Cruise Ship

Lastly, a cruise ship can qualify as the best Milford Sound tour.  As a matter of fact, this is how I visited.  In addition, it sails through Doubtful Sound as well as Dusky Sound.  Evidently, cruising through the fjords in luxury is a once in a lifetime experience.  In contrast, you don’t get close enough to the waterfalls for an intimate visit.

Choosing the Best Milford Sound Tour

Factors to Consider

  • Duration and Itinerary: Choose a tour that fits your schedule and interests. Some tours offer comprehensive experiences that include multiple activities.
  • Group Size and Experience Type: Decide between a small group tour for a more personalized experience or a larger group tour that may be more economical.
  • Tour Inclusions: Check what is included in the tour package, such as meals, transportation, and additional activities like kayaking or hiking.

Top Tour Operators

  • Southern Discoveries: Offers a range of boat cruises and kayak tours with experienced guides.
  • Real Journeys: Known for their comprehensive tour packages, including boat cruises and scenic flights.
  • Mitre Peak Cruises: Specializes in smaller boat cruises for a more intimate experience.
  • Rosco’s Milford Kayaks: Provides excellent guided kayaking tours for different experience levels.

What to Expect on a Milford Sound Tour

Wildlife and Scenic Highlights

Wildlife and Scenic Highlights

Milford Sound is home to a variety of wildlife, including bottlenose dolphins, fur seals, and Fiordland crested penguins.  Scenic highlights include the majestic Mitre Peak, Stirling Falls, and the lush rainforests that line the fjord.

Weather and Best Time to Visit

Weather and Best Time to Visit

Milford Sound experiences high rainfall, contributing to its lush landscapes and waterfalls.  The best time to visit is during the summer months (December to February) for warmer weather, though the fjord is stunning year-round.  Be prepared for changing weather conditions and bring appropriate rain gear.

Tips for a Memorable Milford Sound Tour

What to Bring

What to Bring

  • Rain gear and waterproof clothing
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Camera with extra batteries and memory cards
  • Snacks and water

Photography Tips

Photography Tips

  • Capture the waterfalls from different angles to highlight their power.
  • Use a wide-angle lens to encompass the vast landscapes.
  • Be patient and wait for wildlife to appear for unique shots.

Safety and Comfort

Safety and Comfort

  • Follow all safety instructions provided by your tour guide.
  • Stay hydrated and bring snacks to keep your energy up.
  • Dress in layers to adjust to the varying weather conditions.

Enjoy Finding the Best Milford Sound Tour

Choosing the best Milford Sound tour involves considering your preferences and what you hope to experience.  Whether you prefer a leisurely boat cruise, an adventurous kayak trip, a scenic flight, or a nature hike, Milford Sound offers something for everyone.  Explore this natural wonder and share your experiences with others to inspire their own adventures.