Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s top visitor attractions – but you might be wondering what to do when you get there. There are a variety of ways to experience Milford Sound’s beauty, but the most popular is to visit it on a day tour that includes a scenic cruise around its waters. here’s a range of activities and things to see and do in Milford Sound. There really is something for everyone; whether you paddle a kayak, join a Milford Sound cruise or get beneath the waters to view the mysterious undersea world.
Best Time to Visit
Peak season is November to March. April/May and September/October are less crowded. Winter is the best time to visit – from June to August you often get clear, crisp days.
Top Places to Visit and Activities in Milford Sound
1. Milford Track
The Milford Track is known as ‘the finest walk in the world’ and is perhaps the most famous of the nine New Zealand Great Walks. Experience the stunning grandeur of Fiordland National Park and be awed by its natural wonders: sheer ice-carved valleys, mountain passes, refreshing glacier-fed rivers, peaceful forests and cascading waterfalls. The Milford Track takes four to five days to walk and is 53.5km (33.24 miles) long. The start point of the Milford Track is Glade Wharf at the head of Lake Te Anau. From here the track traverses some of Fiordland National Park’s most beautiful scenery: native rainforests, glacial valleys, alpine passes, wetlands and waterfalls. The end point is at Sandfly Point, a short boat ride from Milford Sound. The Milford Track season runs from October to April.
2. The Milford Sound Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory
The Milford Sound Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory offers a unique view of this magical part of New Zealand and enhances your Milford Sound experience. Find out about visiting the Milford Sound observatory. Milford Sound is home to New Zealand’s only floating underwater observatory. Here you can get a unique view of the fascinating underwater environment, without getting wet! Walk down the steps into the large underwater viewing room and find yourself 10 meters below sea level, in air conditioned comfort. See the colourful sea life up close and discover the species of black coral usually found at depths of 500 metres in the open ocean. Gaze at the fish and other wildlife – it’s just like visiting an aquarium, except the exhibits are roaming free and you’re the one in the enclosure!
3. Kayaking in Milford Sound
Milford Sound is stunning from any angle, but there’s something truly special about seeing it from water level as you glide along in a kayak. The majesty of the thundering waterfalls and rocky cliffs is enhanced from this angle, and you have more time to appreciate the scenery as you paddle along at your own pace. Kayaking Milford Sound is an eco-friendly way to experience it, and there’s also a good chance you’ll meet some of the local wildlife like seals, dolphins and penguins! If you’re an experienced kayaker with your own gear, you can go kayaking on Milford Sound by yourself – but remember that you’re on open waters, pay attention to the weather forecast and be aware of boat traffic around you.
4. Diving in Milford Sound
Of all the ways to experience Milford Sound, scuba diving has to be the most adventurous and immersive way to explore its inky waters. Milford Sound is a marine reserve, so you can expect to see a flourishing ecosystem under the water. The unique plant life in Milford Sound includes dramatic black coral trees. During your dive you’ll be sharing the water with all kinds of wildlife, from eels, stingrays, sharks, dolphins and seals to over 150 species of fish. Because of the unique protective layer formed by the darkened fresh water layer on the surface, you’ll find some wildlife at depths of 30 metres or less in Milford Sound, which you would normally only sea at depths of 100-200 metres.
5. Milford Sound Foreshore Walk
Milford Sound offers many walking and tramping tracks for a range of abilities, time frames and experiences, ranging from short and easy access walks to long multi-day tramps like the Milford Track. Here are our favourite Milford Sound day walks to enjoy during your time in the area. This enjoyable short Foreshore walk starts at the carpark in Milford Sound and wanders through beech forest and alongside the sandy foreshore area in Milford Sound. Learn more about the area through the interpretive visitor panels, relax and enjoy the sea air while watching the boats cruise past. You can find some of the best views of Mitre Peak along this route.