How to get to Milford Sound (by car, bus or plane)

How to get to Milford Sound (by car, bus or plane)

The best way for you to get to Milford Sound and the Fiordland National Park!

Milford Sound and the Fiordland National Park are destinations in New Zealand that should be on every travelers bucket list. No matter if you have already booked your trip to the other end of the world or if New Zealand is not on your mind right now. But Milford Sound, described as the eighth wonder of the world is a place worth to visit at least once in a life time.

It is an area surrounded by mountains, lush green forests and the ocean at once. On the ground Milford Sound is only accessible by ONE road, the Milford Road, that stretches its way through the beauty of the Fiordland National Park.

Alternatively you can reach this place by air! It does not only goes faster but also allows you to see this place from a whole new perspective and gives you one of the most incredible experiences in life.

There are so many different possibilities! To make it easier for you this post will explain to you in detail how to reach Milford Sound by car, bus or plane. Including tips on how to plan layovers so you can make the most out of your time in this beautiful area.

Milford Sound during the blue hour

Take a bus tour in one day

For the lazy travelers or the ones with limited time 😉

For those who only have a few days a bus tour from Queenstown to Milford Sound is the most convenient way to go. You pretty much don´t need to worry about anything. Just book the tour and be at the departure point on time.

The bus will pick you up in Queenstown at 07:00 in the morning and will drop you off at around 07:00 in the evening. It sounds like a long day, which it totally is, with a lot of things to see. But you also have time to sleep on the bus.

First stop after two hours will be Te Anau for a little coffee break before the tour continues to the Fiordland National Park.

The bus will make stops along the way, for example at the Mirror Lakes and the big valley for you to take pictures. However time is very limited so you won´t have long to seek in the nature.

Many of the tour buses will have a glass roof so that you can see the peaks of the mountains and the canopy in the forests.

At around 12 noon the bus will arrive Milford Sound at the cruise ship terminal. There you will jump on the two hour cruise before the bus will take you back to Queenstown.

Although it sounds convenient you only have a limited amount of time in each place and the bus won´t be able to stop at every sign. On top of that the prices for tours are quiet expensive and can cost up to 180NZD. The cruise at Milford Sound is already included in your ticket.

But if you want more flexibility I suggest you to take a car or camper van.

Going by car or camper van – The best and most flexible way to see it all!

If you want to have the full Fiordland experience there is no better way to see this place than by taking your own vehicle. As comfortable as the buses might be… Driving with your own car through this breathtaking scenery is perhaps the best thing to do when in New Zealand.

The Milford Road is one of the top rated scenic roads in New Zealand

Stop at every view point you want! Take as many pictures as your memory card or your smartphone can hold! Take in the serenity of the nature without rushing or being pushed around by other people! Just enjoy the endless seeming road while you drive through the forests, along lakes, over mountains and through valleys.

From Queenstown it takes about 03:45 hours and from Te Anau 01:45 hours to reach Milford Sound.

I always suggest to start from Te Anau very early. You simply have more time and can also be ahead of the tour busses, to beat the crowds.

On the way through the Fiordland to Milford Sound are many campsites too. It is no problem to stay longer if you want.

Things to see on the way

  • Mirror Lakes
  • Eglington Valley
  • Lake Gunn
  • Mountain and valley views
  • Waterfalls and river beds

The tunnel

Before you arrive into Milford you have to drive through a one lane tunnel that is operated with traffic lights. Before you drive in you can stop on the parking area on the right side. From there you can watch one of the many waterfalls that run down a massive mountain wall.

At Milford there are enough parking places available. From there it is just a short walk to the ferry terminals where you can take the next cruise along Milford Sound.

Important Notes!

If you plan to stay for a few days make sure to take enough water and food and to have a full tank! There is no gas station or supermarket on the way or in Milford.

Te Anau is the last township to buy groceries and to stop at the gas station before the Milford Road starts. With a full tank you will be absolutely fine driving there and coming back again.

Also always check the weather forecast before driving to the Fiordland National Park. If it is raining heavily or if there is to much snow, the Milford Road can be closed sometimes for days. Security comes first as the weather in New Zealand can be unpredictable sometimes.

The best about taking your own car, not only around the Fiordland area but everywhere in New Zealand, is simply the flexibility with time. You don´t have to rush or to stick to a timetable and skip places you wanna see. You are completely free and can enjoy this fantastic place in every way!

And now here comes the most coolest way to travel to Milford Sound and to see the Fiordland National Park!

Take a scenic flight and nature cruise from Queenstown to Milford Sound

If you want to have the most coolest experience in New Zealand (beside sky diving and bungee jumping) take a scenic flight from Queenstown to Milford Sound!

Scenic flights to Milford Sound are offered by many companies in Queenstown with different packages to choose. You can either fly there, enjoying the view and fly back. Or you combine it with a scenic cruise on Milford Sound and fly back again afterwards. The tour takes about 3 – 4 hours.

I would recommend you book with Air Milford company. Their planes are the safest and very comfortable with leather seats. The best thing is that every passenger has a window seat to enjoy the flight. 

Prices vary from 565NZD and 599NZD.

Air Milford got even voted #1 scenic flight on Trip Advisor in 2019!

It all can be easily done in one day and is the best option for you to see this place if you are limited with time.

Scenic flights depend on the weather forecast

The scenic flights always depend on the weather forecast. If there is rain, clouds, storms or snow the planes won´t take off. New Zealand sometimes has four seasons in a day it can happen quiet often that the pilots wait until the weather sets or that the flights are completely canceled. If that is the case the companies mostly offer a full refund which is good.

See New Zealand´s stunning nature from the air

The flight takes off in Queenstown and goes along the Shotover River, over lake Wakatipu to Glenorchy and the scenic area called Paradise. From there it goes further to the Fiordland National Park.

You will have breathtaking views over rivers, snowy mountain peaks, glacier lakes, dark green forests and valleys as well as New Zealand´s highest waterfall – the 580 meter tall Sutherland Falls.

New Zealand Sutherland Falls from the air
Sutherland Falls – New Zealand highest waterfall

The scenic flight continues to the ocean before flying through the fjord and landing in Milford.

Once done you will never forget it again!

I think I don´t have to mention again how spectacular the views are. You will most likely stare with your mouth open out of the window. Again New Zealand proves that it has one of the most stunning scenery on earth.

Don´t miss that opportunity, you have to see it to believe it!

The best way to get to Milford Sound and the Fiordland National Park by car, van, bus or plane

As you can see there are a lot of different ways on how to get to Milford Sound.

But no matter which option you choose. A trip to this part of the world is unforgettable and will leave you many times speechless.

There are not many unspoiled natural places in the world anymore, but Milford Sound as famous as it is has not lost any of its spirit yet. A place that really deserves the nick name “Eighth wonder of the world”!

Related articles about more places in New Zealand

I would really appreciate if you share your thoughts in the comments. And if you have any questions for your upcoming trip let me know and I will be happy to help 🙂

Your Alice ❤

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