Milford Sound is the best known of the sounds that lie throughout Fiordland National Park and is also the only fiord accessible by road. The Milford Road starting in Te Anau Te Anau is considered one of the finest scenic drives in the world. Stunning alpine scenery and the famous Homer Tunnel make this road a journey in itself. Allow plenty of time to fully enjoy the drive.
Sheer cliffs starting hundreds of metres below the waters surface rise spectacularly to the sky. It is 16 kilometres from the head of the fiord to the open sea and Real Journeys cruise ships will take you there and back comfortably in around 2 hours. Dolphins and seals can often be seen, and following a large downpour the waterfalls that line the fiords are magnificent, particularly the 146 metre high Stirling Falls.
The best way to see Milford Sound is with Real Journeys. Their luxury coaches can transport you from Queenstown or Te Anau and their sightseeing aircraft also operate from Queenstown. Experienced guides on board their vessels will show you Milford Sound in all its glory.
Cruise the full length of the fiord on board the Milford Sound Nature Cruise. You'll get to see Milford from a locals perspective and can get soaked under spectacular waterfalls. Following the cruise and included lunch, visit the Milford Sound Underwater Observatory. The observatory offers a journey through the natural history, geology and conservation efforts of this unique marine reserve. Then descend 10 metres down 64 steps beneath the water into a spacious viewing chamber with uninterrupted 360 degree views of the undersea world to see rare black coral and colourful sea creatures. Board a vessel for the return cruise to Milford wharf.
The Milford Mariner offers you a very special dinner, bed and breakfast experience on Milford Sound. Onboard the Milford Mariner you will cruise the full length of this spectacular fiord to the Tasman Sea before anchoring for the night in sheltered Harrison Cove. Accompanied by a nature guide you can go exploring in the tender craft and kayaks or simply relax on deck. After the day's activities, you enjoy a delicious evening buffet in the spacious saloon before retiring to your private cabin.
The vessel itself was designed along the lines of a traditional New Zealand coastal trading scow to reflect Fiordland's heritage. Departing from the Milford Wharf, the Milford Mariner cruises the length of Milford Sound to the Tasman Sea leisurely exploring on the way many points of interest, there is plenty of time to view the waterfalls, rainforest, mountains and wildlife and the experienced nature guide on board will be able to answer any questions you may have. After reaching the open sea, subject to weather and favourable conditions the sails are hoisted for a period. The vessel returns to the calm and shelter of Harrison Cove for your overnight stay.
Starting your day in Queenstown, you will travel by coach along the shores of Lake Wakatipu, through the sweeping landscape to the Ultimate Hikes Office in Te Anau. Leaving Te Anau you will travel further around Lake Te Anau to the boat harbour at Te Anau Downs. Enjoy a hot drink aboard an hour-long boat journey to the northern end of the lake and the start of the Milford Track. Disembarking, you will walk a short 1.6km (1 mile) to the historic Glade House. At Glade House, a scrumptious lunch from the kitchen is waiting. Visit the small museum there featuring historic pictures of the Milford Track before setting off across the swing bridge, following the Clinton River through rich Beech forest. Your guide will point out aspects of the forest and history to you along the way.
On the return, you will walk up the Glade Burn Track for a fantastic view of Lake Te Anau before descending down a dry river bed to the return launch and return coach back to Queenstown.
An adventurous guided day excursion from Te Anau hiking to Lake Marian amongst forest and alpine scenery. Begin with a spectacular scenic drive along the Milford Road to the Lower Hollyford, the starting point for the guided walk to Lake Marian. There are opportunities for short nature walks and photographic stops along the way. The hike starts with a gentle walk alongside a series of waterfalls, then steepens and becomes rocky underfoot as you ascend through a lush forest of fuchsia, ribbon wood and beech trees. You'll travel as part of a small group, allowing your guide to lead you on a journey of discovery that is personalised to your and your fellow hikers. Stops for photographs, bird-watching and enjoying the scenery are made along the way. Hot drinks and energy snacks are carried by the guide, and a wilderness tea break is enjoyed along the way. After walking for 2-3 hours, arrive at Lake Marian. This alpine lake is situated in a hanging valley surrounded by steep, snow clad mountains. If weather permits you'll enjoy a picnic lunch at this inspirational location and relax in this magnificent alpine amphitheatre. Descend back down the track to the Hollyford Road and then travel back to Te Anau by coach. A medium level of fitness is required to enjoy this walk.
The Milford Road is the gateway to Fiordland National Park and as such as also a great place to base yourself to enjoy the many walks and hikes available in the area. One of the most famous walks starting here is the Milford Track and you can experience a day walk introduction with Ultimate Hikes on their Milford Track Encounter day walk. If you choose to explore yourself there are many more options too. A short drive along the Milford Road will put you within reach of many walking tracks varying from 10 minutes to 6 hours. See a selection of walks that you can find along the Milford Road below.
Check condition daily for longer walks before venturing out. this information is courtesy of the Department of Conservation and you can find detailed information on their website or at their visitor centre in Te Anau.
Suitable for all ages, Lake Mistletoe is reached by a short forest walk. The entrance is signposted opposite the Te Anau Downs hotel complex.
Distance: 1.3 km return. Completion Time: 45 minutes return.
A good place to stretch your legs during the drive to Milford Sound. Small lakes provide outstanding reflective views of the Earl Mountains. Water fowl and wetland plants can be seen against a backdrop of beech forest.
Distance: 400m return. Completion Time: 10 minutes return.
The Lake Gunn Nature Walk is an easy 45 minute loop walk suited to all ages and accessible to wheelchairs.
The loop track passes through red beech forest and gives glimpses of the birdlife typical of the Eglinton Valley. Side trips can be made to several lake beaches and sheltered fishing spots.
Distance: 1.4km return. Completion Time: 45 minutes return.
From the Divide car park follow the Routeburn Track for about an hour to the signposted turnoff to Key Summit. From here it is a 20 minute climb to Key Summit with panoramic views over the Humbolt and Darran mountain ranges. A self guided alpine nature walk takes you through a variety of native vegetation.
Distance: 6.8km return. Completion Time: 3 hours return.
River crossing, navigation and alpine skills are required for this route.
From the car park located near the eastern portal of the Homer Tunnel the marked route meanders its way up the valley from alpine vegetation. During and after rain there are some creek crossings, so expect to get wet feet.
There are no markers above bush line so navigation skills are essential. Do not follow the rock cairns made by previous walkers as they do not indicate the correct route. From the head of the valley the route heads up to the saddle. Cross the base of the waterfall and sidle across the slopes towards Black Lake. From here parts of the route are very steep and is not suitable for those with limited hiking experience, or a dislike for heights. The track route goes up steep rock slabs and is treacherous when wet, frosty or icy - there are steel cables assist you through this section. From the saddle there are breathtaking views of the valley and part of Milford Sound/Piopiotahi.
Distance: 7km return. Completion Time: 4-6 hours return.
East Homer Nature Walk
Please note this walk cannot be accessed if avalanche danger closes the car park.
Located on the Eastern side of the Homer Tunnel this short nature walk gives an opportunity to see the alpine landscape close-up and see the plants and animals that survive in this harsh environment.
Distance: 2km return. Completion Time: 20 minutes return.
This popular walk is on the western side of the Homer Tunnel. Two foot bridges over the Cleddau River offer spectacular views of a series of waterfalls. Thousands of years of swirling water have sculpted round shapes and basins in the rock.
Distance: 400m return. Completion Time: 20 minutes return.
This route is accessed from the Tutuko bridge on the Western side of the Homer Tunnel. The track is lightly marked as it heads up the valley. After approximately 2 1/2 hours return to the car park via the same route. If you have good navigation and river crossing skills you can continue further up the riverbed.
Distance: 4km return. Completion Time: 5 hour return.
Piopiotahi/Milford Foreshore Walk
At the entry to the main visitor car park at Milford Sound you will find the start of this short loop walk. Walk through beech forest to viewing points with access to the beach. These viewing points have some of the best views of Mitre Peak as well as great views up the Arthur Valley. There are several panels along the way to help you interpret your surroundings.
Also starting in Te Anau is the Kepler Track, another one of the Great Walks. This track is very accessible and you can easily enjoy a day walk along the start of the route and around the southern end of Lake Te Anau. Call into the Department of Conservation office at the Southern end of Lakefront Drive.
Distance: 400m return. Completion Time: 30 minutes return.
For many visitors the drive along the Milford Road is as spectacular as the sound itself. Countless photo opportunities and short walks mean this drive should not be rushed. The Mirror Lakes create perfectly clear reflections of the surrounding mountains and glacier formed meadows and ancient native beech forest create a unique and fascinating landscape. The Homer Tunnel is an incredible engineering feat at 1219 metres long. The road slopes towards Milford at a rate of 1 in 10. The chasm (a short 15 minute walk) demonstrates the incredible power water has as it continues to shape and carve the valley. Most stops and points of interest are well signposted on the 121 kilometre road but don't underestimate how long this drive will take you with scenic stops.