Day trip to Milford Sound from Queenstown

It was going to be a long day, 8 hours of total driving to Milford Sound in a single day. It sounded impossible but everyone we talked to did it. So we figured why not.

Milford Sound is New Zealand’s most popular and dramatic fjord, located in the west coast of the South island.  High cliffs rising up from the ocean, roaring waterfalls cascading down the mountains, seals and penguins diving in the water, Milford sound is truly a breathtaking sight that everyone should experience in their lifetime.  It is about a 4 hour drive from Queenstown. Compare hotels in Queenstown here.

We were up really early, got ready, grabbed breakfast and coffee from McDonald’s.  Once we were on our way, we couldn’t even tell how long the drive was.  The drive was so scenic and pleasant that time just flew by. Picture perfect lakes, green meadows, sheep grazing in the green fields as far as you could see. The sights were amazing.  After about 2 hours of this breathtaking drive, we stopped at this little town called Te Anau.

We grabbed pre packed sandwiches from a gas station and stocked up on gas because the next 2 hours to Milford sound did not have any gas stations or restaurants.  After making a quick stop at lake Te Anau for some pictures, we were on our way again.

New Zealand Milford Sound
Lake Te Anau


Stops along the way:

Mirror lake- Since weather conditions were favorable, we were treated with an amazing reflection of the nearby mountains in the water.

New Zealand Milford Sound

Next, we stopped right before entering Homer tunnel.  At this point we were surrounded by mountains in all directions and each of these mountains had lots of waterfalls.  Even though it was November (New Zealand’s summertime) there was leftover snow at this location which made it even more spectacular. This place was just magical. The pictures don’t do it justice.

New Zealand Milford Sound New Zealand Milford Sound


Just a few miles before reaching Milford sound, we stopped at the Chasm.  This is a short, easy hike along the bushes to see a river flowing down the gorge.  Also saw some interesting rock formations here.

New Zealand Milford Sound


We made some more quick, random stops to take pictures and enjoy the breathtaking scenery.

New Zealand Milford Sound

New Zealand Milford Sound

New Zealand Milford Sound

Once we reached Milford Sound, we checked in with our tour company. While waiting, we quickly finished our previously bought pre-packed sandwiches so that we could enjoy Milford sound with a full, happy stomach.  There are about 5 different companies to choose from when cruising Milford Sound.  We chose Orange because that was the only one available since we booked the ticket just a day prior and everything else was full. We did not regret it.  Our tour guide and the ride was awesome. Reserve your Cruise tour here before its all booked

New Zealand Milford Sound
Cruising in Milford Sound

Our 2 hour cruise in Milford Sound was truly breathtaking. We sailed into waterfalls, saw dolphins playing in the water, seals sleeping on the rocks and penguins walking down the rocks. It was fantastic.  It was just magical to see such tall mountains emerging right up from the ocean. We were also extremely excited to see the penguins. It was the highlight of our trip. Our cruise captain/guide was the first one to spot a penguin in one of the rocks in the mountain. As we cruised closer there were tons of penguins hopping down the rocks. The penguin at the bottom rock was waiting for all the others to arrive at the same rock. After 6-7 penguins arrived at this bottom rock, they quickly dived in the water and swam towards the ocean. Our captain followed for quite a while. They hopped like dolphins in and out of the water and swam in a synchronized V. It was such a cool experience and our first encounter with penguins in the wild.


New Zealand Milford SoundMilford Sound, New Zealand


After the cruise, we headed back to Queenstown.  It was just after 9 when we reached our hotel. We picked up lamb roast from one of the most popular restaurants in queenstown (Pedro’s House of Lamb) for dinner and were tired enough to fall asleep right after. Wow, what an amazing day it was!

If you don’t prefer to drive, you can also fly-cruise-fly back from Queenstown to Milford Sound in half a day. Book your tour here

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Also read:

Hiking the Hooker Valley Track

Iceland in 7 days- Our complete Itinerary,

Self driving the Golden Circle in Iceland

 A Weekend Getaway to USVI Islands


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