Milford Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory (Milford Sound Observatory)
The marine environment at Milford Sound is special, as it combines a top layer of fresh water and underlying layers of salty seawater. Visitors to New Zealand’s only floating underwater observatory can see black coral—normally found deep in the ocean—fish, seals, penguins, and possibly even dolphins. While the experience might seem a bit like an aquarium, what visitors observe is actually the open water, not contained within an enclosure. As well as the viewing area, there are displays and videos with information about the history and environment of Milford Sound, and the construction of the Homer Tunnel through the mountains, which many travelers will have passed through on their way to Milford Sound. As the center can only be accessed by boat, most travelers visit while on a cruise or kayaking tour.
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Things to know before you go
- Rainfall is very high in Milford Sound, so you’re likely to need a good raincoat and water-resistant shoes for your trip.
- The center is wheelchair accessible but the observation deck is not: it’s necessary to climb down about 60 steps.
- Allow around half an hour for your visit.
How to get there
The center is located in Harrison Cove, on the eastern side of Milford Sound, and is only accessible by boat. Various cruise and kayaking tours of Milford Sound include a stop at the center.
When to get there
Milford Sound is a year-round travel destination, but busiest in the warmer summer months (December-February). There’s a lot of rain throughout the year, but rainfall doesn’t spoil the experience of visiting Milford Sound or the observatory.
While many travelers tour Milford Sound on cruises of varying sizes, active travelers should consider taking a kayaking tour instead. You get a more intimate perspective of the coastline, going near colonies of birds or seals that live on rocks, paddling near waterfalls, and can access little bays that larger boats can’t.