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How to Spend 1 Day in Fiordland & Milford Sound

How to Spend 1 Day in Fiordland & Milford Sound

The peaks of the Southern Alps splinter into a dramatic landscape of cliffs, mountains, and waterways in Fiordland National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site whose scenic crown jewel is Milford Sound. Whether you’re based in Queensland or Te Anau, you can explore Milford Sound in just one day. Here’s how to plan.

 

Morning: Getting to Milford Sound

Spectacular mountain scenery begins long before you arrive at Milford Sound; Fiordland National Park is one place where the journey is as spectacular as the destination. Bus trips to Milford Sound follow winding mountain roads from Queenstown or Te Anau, often with stops to walk and take photos along the way. For a glimpse of even more-remote places in Fiordland National Park, scenic flights cut right across the park’s roadless interior, giving aerial views of Fiordland’s most isolated peaks and hidden waterfalls. 

Afternoon: Mitre Peak to the Tasman Sea

Once you step off the bus or plane in Milford Sound, leave land behind altogether to discover the narrow fjord by boat. Classic sightseeing cruises of Milford Sound go from the compact harbor to the mouth of the Tasman Sea, passing seal colonies, rain-fed waterfalls, and the towering profile of Mitre Peak. If you’d rather see the sights from the waterline, guided kayak tours let you nose along the shore; while you won’t cover as much distance, the maneuverable boats are perfect for a quieter and more independent experience.

Night: Out of the Fiordlands

Very limited accommodations in Milford Sound mean most travelers leave by late afternoon, but that doesn’t mean the day is over. If you’re headed back by plane, you’ll see evening light glint off the glaciers and waterfalls. With the sun setting in the west, this is a great time for photography from the plane’s viewing windows. Coach trips are just as scenic and mean a mountain twilight on the road back to Te Anau or Queenstown. 

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3 Tours and Activities

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Milford Sound Scenic Flight and Nature Cruise

Milford Sound Scenic Flight and Nature Cruise

star-5
28
See Milford Sound by air and water, flying round-trip from Queenstown for a small-craft boat cruise through the famous fiord. Save time on this half-day tour as you soar over the World Heritage-listed landscape of Fiordland National Park. Landing at Milford Sound, trade your wings for watercraft and a sightseeing journey with experienced naturalists. Learn about the wildlife and geology of the scenic waterways at one of New Zealand’s top natural wonders. Includes round-trip hotel transfers and a boxed lunch.
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  • 4 hours 30 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$391.14
From
$391.14

Cruise Milford NZ Small Boutique Cruise Experience

Cruise Milford NZ Small Boutique Cruise Experience

star-5
1060
Escape the crowds on a Milford Sound cruise aboard a spacious boat with a limited number of passengers. Get up-close views of New Zealand fur seals, dolphins and Fiordland-crested penguins from the luxury lounge in the upper cabin, where you can enjoy complimentary coffee, tea and biscuits as you listen to the skipper’s narration. This boutique vessel provides a superior experience with unforgettable memories of highlights like Mitre Peak.
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  • 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Free Cancellation
From
$72.69
From
$72.69

Milford Sound Cruise with Optional Bus Tour

Milford Sound Cruise with Optional Bus Tour

star-4.5
186
Enjoy uninterrupted views of glacier-carved cliffs on a Milford Sound cruise aboard the Maiden of Milford, a 3-deck vessel. This sightseeing cruise through one of the South Island’s most stunning natural wonders takes you past vivid waterfalls to frolicking dolphins and New Zealand fur seals. Meet at the pier or opt for a round-trip coach tour of UNESCO-listed Fiordland National Park from Queenstown, and stop for photographs and some short nature walks en route to Milford Sound.
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  • 2 to 12 hours
  • Free Cancellation
From
$68.54
From
$68.54