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Milford Sound from Queenstown: One of New Zealand’s Best Day Trips

The rainy West Coast of New Zealand is one of the most rugged and beautiful areas of the country. From melting glaciers and windswept beaches to lush forest and jagged mountains, it’s perfect if you’re looking to see some top-notch nature. Milford Sound is without doubt the star attraction – its sharp, cloud covered peaks rise from the water while your boat chugs past them towards the sea. It’s quite a scene, and is more than worth the long day trip from Queenstown.

Assuming you don’t have your own transport, you’ll need to organise a tour to reach Milford Sound. We purchased ours through online and left Queenstown at around 7.30 am. The first section of the drive, which took us around Lake Wakitipu, was stunning. The driver told us to make the most of it as we’d soon be driving through nondescript farmland. He was kind of right – it wasn’t the most exciting section of road in the world, but things were about to get better.

The Mirror Lakes

After a few hours on the road it was great to get out and stretch our legs – and we couldn’t have asked for a more scenic place to do it. It’s a short stroll around a boardwalk to various viewpoints – just cross your fingers for a nice, clear day and you’ll see the famous reflection.

Mirror Lake, on the way to Milford Sound from Queenstown, New Zealand

Awesome Mountain Scenery

We continued to roll on past some really special scenery – luckily the bus had a glass roof so we could take it all in. It really was a stunning ride, and we stopped a few times to take photos and fill up our water bottles from an ice cold stream – water doesn’t get any better than that. Bus rides can sometimes drag, but the scenery, especially towards the end, completely takes your mind off it. In no time, or so it felt, we arrived at the Homer Tunnel, once the longest gravel-surfaced tunnel in the world (it’s been sealed now though).

A stop on the bus tour to Milford Sound from Queenstown, New ZealandWest Coast scenery on the way to Milford Sound from Queenstown, New Zealand

Milford Sound

We finally arrived at Milford Sound, which, as it turns out, isn’t even a sound, it’s a fiord (check out this site for an explanation, I don’t want to bore you). Despite the false advertising and the gloomy weather, it was hard not to be humbled by the sight of it (and hard not to wonder, as a New Zealander, why I’d never been before!).

The boat trip

Most people visiting Milford Sound opt for a 90 minute cruise though the sound and out to the coast, although you can also do a kayak tour or even a flight. The tour we booked included the cruise and it was awesome. The wind was blowing pretty hard but most people braved the conditions in order to appreciate the surroundings. Even though the light was bad, I think I took more photos per minute at Milford Sound than anywhere else I’ve been – at least my camera was keeping warm!

Milford Sound, New Zealand

The mountains of Milford Sound, New ZealandMilford Sound, New Zealand: A day trip from QueenstownA waterfall at Milford Sound, New Zealand

The Details

Half the fun of a trip to Milford Sound is the journey, which is longer than it probably needs to be (if you went in a straight line from Queenstown it’d take you a fraction of the time). There’s been talk of putting a monorail in to open it up to more tourists from Queenstown, but the system they have now is fine in my opinion. It’s definitely a long day (we arrived back in Queenstown at around 6.30pm) but is more than worth it. You can book a bus/boat tour from Queenstown for around $100 or you can obviously drive.  All in all, a trip to Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s best day trips – you won’t forget it in a hurry!

Have you been to Milford Sound? What is your favourite natural wonder in New Zealand? Let me know!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
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  1. June 8, 2015 at 3:09 pm — Reply

    Such beautiful images and description, great way of depicting your tour Jon. keep it up 🙂

    • June 9, 2015 at 12:43 pm — Reply

      Cheers Steven, glad you liked it!

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