Get up close and personal with Milford Sound on our leisurely Nature Cruise. Experience the spray of a waterfall as you cruise close to sheer rock faces. Informative, participative and more relaxed, a Nature Cruise is the perfect way to experience Milford Sound to the fullest.
Take the time to enjoy the best of Milford Sound with our leisurely Nature Cruise. Exploring the length of the fiord you’ll learn about the history of the region and benefit from the knowledge of your specialist nature guide. Experience the cool spray of a waterfall as move in close to sheer rock faces or watch out for dolphins, seals and, in season, the rare Fiordland crested penguins.
Our Nature Cruises have a flexible, extended itinerary that gives you plenty of time to enjoy the scenery and take in the highlights. Our experienced skippers tailor the cruise to take into consideration weather and recent wildlife sightings, ensuring you’ll see the best that Milford Sound has to offer on the day.
Informative, participative and relaxed, a Nature Cruise is the perfect way to experience what’s been called the “eighth wonder of the world”.
Things you should know
The journey to Milford Sound is just as spectacular as the destination itself, whether you travel by road or by air.
Milford Sound is around 5-6 hours (one-way) from Queenstown and around 3 hours from Te Anau by road. We have specially designed luxury coaches that can get you there from both these towns or if you prefer we can get you there on one of our scenic flights. You could also drive yourself to Milford.
The best way to enjoy the Milford Road, one of the world’s finest alpine roads without having to worry about the often tricky driving conditions, is on one of our coaches. Our experienced coach drivers know all the right places to stop and take in the magnificent views of the Milford Road. Along the way, they will provide you with informative commentary about the region, its history and natural surroundings.
Our flights and coaches connect with our cruises.
If you decide to self-drive, do overnight in Te Anau as the trip to Milford and back from Queenstown can get very tiring. Also, leave plenty of time to stop at the many scenic trails and lookouts along the way.
Adult $29, Child $29 (1 Oct 2016 - 30 Sep 2018)
Adult $30, Child $30 (1 Oct 2018 - 30 Sep 2019)
For Milford Sound day coach tours departing Queenstown and 8am from Te Anau, we offer an upgrade to Premium Package. Not suitable for infants. This applies to the coach portion of your trip only and includes: Seating in the first two rows (max. 8 seats) of the coach plus Real Journeys branded travel pack with: bottled water (500ml), Okarito insect repellent spray, sunscreen, rain poncho, tissues & boiled sweets. Subject to availability.
Adult $19, Child $19 (1 Oct 2017 - 30 Sep 2018)
Adult $20, Child $20 (1 Oct 2018 - 30 Sep 2019)
Attractively presented in an individual box: includes freshly-made cold meat & salad sandwich, cheese & crackers, olives, nut snack, biscuit, small chocolate bar, piece of seasonal fruit and mineral water. Complimentary Tea and Coffee.
For Fly/Cruise/Fly trips ONLY, Picnic Lunch included. Just select a Picnic Lunch during the booking process and the amount will be deducted prior to final payment.
Adult $37, Child $37 (1 Oct 2017 - 30 Sep 2018)
Adult $39, Child $39 (1 Oct 2018 - 30 Sep 2019)
Attractively presented in a Japanese style lunch box containing: Salmon & avocado maki, cucumber sushi, ebi prawn, inari sushi, miso salmon, ponzu, kumara, teriyaki chicken, daikon & wakami salad, rice, furikake & miso soup. Fruit and Pure New Zealand Ice Cream.
Adult $31, Child $31 (1 Oct 2017 - 30 Sep 2018)
Adult $33, Child $33 (1 Oct 2018 - 30 Sep 2019)
Available on selected departures. A selection of Indian dishes: Spring rolls, Samosas, Onion Salad with Lettuce, Dal, Vegetable Curry, Rice, Poppadoms, Mango Pickle, Fruit Selection, Plain Yoghurt, Ice cream, Apple, Complimentary Tea and Coffee.
Please note: If you require a vegetarian lunch, or have any special dietary needs please add this into the comments box during the booking process. You can order any of the lunch options when you make your booking. Menus are indicative only.
Non-slip shoes/boots, waterproof jacket, warm sweater/fleece jacket, sunscreen/sunglasses, insect repellent and camera.Book
Milford Sound Nature Cruise
"I always go with Real Journeys, they really know their stuff and the staff are always so knowledgeable and friendly. This tour was perfect: not too many people, perfect length of time, the lunch option is reasonable and the coach is brilliant."
The popular origin of why Milford Sound was called Piopiotahi by local Maori was that it came from a native bird, the piopio, now thought extinct.
Legend has it that when mythical adventurer Māui died, a single piopio flew to the sound in mourning.
14 July 2016
I always go with Real Journeys, they really know their stuff and the staff are always so knowledgeable and friendly. This tour was perfect: not too many people, perfect length of time, the lunch option is reasonable and the coach is brilliant. The coach is something like 60% glass so you can see all the tops of the mountains as you drive through! It really makes a difference to the journey as you just get that extra view. Would highly recommend to anyone! We had a sunny day too which was lucky, but we still got to see the seals and waterfalls.
Visited July 2016
24 June 2016
We took the two kids (7 and 4) on this cruise today. What a fantastic day. The crew were really engaging, the skipper and the guide both took the time to make the kids feel special.
The tour itself was amazing. Getting up close and personal to the trees, waterfalls, huge cliffs, young seals. Just great. I challenge you to find another boat tour on Milford Sound where you can touch the leaves on the trees from the bow of the boat while being told about them and where you can need a change of clothes because you were under a waterfall on that same bow.
Thanks to Kendra and Danielle for making this one of the best parts of our trip to New Zealand.
5 May 2016
This was one of the highlights of our trip (although there are many!) we saw Milford sound in all its natural splendor. We'd heard it was stunning and it didn't disappoint. Our on board MC was very informative and knowledgeable about the formation and age of the rocks. Captain even took us right up close to the waterfall! A day I won't forget aboard a lovely vintage vessel.
10 April 2016
I've just visited Milford Sound for the 2nd or 3rd time (not 100% sure which) and it is amazing as always. The scenery both driving from Te Anau and then out on the Sound itself is just phenomenal and leaves you in no doubt as to why people keep choosing it as a filming location for big budget movies (or small budget movies for that matter). We did the Nature Cruise with Real Journeys and this was excellent. Quality vessel with personable and knowledgeable staff/commentary. We also did the Milford Discovery Center (see separate review). This trip is an all-weather experience. If it's wet you get the ethereal atmosphere and the waterfalls and if it's dry you see a bit more of the peaks. Either way is stunning so this is a win-win and I would advise would-be Milford travellers not to get too hung up on the weather forecasts. All you need to know/worry about is that if it's not safe the boat wont go out...simple as that.
Visited April 2016
6 March 2016
We caught the bus from Queenstown at 7-15am for the 300km trip to Milford sound. Our bus driver was Barry who gave us a running commentary during the trip, not only was Barry a very good bus driver, his commentary was informative and humorous. He stopped at all the top spots for photographs and still managed to keep us on time for our cruise once we got to Milford Sound.
Our cruise was amazing, if you only go to one place in your life, make it Milford Sound. When the boat noses into the Stirling falls, get a place right up the front, yes you get wet but the photographs are amazing.
Recommend you order lunch when you book (much easier) Picnic lunch consisted of a club sandwich, fruit, drink and snacks which was fresh and tasty. Make sure the ticket your driver gives you for the cruise says "Picnic Lunch" or you may miss out, luckily we had a voucher from our travel agent showing we had paid for lunch and it got sorted very quickly.
It is a long day, we got back to our hotel at 8-30pm, so take some snacks for the trip.
5 March 2016
We are really happy we chose the nature cruise with real journey and their big comfortable boat. At the start, we didn't know whether we would prefer a smaller boat with another company. So, Yes it is a big boat, and yes there are 190 pax onboard. But it didn't felt overcrowded at all, there's plenty of space. We actually board the last ones and doing a great place to sit, no need to rush. And we were actually very glad to be on a large boat, for the water conditions in the Fjord, even if we were really lucky with the perfect weather that day.
The Nature cruise was great, and the speech we had was excellent. The real journey guide explained about the Fjord, it's geology, fauna and flora, its discovery, etc... in a very interesting way. We recommend!
The Scenic and Nature Cruises follow the same route in Milford Sound. The Scenic Cruises have multi-lingual commentary on selected departures, a wide range of lunch options, large viewing decks on comfortable modern vessels and are shorter (1hr 30-40mins) than the Nature Cruises (2hrs - 2hrs 15mins). The Nature Cruises have English-only commentary, and an on-board nature guide, picnic lunches and smaller vessels (predominantly designed along the lines of traditional trading scows).
If you are travelling from Queenstown it will take around 5hrs to reach Milford. Te Anau to Milford is around 2hrs 20mins. This timing allows for stops along the way for photos or short walks to places of interest. If driving make sure you fill your vehicle with petrol in Te Anau before travelling to Milford (there are no petrol stations at Milford Sound or en route). For more information refer to our Driving Times webpage.
There is FREE car parking at Milford Sound. Please allow up to 45 minutes to park your vehicle and transfer to the Milford Sound Visitor Terminal, where you check in for your cruise. Check in is required 20 minutes prior to departure.
Fiordland’s weather is what gives the region its unique character. Rainfall is what makes Fiordland a land of lakes, rivers, streams, waterfalls and fiords. Visitors should always be prepared to enjoy some rainfall during their stay. It is recommended to bring sensible clothing for cool and wet weather to fully appreciate your stay.
The temperatures you can expect in the different seasons are as follows:
Many say you have not seen Fiordland unless you have seen it in the rain. When it rains in Fiordland the landscape is dramatic - rock faces stream with waterfalls, mist hangs around the tops of the mountains and rivers and streams rage. From a dry comfortable vantage point on board the coach or vessel this landscape is spectacular.
Milford Sound at the mountainous north end of Fiordland National Park is the classic fiord - a deep water inlet between steep sided high mountains. Milford Sound is a middle-sized fiord at around 13 kms in length and it is famous for its dramatic scenery, especially Mitre Peak. This fiord is the most accessible of Fiordland National Park’s 14 fiords and it can be reached by road (coach or car) or by flight connections from Queenstown.
Doubtful Sound is located in the heart of Fiordland National Park where the mountains are still very impressive but not as high as Milford Sound. Doubtful Sound is three times longer and has a sea surface area roughly ten times larger than Milford Sound. Its three arms are Hall, Crooked and First Arm. It is famous for its wilderness scenery and wildlife sightings. To travel to Doubtful Sound visitors first take a launch trip across Lake Manapouri and coach over Wilmot Pass.
Visitors with enough time choose to experience both fiords as they have different characters.
If you have booked a coach and cruise to Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound our coaches pick up from most accommodation in Queenstown and Te Anau. When booking either from our website or directly with our staff, please let us know if you want to be picked up from your accommodation or from our Visitor Centre.
While we cannot guarantee you will see wildlife, sightings of fur seals are reasonably common in both Doubtful and Milford Sounds. A pod of bottlenose dolphins resides in Doubtful Sound so you have a good chance of seeing these fascinating mammals, and in Milford Sound dolphins are occasional visitors. In both sounds the rare Fiordland crested penguin can at times be observed.
Driving conditions during winter (May to September) can be difficult. Extreme care is needed as freezing temperatures mean the road can ice over in shaded places. During the winter it is mandatory to carry snow chains in your vehicle as the road can sometimes be covered in snow. These are available for hire from petrol stations in Te Anau and Queenstown.
If you are not confident about driving in winter conditions then take a Real Journeys coach to Milford Sound and relax and enjoy the stunning scenery.
Your travel agent or the outlet where you purchased your Milford Sound trip will refund the flight component of your ticket. You will return to Queenstown by coach.
Whilst parking in and around Te Anau is safe, we cannot guarantee this. 'Safer Parking' offers paid secure day-night parking for customers who wish to ensure their valuables are safe. Please visit the Safer Parking website to find out more details for rates, information, etc. Real Journeys coaches do collect customers from Safer Parking - simply select this option when booking your excursion from Te Anau.
We operate round trip combined 'coach & Milford Sound cruise' excursions departing Te Anau & Queenstown. However if you want to depart Queenstown and return to Te Anau (or depart Te Anau and return to Queenstown), then please contact us directly firstname.lastname@example.org as these trips are NOT bookable on the Real Journeys website.
Throughout Fiordland the fiords are officially mapped as sounds. Strictly speaking, they should be called fiords.
A fiord is a glaciated valley - typically narrow and steep-sided - that has been flooded by the sea after the glacier’s retreat. A sound, on the other hand, is a river valley flooded by the sea following a rise in sea levels or depression of the land, or a combination of both.