The Scenic and Nature Cruises follow the same route in Milford Sound. The Scenic Cruises have multi-lingual commentary, 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
From Queenstown to Te Anau by car or coach takes around 2 hrs 45 mins and from Manapouri around 30 minutes. For more information refer to our Driving Times webpage.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com as these trips are NOT bookable on the Real Journeys website.