Head out overnight for a truly immersive Milford Sound experience. Our overnight cruise includes a full length cruise of Milford Sound and access to part of the world famous Milford Track for an exclusive guided walk accompanied by your specialist nature guide.
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.
Welsh sealer, John Grono, originally named the sound after his birthplace, Milford Haven.
Another sealer, Donald Sutherland was responsible for building the three thatched huts known as the 'City of Milford' and, in 1890, cutting the Milford Track through the bush.
An overnight cruise here goes far beyond the ordinary visitor experience, rewarding with sights and sounds that will linger through the years to come. Once you’re on-board the Milford Wanderer there are a number of adventures to choose from.
You can explore the shoreline by small boat with our nature guide and learn about the area and its flora and fauna. Keep a lookout here for some interesting wildlife. Alternatively, transfer from the Milford Wanderer to a small vessel for the drop off at Sandfly Point. From here we start a short guided walk on a small section of the world-famous Milford Track. Or if you’re feeling brave, you can even go swimming in the fiord’s extremely pure (but oh so cold) waters. All activities are weather dependent, but may still take place if it rains so make sure you bring along suitable clothing and footwear.
As the shadows deepen the Milford Wanderer will return under sail (weather permitting) to sheltered Harrison Cove for the night. You’ll be served a three-course meal in the cosy saloon, where you can order drinks from the fully licensed bar and relax in the company of like-minded travellers.
Back on deck after dinner, check out the brightness of the stars in the incredible inky blackness of the remote Fiordland night sky. Then, when you’re ready, retire to a comfortable cabin and dream of tall cliffs and still waters.
Fuel up for the day with a hearty breakfast the next morning before we head out to the Tasman Sea (if conditions are favourable) and explore even more more of this incredible fiord.
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. 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.
We depart from three main locations:
If you choose an accommodation pick up in Te Anau and Queenstown, please note that these times do vary from those above - accommodation pick up times are shown during the booking process and also on your booking confirmation.
Only one carry-on bag is recommended for passenger convenience and for safety reasons. Don't forget the following:
* Essential items if you are doing activities. Activities take place even if it is raining.
The 53.5 km Milford Track is in the heart of spectacular Fiordland National Park, and starts at the head of Lake Te Anau and finishes in Milford Sound. Often described as the finest walk in the world, the Milford Track limits the number of trampers permitted to start the walk each day.
We have authorisation approved by Department of Conservation to introduce our overnight customers to a small part of the Milford Sound-end of this famous track.
Access to the Milford Track requires transfers each way from the Milford Wanderer to a smaller vessel to access Sandfly Point. There are lots to look out for along the way, the ancient trees, varieties of different ferns and mosses, plus the opportunity to listen to and spot native birds. Conditions permitting we will walk, accompanied by the specialist nature guide, for approx. 1.5 hours, returning to Sandfly Point and then the transferring back the Milford Wanderer.
Please ensure that you wear appropriate footwear (walking boots) and waterproof jacket for this part of the trip as activities take place even if it is raining. Please refer to our “What to bring” section above.
The Milford Wanderer is a purpose-built vessel designed along the lines of a traditional trading scow to reflect Fiordland's heritage.
16 March 2018
A group of us spent the night on the Wanderer, and loved every minute of it. You're in the midst of the sound after the crowds, planes and boats have gone, and seem to have it all to yourself. It was so warm out they even let folks jump off the boat into the water! Stargazing at night was amazing, and the staff was informative and friendly. Highly recommend taking the time to see the Sound from this perspective.
6 February 2018
Truly the 8th wonder of the world! Real Journeys did an amazing job! Highly recommend the overnight cruise on the Wanderer! Friendly and knowledgeable staff. Awesome hike along the famous Milford Track! Must see!!
4 January 2018
Our family spent a night in Milford Sound aboard Real Journeys' The Wanderer. The trip started at 4:30pm one day and ended at 9:15am the next morning. It was such a great way to experience Milford Sound -- from walking a portion of the Milford Track to jumping off the boat into the waters of the sound, to enjoying the first cup of morning coffee watching the sun rise over the mountains. Our time on the boat created what will be long lasting memories.
26 December 2017
Simply the best way to experience Milford Sound. The overnight Cruise offers a virtually private tour when all the other boats have returned. Walk the Milford Track, spend the night on the Wanderer over an excellent meal, see the sun come up over the Mountains over breakfast, and if your lucky the Dolphins will amaze you! Great and enthusiastic crew doing everything possible to make this an unforgettable trip! Thanks Real Journeys! My tip: set your alarm, go on deck at night and watch the starry sky and mountain shadows. Wow!
7 April 2017
We did the overnight cruise on Milford Sound on Milford Wanderer and could not have been happier. Picked up from hotel in Queenstown by Craig. Very informative, funny trip through to the sound via Te Anau and many other rest/photo stops. Boarding the Wanderer was seamless and we were underway shortly after arriving. Well informed regarding what was happening throughout the evening and the rain made the cascades and waterfalls amazing ... The skipper and crew do amazing job highlighting all sights and give you heaps of fantastic photo opportunities. Hard to get a bad photo here though! Craig made the long bus trip back to Queenstown informative once again, very knowledgeable and never stuck for a word! We thoroughly loved the whole experience and can't recommend it enough.
18 March 2017
We were blessed with wonderful clear dry weather for our overnight cruise. The boat was fairly small and with only 36 passengers it never felt crowded. Cabins were cute and the shared showers and toilets were clean. We had a lovely walk on the Milford Track with a very informative guide. The food was delicious and a few drinks out on deck looking up at the stars made for a perfect evening. The cruise the next morning was great, we got up close to waterfalls and the spectacular scenery. Our experience was topped off by a pod of bottlenose dolphins playing on the bow wave when we went out onto the Tasman sea. Perfect!
10 March 2017
We spent the night aboard the Milford Wanderer on Milford Sound. This is the smaller boat of the two Real Journeys boats who do the overnight cruise. It only has about 36 passengers plus the crew which makes it very easy to meet and talk to others on board. The cruise included all food, tea, coffee, etc. The dinner and breakfast was great. We had a 1.5hr walk on the Milford Track and we were transferred from the main boat by tenders. The crew were very professional and very friendly. Would highly recommend.
6 February 2016
Could not fault a thing on our overnight Milford Wanderer Cruise. From the moment we stepped on board we were welcomed by a very friendly and professional crew. Everything on board was very organised, the 3 course dinner and breakfast was very yummy and the servings were very generous, we had 2 teenage children with us and no one was left hungry.
The boat was very clean and our room was tidy and comfortable. We were concerned about the share bathrooms but need not have worried as they were all very clean and close to the rooms. We found the boat very personal due to the smaller numbers on board and great for a family or couple. Scenery was amazing and we all enjoyed the walk on the Milford track ( thanks Felix). Would highly recommend, it was a great way to see Milford sound at sunset and sunrise.
Visited January 2016
15 December 2015
From the moment we made our phone inquiry with Real Journeys, everything about this trip flowed seamlessly. Nothing was a problem, from our pre-arranged pick up at the Divide after walking the Routeburn Track, to the private mini cruise in the tender, while the other passengers chose to walk a wee section of the Milford Track, to the delicious macadamia crusted kale crisps on our return to the Wanderer, we were treated as very special guests. I heard about this cruise some years ago, and had high expectations of the experience, all of which were fulfilled.
Reviewed December 2015
Susan, New Zealand via customer feedback
15 January 2016
We did an overnight wanderer cruise with Real Journeys on 29th December 2015 & I'm glad that we did. It was a great fun and a unique experience to sleep on the boat.
Visited December 2015
1 November 2015
We had such an enjoyable evening on the Milford Wanderer and the pleasure of having the usually-busy tourist spot all to ourselves. The serenity and silence as the sun set was truly an experience to behold; with no wifi or mobile reception, we truly felt isolated from the stresses of everyday life in the best possible way.
Of course, enjoying an amazing experience like this is only possible with a great crew. The nature guide, Chris, was very knowledgable and answered all our questions, even the tricky ones! Getting to walk a section of the Milford Track was another highlight. Seeing wildlife is never a guarantee but we got lucky and had a close experience with a humpback whale just 15 metres away from the boat. It even swam under the hull and resurfaced on the other side!
At dusk, we also heard the chatter of penguins in the dark - this was thanks to Chris's recommendation as well. Overall, it was a fantastic trip and one of the most enjoyable activities on our three-week holiday.
Reviewed November 2015
Eliza, Australia via customer feedback
15 November 2015
We did not expect the Milford Track hiking with a guide, which was a good surprise. At night, we had a seal and a penguin near us. Also the morning cruise with narration about what we can see, was good. and the weather was great, we had a lot of rain, some sun and some rainbow.
Reviewed: November 2015
Mai Nishida, Japan via customer feedback
27 January 2014
My husband and I went on the Milford Wanderer overnight cruise with Real Journeys. I cannot say enough good things about this tour. From the scenery to the crew to the food to the facilities, etc....wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. The dolphins greeting us on our way back in the morning was the icing on the cake. Worth every penny. These memories will last a lifetime.
Visited January 2014
In case you haven't found the information you were looking for, we've put together some of the most common questions our customers ask about our trips. If you need more specific answers, please contact us directly.
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.
Each cruise has the same focus on sharing the wonders of Milford Sound through in-depth commentaries and activities (wildlife viewing and cruising in the tender craft). However, they do differ:
- the Milford Mariner: offers private cabins with ensuite bathrooms and activities include kayaking or cruising in the tendercraft. Available mid-September - mid-May.
- the Milford Wanderer offers twin-share compartments with shared bathroom facilities and activities include a guided walk on part of the Milford Track or exploring the shoreline by tendercraft. Available November - March.
Overnight Cruises and Quadshare - We are a group of three people and would like to book a shared quad-share room. Will this mean we would be sharing with another person?
Yes, you could potentially be sharing with another guest. Alternatively you could choose to pay for the entire quad cabin, or two double cabins, to ensure privacy. If you wish to pay for an entire quad cabin, please contact us directly by email, by phone or via webchat.
Note: quad-share cabins are mixed gender.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We recommend each passenger brings no more than a carry-on sized bag due to space restrictions in the cabins. For a list of what to bring please see the 'more info' section or your booking confirmation.
There is limited luggage storage available at the Milford Sound Visitor Terminal.
A double room is a private room for two people, with one bed to share. A twin room is a private room for two people, with two single beds.
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.
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.
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.
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.
All prices and transactions on the Real Journeys website are in New Zealand dollars (NZD). This is specified on the Terms & Conditions page.
Our staff are trained to deal with incidents and in case of an emergency you should listen to their instructions.
We have a portable defibrillator on board each of our overnight cruise vessels (Milford Mariner, Milford Wanderer and Fiordland Navigator).
In addition to this we also have portable defibrillators at the following locations:
• Milford Sound Visitor Terminal
• Real Journeys Visitor Centre, Manapouri
• Cavern House (Te Anau Glowworm Caves)
• Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant, Walter Peak
• TSS Earnslaw Vintage Steamship
• Stewart Island Ferry (Bluff - Oban - Bluff).