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Day or Overnight? How to choose your Milford Sound cruise

Date: 8 July 2019

No matter how many times I go to Milford Sound, its sheer magnificence will always leave me astounded. The poster child for clean, green, New Zealand - Milford is home to lush rainforest, mirror lakes and towering mountains. Steep glacier carved peaks scrape the permanently-moody-sky, while waterfalls tumble year-round. Milford is one of the most photographed (and instagrammed) locations in New Zealand and it’s not hard to see why. I’ve been many times and I never get tired of visiting.

Milford Sound scenic cruise vessel by Stirling Falls

But when experiencing this remarkable place, is it better to take a day cruise around Milford Sound or go all-in for an overnight experience? How do you choose? I’ve done both and can tell you each is epic in its own way and of course it all depends on your time, budget and what you’re hoping to get out of it. That being said I’m happy to point you in the right direction. So if you're a little stuck on which cruise to do, here are my suggestions.

If you’re strapped for time, a day trip to Milford Sound from Queenstown is probably your best option. Including coach trip there and back, plus the cruise itself, with stops all along the way, it’s an incredible glimpse into Fiordland’s beauty. And if you’re really strapped for time, you can even fly there and back in a little fixed wing plane - trust me, it’s worth it for the incredible views from above.

Flying over Milford Sound

Arriving into the Sound, you’ll be greeted by the most magnificent view of Mitre Peak. There's not much in the way of civilisation in Milford (unless you count the resident seal population) Just a small cafe, a runway strip an underwater observatory (well worth a look) and the boat terminal, of which all day cruises leave on a fixed two hourly schedule, and the evening cruises leave just before dusk. Apart from one small accommodation there isn’t many options in the way of places to stay in Milford Sound itself. You can’t even camp in Milford Sound. So if you want to experience this stunning location at sunset, nighttime and in the morning, your best option is to book in on an overnight cruise, which will give you the best of everything.

Milford Sound and Mitre Peak from a distance

Milford Sound is incredibly popular as a day trip destination but for me, it’s even more beautiful once the crowds have gone home and you have the place to yourself. Waking up on the fiord in the morning means you even have the chance of seeing some of the rare Fiordland-crested penguins as they wake up and head out to sea for the day.

By taking your time on an overnight cruise, there won’t be hardly an other boats out on Milford Sound so you’ll have the place to yourself. 

Woman looks at mountains in Milford Sound
Overnight cruise experience like no other

If you’re lucky and end up with a clear night, the stars here are just incredible because there is virtually no light pollution here. With a nature guide on board on both day and overnight trips, you get to learn all about the rich history and beautiful of this unique place.

No matter what option you go with, any weather at any time of year you’ll be rewarded with an unforgettable experience cruising Milford Sound.

About the author: Liz

Liz Carlson is the creator behind Young Adventuress, one of the biggest travel blogs in the world. An American based in the mountains of Wanaka and always on adventures around New Zealand, she is passionate about Instagram, strong coffee, and saving the kākāpō.

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