Our experience and destination pages should provide you with all the information you need to make a decision or plan your trip.
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.
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).
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 bus, car or 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 get to Doubtful Sound visitors first take a launch trip across Lake Manapouri and drive over Wilmot Pass.
Visitors with enough time choose to visit 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:
If you have booked a coach and cruise to Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound our buses 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.
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 the bus or boat, this landscape is spectacular for sightseeing.
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.
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.
If you are travelling from Queenstown it will take around 5 hours to reach Milford. Te Anau to Milford is around 2 hours 20 minutes. 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 details, refer to our Driving Times webpage.
There are free and paid car parking options at Milford Sound. Please allow up to 45 mins - 1 hour to park your vehicle and transfer to the Milford Sound Visitor Terminal, where you must check in for your cruise 20 minutes before departure. Car parking at Milford Sound is organised by Milford Sound Tourism (MST). The main parking area is approx. a 10 minute walk to the terminal and costs $10 per hour - this is a barrier-less licence plate recognition system. Parking in Deepwater Basin is free and is approx. a 25 minute walk from the terminal. A shuttle bus runs approx. every 20 minutes between the Deepwater Basin car park and the terminal. Please allow extra time if you wish to use this car park.
There is limited luggage storage available at the Milford Sound Visitor Terminal.