Milford Sound & Doubtful Sound Travel Guide
“The holiday ran very smoothly, was well organised & we very much liked our travelling companions. Graham our tour host was a gem!” – Mr & Mrs P Radcliffe (UK)
The Maori were the first to attribute the creation of the fiords to a “titanic mason”, Tute Rakiwhanoa who hued out the steep sided valleys with keen edged adzes. No other explanation seems to fit, as it is impossible to comprehend the sheer breadth of geological events that created this seemingly perfect sculpture, as sheer cliffs rise vertically upward from the ocean. Wet or fine Milford is incredibly grand. Mitre Peak magnetises photographers, and the fiord’s sheer cliffs excite both admiration and apprehension.
Milford is by far the best known of all of the fiords and the only one that can be accessed by road. It is approximately 16km from the head of the fiord to the open sea, which means visitors can comfortably travel the length of the fiord to open ocean and return on one of the many cruise options available in one and a half to two hours cruising time.
Milford & Doubtful Sounds Quick Facts
- Location: West Coast, South Island, New Zealand
- Known Locally For: Alpine Scenery, Fiordland Cruises, Waterfalls, Seals & Penguins
- Closest Town: Te Anau. Lake Manapouri and Manapouri township is a 20-minute drive from Te Anau and is the departure point for Doubtful Sound excursions.
Getting to Milford Sound & Doubtful Sound
These times are based on driving at 80 to 100 km per hour on open stretches of road, with a small allowance for traffic delays, petrol stops and refreshments.
- Milford Sound – Te Anau: 121 kms / 75 miles – 2h 30 mins
- Queenstown – Te Anau: 170 kms / 106 miles – 2h 30 mins
- Dunedin – Te Anau: 290 kms / 180 miles – 4h 15 mins
The Milford Road
One of the most incredible and frequently overlooked features of Milford Sound is the journey to get there! The Milford Road is a stunning alpine drive. Visitors need to allow plenty of time to stop at the numerous viewing points or short walking opportunities en route, just to get out of the car and drink in the spectacular scenery and the sheer scale of the landscape. At 119km (approx. 74 miles) from Te Anau to Milford Sound the sealed road takes a minimum of 2 hours driving without allowing for stops.
The grandeur of Milford Sound, once described by Rudyard Kipling as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’, can be appreciated from the air or water. Bowen and Stirling Falls hurtle down from towering cliffs and are truly spectacular after rain. Bottlenose dolphins, New Zealand fur seals and Fiordland crested penguins are resident in the fiord and can be viewed up close from launch cruises or kayak trips. A variety of launch cruises run daily on Milford Sound and an overnight package is also offered. Spectacular kayaking and diving trips are also very popular.
The four-day Milford Track (53.9km) is often described as the finest walk in the world through glaciated valleys, an alpine pass and breathtaking scenery. Boat travel is required at both ends of the walk and both independent and guided options are available. Experience the first section of the Milford track on a one day excursion from Queenstown.
The Hollyford Track is an ideal way to experience the very essence of New Zealand’s wilderness and it is rated as one of the greatest walks in New Zealand. The walk has opened up a spectacular part of New Zealand that many people may have not been able to access or experience. The 80km Hollyford Track leads the walker from the sheer rock walls of the Darren Mountains down to the sand dunes of the Tasman Sea at Martins Bay. Both independent and guided walks are available on this track.. Experience one of the greatest guided walks in New Zealand on a 5 day guided tour of the Hollyford Track.
Twenty minutes from Te Anau is picturesque Lake Manapouri, a beautiful lake framed by the spectacular Cathedral Mountains. Pearl Harbour, adjacent to Manapouri township, is the gateway to the variety of excursions undertaken on Lake Manapouri and Doubtful Sound. Trips on Doubtful Sound begin with a launch trip across Lake Manapouri to the West Arm, a visit to the West Arm underground power station, and a coach trip over the majestic Wilmot Pass to Deep Cove.
Doubtful Sound located in a World Heritage Area, is an overwhelming place. You can feel the power of nature here – the remoteness, the wildness and the peace. Known for its wilderness and wildlife, Doubtful Sound is the second largest of the 14 fiords in Fiordland National Park and it is three times longer and 10 times larger than Milford Sound. In Maori legend, the godly figure Tu Te Raki Whanoa created this incredibly beautiful fiord with the assistance of four young sea gods who carved out its sheltered arms. Today Doubtful Sound remains an unspoilt wilderness of many moods; one minute clear blue and sun-drenched, the next mysterious and mist-cloaked.
Discover the majesty of New Zealand’s Doubtful Sound in Fiordland National Park on one of our round trip coach & cruise day tours from Te Anau and Queenstown. The Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise offers a very special dinner, bed and breakfast wilderness experience anchored overnight in one of Doubtful Sound’s hidden arms.
Discover the majesty of New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park on one of our unique short breaks holidays. We’ve put together these holiday packages starting & returning to Queenstown and including day trips and overnight salings at both Sounds. Catering for families and all budgets, we’ve taken out the hassle of booking and tying everything together yourself.