5 Milford Sound Must-Dos© Jucy Cruise
5 Milford Sound Must-Dos

25 BEST Things to Do in Milford Sound šŸ”ļø [2024]

© Jucy Cruise
Article Single Pages© NZPocketGuide.com
Article Single Pages© NZPocketGuide.com
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The Top Activities, Attractions and Tours in Milford Sound

The “Eighth Wonder of the World” is often seen as the most picturesque place in a country. Where do you begin knowing what is the best way to experience it? Spectacular walks, helicopter and fixed-wing flights, daytime and overnight cruises, scuba diving, kayaking and an underwater observatory are all on the cards at this iconic New Zealand destination. If, like most people, you have limited time in Milford Sound, then check out this list of the best things to do in Milford Sound so you don’t miss any of the highlights. What’s more, we list more than just cruises!

For more trip-planning advice, be sure to head over to The Complete Travel Guide to Milford Sound.

1. Experience an Iconic Milford Sound Cruise

Ok, if you have heard anything about Milford Sound then this is going to seem like a pretty obvious choice. Rain or shine, a cruise of Milford Sound showcases all the highlights, including Stirling Falls, Sinbad Gully, Mitre Peak, Seal Rock and more. Plus, cruises are affordable and don’t take up too much time out of your day, freeing you up for more awesome things to do in Milford Sound! But with multiple cruise options, how do you know which one to pick? Our recommendation is Pure Milford thanks to its unique glass roofs and various sundecks that provide unparalleled views of New Zealand’s famous fiord. They offer self-drive and cruise, coach and cruise, and fly and cruise combos, allowing you to curate the perfect Milford Sound experience. Learn more about Pure Milford and book your adventure at puremilford.co.nz!

You can also compare your options in the 10 Best Cruises in Milford Sound. Pro tip: catch a cruise in the morning or late afternoon when boats are less crowded.

Location: Cruises depart from the Milford Marina at the end of State Highway 94. Alternatively, tours with cruises included are available from Queenstown and Te Anau, as listed in the 15 Best Milford Sound Tours from Queenstown & Te Anau.

15 Best Things to Do in Milford Sound šŸ”ļø [2024]© Pure Milford

2. Hike to the Key Summit

When making your way on the Milford Sound Road (or back again) spare three hours for the Key Summit Track! This hike is part of The Routeburn Track Great Walk. After a steep zig-zagging climb, you’ll be amazed at how immersed in the mountain scenery you will feel. Around the boardwalk on the Key Summit, you have spectacular mountain views on every side (if the weather is clear). This walk is a great taste into the Fiordland National Park scenery and wilderness so that’s why it has a solid position in this list of the best things to do in Milford Sound. For more walks in the area, check out the 10 Milford Sound Walks You Can’t Miss.

Location: The Divide Shelter car park, State Highway 94, approximately 34 km (21 mi) from Milford Sound.

5 Milford Sound Must-Dos© NZPocketGuide.com

3. Stop by the Mirror Lakes

It’s so accessible that it would be a crime to drive right past it! The Mirror Lakes is right on the roadside when taking the road to Milford Sound. A 2-minute walk will bring you to a super reflective lake holding the image of mountains in its waters. Look out for the New Zealand scaup, i.e. the diving ducks, on the lake too! For more sights along the Milford Road, check out 15 Stops You Can’t Miss on the Road to Milford Sound.

Location: State Highway 94, approximately 61 km (38 mi) from Milford Sound.

Pixabay© Pixabay

4. Admire the Views from the Milford Foreshore Walk…

So you’ve probably taken a million photos on the Milford Sound cruise. But that one view that a lot of people forget to capture is from the Milford Sound foreshore. Take the 20-minute loop walk from the waterfront car park to arguably some of the best views of Milford Sound where you’ll see Mitre Peak, Stirling Falls, Bowen Falls, Lion Rock and Sinbad Gully all from one place.

Location: Starts at the main visitor car park of Milford Sound, State Highway 94, Milford Sound.

11 Best Things to Do in Milford Sound© Unsplash

5. … And Soak Up More Scenery from the Milford Sound Lookout Track

We can’t resist sharing this other view of Milford Sound seen from the Milford Sound Lookout Track. The 20-minute walk is a short but steep climb to a viewing platform overlooking the famous fiord. For more activities like this, check out the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Milford Sound.

Location: Behind the cafe at the visitor parking area of Milford Sound, end of State Highway 94.

5 Milford Sound Must-Dos© NZPocketGuide.com

6. Soar the Skies on a Milford Sound Scenic Flight

Many would argue that no other view than a birdā€™s eye view captures the majesty of the fiord and its surrounding mountains, waterfalls and glaciers. With that mantra in mind, book yourself onto a scenic flight of Milford Sound. If youā€™re making your own way to Milford Sound, Milford Sound Helicopters can handle the rest, offering spectacular scenic flights from Milford Sound Airport. Alternatively, there are a ton of flights, especially from Queenstown and including Pure Milford‘s popular “Fly Cruise Fly” tour, that swap the lengthy drive to Milford Sound for staggering aerial views of the Fiordland National Park. Check out your options in the 10 Best Scenic Flights to Milford Sound.

Location: Milford Sound Airport, State Highway 94, Milford Sound.

25 BEST Things to Do in Milford Sound šŸ”ļø [2024]© Great South

7. Go on a Paddling Adventure on a Milford Sound Kayak Tour

An alternative way to get on the inky black waters of the famous fiord is to jump in a sea kayak and join Roscoā€™s Milford Kayaks for a spectacularly scenic trip. Get closer to the action, whether itā€™s the seals basking on the rocks or a magnificent waterfall. Either way, being in a tiny kayak makes the towering fiord cliff faces all the more majestic. The most popular kayak tour is the “Sunrise Classic” tour, gliding across the reflective waters of the fiord at the calmest and most peaceful time of the day. We also list this experience in the 5 Most Romantic Things to Do in Milford Sound.

Location: Deepwater Basin Road, approximately 1 km (0.6 mi) from Milford Sound.

10 Amazing Things to Do in Milford Sound© NZPocketGuide.com

8. Stay Overnight in a World Heritage Area

With only one lodge that’s open to the public, saying that Milford Sound’s accommodation options are limited would be an understatement. Nevertheless, with campsites and overnight cruises, there are some more creative ways to stay in this remote area and experience Milford Sound when the day’s tourist crowds have gone. RealNZ offers a spectacular overnight cruise while Fiordland Discovery boasts multi-day cruises, both with three-course dinners, breakfast, the use of kayaks and tender excursions to explore the nooks and crannies of Milford Sound.

There are also eight Department of Conservation campsites along the Milford Road, that not only allow you to break up the notoriously difficult drive but allow you to sleep under the vividly clear starry skies of this remote area. Learn more about some of our favourite campsites in the 10 Best Accommodations in Milford Sound.

Location: Cruises depart from the Milford Marina at the end of State Highway 94. See the locations of the campsites on the Department of Conservation website.

10 Amazing Things to Do in Milford Sound© Matt Crawford - Tourism New Zealand

9. See Black Coral on a Scuba Diving Trip

For something utterly unique, enter the underwater world of a glacial fiord with Descend Scuba Diving NZ. Dive down the steep fiord cliff faces to see a colourful and mesmerising ecosystem of black coral ā€“ a habitat usually only found in deepsea trenches. This is due to Milford Soundā€™s heavy and frequent rainfall that creates a layer of freshwater above the saltwater, which casts shadows for beautiful coral trees to thrive. With more than 150 species of fish seen in Milfordā€™s waters, each dive is diverse and exciting. See more experiences like this in the 5 Best Luxury Experiences in Milford Sound.

Location: Tours depart from Deepwater Basin Road, approximately 1 km (0.6 mi) from Milford Sound.

10 Amazing Things to Do in Milford Sound© B Carter - Destination Fiordland

10. Tackle a New Zealand  Great Walk on the Milford Track

Itā€™s no secret that Milford Sound is also where one of the most famous multi-day hikes in New Zealand ends its journey. The Milford Track is a three-day 53.5 km (33.2 mi) pilgrimage through ancient rainforests, carved glacial valleys awash in waterfalls, and habitat of unique wildlife is what many would describe as the adventure of a lifetime. No wonder it’s the most popular of the New Zealand Great Walks! With hut accommodation bookings and boat transfers required, however, it’s a trail that requires a lot of forward planning. Check out A Practical Guide to the Milford Track for advice.

Alternatively, if you donā€™t have five days to spare for the full Milford Track, Trips & Tramps offers one-day guided experiences of the famous trail. There is also a more luxurious way to experience the Milford Track, which we detail again in the 5 Best Luxury Experiences in Milford Sound.

Location: Boat transfers from the start depart from Glade Wharf, Te Anau.

5 Milford Sound Must-Dos© Unsplash

11. Check Out the Underwater Observatory

An alternative and interesting way to experience Milford Sound is at the underwater observatory with Southern Discoveries (find out more on Viator and Klook), only accessed as an add-on on the Southern Discoveries cruise. Tucked away in Harrison Cove, the underwater observatory is New Zealandā€™s only floating observatory, taking you 64 steps down to a viewing chamber some 10 m (30 ft) under the water. Due to Milford Soundā€™s dark waters, it gives you a unique opportunity to see black coral species that are usually only seen in deepsea trenches. See snake stars and starfish as your guide gives commentary on Milford Soundā€™s fragile marine life. This is one of the attractions that are ideal for families, as listed in the 10 Things to Do in Milford Sound with Kids.

Location: Southern Discoveries cruises depart from the Milford Marina at the end of State Highway 94.

10 Amazing Things to Do in Milford Sound© Southern Discoveries

12. Enjoy the Forest and Lake Scenery of the Lake Gunn Nature Walk

One to enjoy on your way in or out of Milford Sound, the Lake Gunn Nature Walk is a 45-minute loop walk. It takes you through a magnificent red beech forest to the shores of Lake Gunn with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. While wandering between the moss-covered trees, keep an eye out for native birds like riflemen, tomtits and more.

Location: Cascade Creek car park, State Highway 94, approximately 43 km (27 mi) from Milford Sound.

11 Best Things to Do in Milford Sound© NZPocketGuide.com

13. See Spectacular Waterfalls and an Alpine Lake on the Lake Marian Track

A stunning sight, if you have the time to take the quick detour up the Hollyford Road, the Lake Marian Falls Track is an easy walk taking 20 minutes to complete. Cross a swingbridge to see a spectacular series of cascading waterfalls. The Lake Marian Track continues from here; a three-hour return walk which is well worth the jaunt for the breathtaking lake at the top. Note that the track here is steep and sometimes muddy.

Location: Lake Marian car park, Hollyford Road, approximately 32 km (20 mi) from Milford Sound.

11 Best Things to Do in Milford Sound© Unsplash

14. Hang Out with a Kea

It might be worth pulling up at the roadside stops along the Milford Road to take in the scenery, but the main reason to do it, in our minds, is to meet some cheeky kea! These native alpine parrots are not afraid to say hello and, more likely, start trying to peel the rubber seals off your rental car. Kea are lots of fun but The Department of Conservation kindly reminds visitors to not feed them.

Location: State Highway 94, approximately 61 km (38 mi) from Milford Sound.

15 Best Things to Do in Milford Sound šŸ”ļø [2024]© Unsplash

15. Enjoy a Stroll to Peaceful Lake Mistletoe

Easily accessed from the Milford Road more toward the Te Anau end, the Lake Mistletoe Track is a 45-minute return walk to a small picturesque lake. You might be lucky to see New Zealand scaup (those diving ducks again!), frogs and other wetland wildlife.

Location: State Highway 94, approximately 90 km (56 mi) from Milford Sound.

15 Best Things to Do in Milford Sound© NZPocketGuide.com

16. Drive Through the Homer Tunnel

Driving through tunnels is always fun, right? The Homer Tunnel sits at 945 m (3,100 ft) above sea level and stretches for 1.2 km (0.7 mi). With a traffic light control system, be prepared to wait for up to 20 minutes. In the meantime, have a look at the wonderful landscape around you!

Location: State Highway 94, approximately 18 km (11 mi) from Milford Sound.

15 Best Things to Do in Milford Sound šŸ”ļø [2024]© NZPocketGuide.com

17. Enjoy the View from the Hollyford Valley Lookout (Pops View)

Park up at the Hollyford Valley Lookout, signposted from the roadside, and soak up the views of the Hollyford Valley! It doesn’t take long, but it’s another great photo opportunity. Hopefully, it’s not as cloudy for you as it was for us!

Location: State Highway 94, approximately 32 km (20 mi) from Milford Sound.

15 Best Things to Do in Milford Sound šŸ”ļø [2024]© NZPocketGuide.com

18. Frolick in the Fields of the Eglinton Valley

Just try not to stop along this huge stunning valley formed by a glacier. There are plenty of places to park on the side of the road, so park up and get snapping. The Eglinton Valley is between 0.5-2 km (0.3-1.2 mi) wide with a shingle riverbed floor that the Eglinton River constantly changes.

Location: State Highway 94, approximately 58 km (36 mi) from Milford Sound.

15 Best Things to Do in Milford Sound šŸ”ļø [2024]© NZPocketGuide.com

19. Go on a Mega Hike on the Tutoko Valley Route

Hike to the spectacular river valley with panoramic views of towering mountains surrounding you on the 5-hour return Tutoko Valley Route. Getting there is half the adventure on a track that is not as well formed as what you might be used to in New Zealand. Follow the track markers along a river, through forest to a swamp and then an open river valley. Return the same way.

Location: The Tutoko Valley Route is signposted on the side of the Milford Road just after the Tutoko River Bridge, approximately 4 km (2.7 mi) from Milford Sound.

25 BEST Things to Do in Milford Sound šŸ”ļø [2024]© Richard Young - Great South

20. Fill Up Your Water Bottle at Monkey Creek

Maybe this is grasping at straws as we reach the end of this list of things to do in Milford Sound, but if you want to do something a little different, stop by Monkey Creek! There, you can fill up your water bottle with pure mountain water on your way to or from Milford Sound.

Location: State Highway 94, approximately 24 km (15 mi) from Milford Sound.

15 Best Things to Do in Milford Sound šŸ”ļø [2024]© NZPocketGuide.com

5 More Things to Do in Milford Sound

We realise that not many travellers will stay long enough to enjoy most of the abovementioned experiences. But if you’re one of the adventurous few who need more ideas for things to do in Milford Sound, here we go:

  1. Hollyford Track – 4-day one-way mission on one of the most adventurous hikes near Milford Sound – Lower Hollyford Road.
  2. Gertrude Saddle Route – A 4-6-hour return hike with views of Milford Sound and Black Lake – Gertrude Valley car park.
  3. Humboldt Falls – A short walk through the rainforest to see a magnificent waterfall – Lower Hollyford Road.
  4. East Homer Nature Walk – Walk over the Homer Tunnel on this 20-minute walk – Homer Tunnel parking area
  5. Te Anau – The closest town to Milford Sound with a whole list of attractions, from glowworm caves to free bird parks – State Highway 94.

More Must-Dos and Things to Do in Milford Sound

That’s it for the list of things to do in Milford Sound, but not for the advice we can offer you about Milford Sound! Check out these articles to learn more:

And don’t let your South Island bucket list end there; add the 51 Best Things to Do on the South Island and 101 Things to Do in New Zealand too!

Sources:

The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Laura S.

This article has been reviewed and published by Laura, the editor-in-chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Laura is a first-class honours journalism graduate and a travel journalist with expertise in New Zealand and South Pacific tourism for over 10 years. She also runs travel guides for five of the top destinations in the South Pacific and is the co-host of over 250 episodes of the NZ Travel Show on YouTube.

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