The Guide to Milford Sound for Families© Southern Discoveries
The Guide to Milford Sound for Families

The Travel Guide to Milford Sound for Families [2024]

© Southern Discoveries

Plan a Family Trip to Milford Sound

It’s one of the most majestic scenes in New Zealand: the towering glacier-carved fiords, streams of waterfalls, the dense jungles of the Fiordland forest and home to wildlife like seals, penguins and the world’s only alpine parrot. There’s no wonder why Milford Sound is on your bucket list, but what’s the best way to experience it with kids? The answer is “like most people”. Taking a cruise, a scenic flight or even going for a walk: these are all family-friendly options. Major things to consider, however, is how to get to Milford Sound. Think about whether taking a bus tour, flight or tackling the long drive yourself is the best option. Find more details on planning these logistics in The Complete Guide to Milford Sound.

So plan the activities and the best sights to see with the kids in this complete travel guide to Milford Sound for families.

Family Activities in Milford Sound

For more details on each activity, check out the 10 Things to Do in Milford Sound with Kids.

The Guide to Milford Sound for Families© Tourism Holdings - Tourism New Zealand

Family Adventure Activities

Families can embrace the iconic Milford Sound scenery – with its glacier-carved fiords and tumbling waterfalls – by land, sea and air. An accessible activity for all is the ever-popular Milford Sound cruise.

The Best Milford Sound Cruises for Families

Families are spoilt for choice once they reach the Milford Marina. There are several cruises to choose from, all pretty much following the same route around Milford Sound and showing you the same towering peaks, valleys and taking a dip under Stirling Falls. With that in mind, we recommend families select the cruise where they can find the best offer at the time. Alternatively, if your kids are curious ones, you might want to select the RealNZ Nature Cruise (see on Viator, Tripadvisor or Klook) with commentary on all of the amazing wildlife seen in Milford Sound.

However, you may want to choose Southern Discoveries (find out more on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook) for their cruise paired with an underwater observatory experience – more on that in the section below.

Finally, Mitre Peak Cruise is extremely family-friendly if you have young ones, as children under three years cruise for free! Check out Viator and Tripadvisor for more information on Mitre Peak Cruises. Plus, compare all of your options in the 6 Best Cruises in Milford Sound.

Helicopter Tours of Milford Sound

Another cool way to take in the glorious views of Milford Sound is via a helicopter tour. Milford Sound Helicopters (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) departs from Milford Sound Airport, offering families several flight options, from their 25-minute flight climbing Mitre Peak and Bowen Falls to their 45-minute flight heading over Sutherland Falls and the Tutuko Glacier. Flights are suitable for all ages and infant seats are available.

You also have a multitude of flight options from Queenstown and Te Anau, which eliminates that lengthy drive to Milford Sound. Check them out in the 5 Best Scenic Flights to Milford Sound from Queenstown.

Family Kayaking Tours

For more adventurous families, get out on the water on a Milford Sound kayaking tour! Kids aged eight years and up can join in on the fun on Rosco’s Milford Kayaks‘ two-hour Milford Cruiser tour, which is one of the more relaxed paddles in the fiord. You’ll team up in a double kayak and head over to Lady Bowen Falls, which is the tallest waterfall in Milford Sound! Note that other kayak tours in Milford Sound tend to have an age limit of 14 or 16 years old. Check out reviews and book tours on Viator and Tripadvisor.

For more family adventures, check out the 10 Things to Do in Milford Sound with Kids.

The Guide to Milford Sound for Families© Southern Discoveries

All-Weather Family Activities

Even if it’s raining, don’t let that deter you from going on a cruise! Just zip up your rain jacket (and have some spare clothes handy) and head out on the front deck! Embrace the rain and enjoy the onslaught of temporary waterfalls snaking their way down the mountains. It’s all part of the charm in what is one of the wettest places on earth!

Underwater Observatory

A rainy day can also be a good reason to check out Milford Sound’s underwater observatory with Southern Discoveries (find out more on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook), only accessed as an add-on on the Southern Discoveries’ cruise. Tucked away in Harrison Cove, the underwater observatory is New Zealand’s only floating observatory, taking you 64 steps down to a viewing chamber some 10m (30ft) under the water. Due to Milford Sound’s dark waters, it gives you a unique opportunity to see black coral species that otherwise can only usually be seen in sea trenches. See snake stars and starfish as your guide gives commentary on Milford Sound’s fragile marine life.

The Guide to Milford Sound for Families© Unsplash

Free Family Activities

Finally, another way to experience Milford Sound is on your own two feet. So tie up your’s and the kids’ hiking shoes and enjoy some of the short and easy walks around Milford Sound.

Stroller-Friendly Walks in Milford Sound

On your way to Milford Sound, stop by the walks with a flat gradient, that are stroller-accessible and offer stunning features of nature, such as the Lake Gunn Nature Walk. This 45-minute loop walk takes you through magnificent red beech forest to the shores of Lake Gunn with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. The Mirror Lakes Walk (10 minutes loop) is an easy pitstop on the way to Milford Sound, a fully boarded walk showcasing a reflective lake and mountain views. The Chasm (20 minutes return) is also stroller-friendly, taking you over several footbridges to admire a chasm carved deep into the Cleddau River. [Update: The Chasm is closed due to flood damage – see the DOC website for the latest updates].

Family Walks in Milford Sound

And while not stroller-friendly, walks like the Lake Marian Falls Track (20 minutes return) is easy enough for kids to walk, taking you across a cool swingbridge to see a spectacular series of waterfalls. And easily accessed from the Milford Road, the Lake Mistletoe Track is a peaceful 45-minute return walk where you might be lucky to see New Zealand scaup (diving duck), frogs and other wetland wildlife.

For more walks in the area, check out the 11 Milford Sound Walks You Can’t Miss. We detail more family-friendly walks in the 10 Things to Do in Milford Sound with Kids.

More About Milford Sound for Families

That’s it for our travel guide to Milford Sound for families. For more Milford advice that doesn’t necessarily fall under the “family” category but you still might find helpful, check out the following  guides:

We hope you found this guide to Milford Sound for families useful. Now, discover even more family trip tips in The Travel Guide to New Zealand for Families.


Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in New Zealand over 10 years ago and with a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to travel New Zealand. She knows Aotearoa inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience New Zealand’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides and is the co-host of NZ Pocket Guide’s live New Zealand travel Q&As on YouTube.

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