The Travel Guide to Milford Sound for Families [2024]© Tim Roxborogh - Great South
The Travel Guide to Milford Sound for Families [2024]

The Family Guide to Milford Sound [2024]

© Tim Roxborogh – Great South
Article Single Pages©
Article Single Pages©
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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.

10 Family-Friendly Activities in Milford Sound

Want to know what a family trip to Milford Sound looks like? Before we dive into the details, here’s a quick list of the top family-friendly experiences:

  1. Look out for wildlife and see spectacular waterfalls on a Milford Sound cruise
  2. Fly over the fiord in a scenic flight with Milford Sound Helicopters
  3. Get some postcard snaps along the Milford Foreshore Walk
  4. Stop by the Mirror Lakes
  5. Enjoy the forest and lake scenery of the Lake Gunn Nature Walk
  6. Check out the underwater observatory with Southern Discoveries
  7. See spectacular waterfalls on the Lake Marian Falls Track
  8. Enjoy a peaceful stroll on the Lake Mistletoe Track
  9. Experience Milford Sound by kayak Rosco’s Milford Kayaks
  10. Check out the dramatic formations of The Chasm.

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

The Travel Guide to Milford Sound for Families [2024]© Great South

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, showing you the same towering peaks and 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 (more info on Viator 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 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! Plus, compare all of your options in the 10 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 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 10 Best Scenic Flights to Milford Sound.

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.

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 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 10 m (30 ft) 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 Travel Guide to Milford Sound for Families [2024]© Tim Roxborogh - Great South

Free Family Activities

Finally, another way to experience Milford Sound is on your own two feet. So tie up your 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 mins 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 mins return) is also stroller-friendly, taking you over several footbridges to admire a chasm carved deep into the Cleddau River.

Family Walks in Milford Sound

And while not stroller-friendly, walks like the Lake Marian Falls Track (20 mins return) are 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 20 Best Walks in Milford Sound. We detail more family-friendly walks in the 10 Things to Do in Milford Sound with Kids.

The Travel Guide to Milford Sound for Families [2024]©

Family Dining in Milford Sound

This is the part of the travel guide where we usually tell you about the amazing restaurants of a destination. Well, in Milford Sound, the senses are so invigorated that the last thing you’ll be thinking about is your stomach. Sure, some cruises have an onboard bar serving craft beers and regional wines, while the mass-produced lunches are the last thing families remember on their cruise…

Nevertheless, there are two restaurants/cafes in Milford Sound. The Discover Milford Sound Information Centre & Cafe (Freshwater Basin) serves up crowd-pleasing burgers, pizzas, toasties and coffee, while the Pio Pio Restaurant (State Highway 94) of the Milford Sound Lodge offers more premium plates of New Zealand and Fiordland-sourced ingredients.

Due to the limited options when it comes to dining. We recommend that families pack their own meals and snacks for their visit to Milford Sound. The last opportunity to buy groceries is in Te Anau before heading down the Milford Road. If you plan to camp, try The Best Camping Meals, Inc. Camping Food List.

The Travel Guide to Milford Sound for Families [2024]© Tim Roxborogh - Great South

Frequently Asked Questions About Planning a Family Trip to Milford Sound

Moving onto the finer details, here are some FAQs to guide you in organising a memorable family excursion to Milford Sound.

What is the best time of year to visit Milford Sound with a family?

The best time for a family trip to Milford Sound is during the New Zealand summer, from December to February, when the weather is most favourable for exploring. This period offers warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours, ideal for enjoying boat cruises, kayaking and short walks. The shoulder seasons of spring (September to November) and autumn (March to May) are also good times to visit, with fewer tourists and beautiful seasonal changes in the landscape. Check out When is the Best Time to Visit New Zealand? for more on the subject.

Are there family-friendly accommodations near Milford Sound?

While options directly in Milford Sound are limited (see the 10 Best Accommodations in Milford Sound), the nearby town of Te Anau offers a variety of family-friendly accommodations. From holiday parks with playgrounds and family units to comfortable motels and hotels, there’s something to fit every family’s needs and budget – see the 10 Best Family Accommodations in Te Anau. Booking in advance is recommended, especially during peak travel seasons.

Can we find dining options suitable for families in Milford Sound?

Dining options in Milford Sound itself are limited. However, the Milford Sound Lodge’s café and a few daytime eateries cater to visitors, offering a range of options that can suit a family’s dining needs. For more variety and self-catering options, consider staying in Te Anau, where supermarkets and family-friendly restaurants are available.

What should we pack for a family trip to Milford Sound?

Packing for Milford Sound involves preparing for variable weather, even in summer. Essential items include:

  • Waterproof jackets and pants for each family member.
  • Layers of clothing, including warm sweaters or fleeces.
  • Comfortable walking shoes or boots.
  • Sun protection (sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses).
  • Insect repellent to ward off sandflies, especially during warmer months.
  • Snacks and water bottles for day trips.
  • Binoculars and a camera to capture the stunning scenery and wildlife.

For more about packing right, head to New Zealand Packing List: What to Pack for New Zealand.

Are there any tips for making our family trip to Milford Sound enjoyable for kids?

To keep kids engaged and happy during your trip to Milford Sound:

  • Plan for regular breaks and snack times during activities.
  • Involve them in planning by letting them choose some activities.
  • Bring along books or games for downtime, especially for evenings in more secluded areas.
  • Educate them about the area with kid-friendly guides or apps to spark their interest in nature and conservation.

How can we ensure our family trip to Milford Sound is safe and comfortable?

To ensure a safe and comfortable family trip:

  • Always check the weather forecast and road conditions before setting out each day.
  • Ensure young children are supervised, especially near water and on trails.
  • Stay on marked paths and observe all safety signs in the national park.
  • Carry a first aid kit for minor injuries or scrapes.
  • Inform someone of your plans, especially if venturing into more remote areas.

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 Family Travel Guide to New Zealand.


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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