What to expect from the weather in Milford Sound
It’s a good idea to learn about Milford Sound weather before you travel there, to make sure you’re prepared for every possibility.
The west coast of the South Island is notorious for its high rainfall, and Milford Sound is no exception. Milford Sound is the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand, and one of the wettest places in the world!
The mean annual rainfall in Milford Sound is 6,813mm, and it rains there on average 182 days a year. Over the course of 24 hours, 250mm of rain can fall in the area. The two rainiest months are actually December and January, during the New Zealand summer! So no matter what time of year you visit and no matter the Milford Sound weather forecast, it’s a good idea to bring a waterproof layer.
Thankfully, even when it’s pouring with rain there is plenty to see and do in Milford Sound. In particular, the waterfalls that surround the fiord are at their best on a rainy day. As the rain increases, the waterfalls reach a crescendo. Water thunders down the cliff faces and into the sea, creating a spectacular sight. Some of the falls start so high up, they never hit the water, the torrents being carried away by the wind and dispersed into mist.
Milford Sound temperatures range from around 18 degrees Celsius (64 degrees F) in summer to 4 degrees (41 F) in winter. Make sure you have several warm clothing layers and perhaps a hat to keep warm during your Milford Sound cruise in winter!
Most Milford Sound cruise boats have a mixture of indoor and outdoor seating and viewing areas. If you’d prefer to stay inside and keep warm, you’ll still be able to enjoy the amazing views out the window. However, we recommend dressing warm and braving the elements so you can stand on deck and be face to face with nature.
During the winter months (May to September), snow is common along Milford Road, especially at high altitudes. The beautiful white peaks of the Southern Alps are very photogenic at this time of year – but avalanche warnings can cause the Milford Road to close on some occasions. It’s important to check the Milford Sound weather forecast and road information before you travel.
So - when is the best time to visit Milford Sound?
The best time to visit Milford Sound depends on what you want to see. There’s a good chance you can experience atmospheric mists and waterfalls at any time of year thanks to the regular rainfall. Milford Sound wildlife like seals and penguins can be more active during the cooler months in spring and autumn. In winter, the snowy mountaintops stand out in beautiful contrast to the lush green native forest clinging to their foothills.
Whenever you visit, you’re assured of a spectacular vista – so it comes down to your personal preference as to whether you visit Milford Sound in winter or summer.