Choosing a Milford Sound cruise can be overwhelming! Your decision depends on several factors including the amount of time you have to explore the area, the amount you would like to spend, and the type of cruise experience you would like to enjoy.
The range of Milford Sound day cruises on offer from the various companies based at the fiord includes nature cruises and scenic cruises; small intimate boats or larger catamarans; cruises offering onboard lunches and those where you’ll need to bring your own.
Milford Sound day tours all include a cruise on the fiord as well as travel to and from Milford Sound, making for a cost-effective and easy way to visit Milford Sound.
Milford Sound day cruises also range in length, but they usually last between 1 hour 45 minutes and 3 hours. During a standard 1 hour 45 minute cruise your ship will travel the full length of the fiord, at times skirting the cliffs so you can see the native forest and cascading waterfalls up close. You’ll cruise out towards the open Tasman Sea at the mouth of the fiord before returning to the wharf.
Milford Sound cruise itinerary
While they may range in length, most Milford Sound cruises follow the same basic cruise path. Leaving Milford Wharf, they travel out into the fiord and past a number of key features, sailing out towards the end of the fiord and looping back in. Here are some of the amazing sights you’ll see on a Milford Sound day cruise.
Lady Bowen Falls
This is the tallest waterfall in Milford Sound, measuring 162 metres or 531 feet. Named after the wife of one of New Zealand’s first governors, the Lady Bowen Falls are not only beautiful, but useful too. These falls are the sole provider of electricity and water for the people and businesses based in Milford Sound.
Opposite the wharf in Milford Sound you’ll see this perfectly U-shaped valley, formed by the slopes of the surrounding mountains (including Mitre Peak). It was within this remote valley that the rare native kakapo bird was discovered in the 1970s, after scientists thought it had become extinct.
The most iconic sight of Milford Sound, Mitre Peak rises 1,692 metres (5,555 feet) directly from the sea floor. Its name comes from the distinctive shape of its summit, like a bishop’s mitre or hat. The shape is actually created by five peaks all together.
Fairy Falls and Bridal Veil Falls
Just some of the magnificent permanent waterfalls on display in Milford Sound. When it rains, of course, even more are created.
Another of the most famous waterfalls in Milford Sound, Stirling Falls drops 146 metres or 479 feet from a valley between two imposing mountains.
While Milford Sound is regularly visited by wildlife, most of its coastline is made up of sheer vertical cliffs. Seal Rock is one exception, a large rock that the native New Zealand fur seals who live in Milford Sound can clamber upon to rest and bask in the sun.
The Tasman Sea
Your Milford Sound day cruise will take you out towards the coast, where the fiord opens out into the Tasman Sea.
Its official name is Mt Kimberley, but you’ll soon see why this mountain peak has gained its animal nickname.