Visiting Milford Sound in Winter

Grab your beanie and a big warm jacket – winter is our favourite time of year to experience Milford Sound! Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Milford Sound in winter, with handy tips on what to wear and bring with you.

How cold is it in Milford Sound during winter?

It’s no surprise that Milford Sound tends to get more visitors during the summer season. Hey, we get it – when you’re travelling in the South Island you might want to avoid chilly temperatures.

During the official New Zealand winter months of June, July and August temperatures in Milford Sound can be pretty cold. The average highs range from 6-11 degrees Celsius, or 42-53 degrees Fahrenheit. The shoulder months of May and September will also experience cooler weather.

Will it rain if I visit Milford Sound in winter?

Milford Sound is famous for being one of the wettest places in New Zealand (and the world!), with as many as 200 rainy days every year.

What you might not realise, though, is most Milford Sound rainfall occurs between October and March. This means if you visit Milford Sound during winter you’re actually more likely to encounter clear skies and unobstructed views!

However, if you do visit on a rainy day, the dramatic weather only adds to the wild beauty of the landscape. Could there be anything more picturesque than standing on the bow of a ship, dark waters lapping around you, watching clouds of mist swirling around the surrounding mountain peaks and waterfalls cascading into the sea from far above? Check out our blog post about visiting Milford Sound when it’s raining for more on this topic (seriously, we could talk for hours about it. But we won’t.)

Is Milford Sound busy in winter?

Even though skiers and snowboarders flock to Queenstown and the surrounding areas in winter, you’ll find fewer crowds in Milford Sound at this time of year.

This is good news for you! Tours and cruises are still running (even if some operators are on reduced timetables while international visitors are still missing from our shores). You’ll have your pick of seats on board coaches and cruise ships and have plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the stunning views, as well as the overwhelming serenity of this amazing destination.

During peak season, many of the most popular photo stops along the Milford Road can be overrun with tour coaches, campervans and cars with everyone jostling for a place to park and the best view of that must-have Instagram shot. We’re telling you, now is the time to experience Milford Sound without the crowds.

What will I see in Milford Sound during winter?

One of the best parts about cruising Milford Sound in winter is the wildlife! Seals, penguins and dolphins venture further inland from the open sea and enjoy the quieter months in the fiord, so you’re more likely to encounter these cuties.

Don’t forget that the days are shorter during winter, and it gets dark much earlier down here at the bottom of the South Island. The sun rises around 7am and sets around 5pm, so plan your day and adjust your expectations accordingly.

How do I get to Milford Sound in winter?

The best way of visiting Milford Sound in winter is cosy and snug inside a tour coach, listening to your driver guide spinning yarns about the area and snapping pics out the window. If you choose to drive to Milford Sound, make sure you check the road status before you leave and make sure you’re all set with snow chains. There is a risk of avalanche on the Milford Road during winter.

Don’t forget you can always splurge on a scenic flight back to Queenstown. Soaring back over the stunning scenery of Fiordland National Park is something you’ll never forget – plus it’s heaps quicker, so you can make that dinner reservation!

What should I wear to visit Milford Sound in winter?

The key point if you’re dressing for a winter tour to Milford Sound is to layer up! Wear thick socks and warm shoes, a range of light but warm layers that you can add and remove as needed, and a waterproof or at least showerproof jacket over the time. Add a scarf, hat and gloves and you’re all set!

Even if the weather forecast is fine, trust us on the waterproof jacket. During your Milford Sound cruise you’ll want to be out on deck as much as possible to enjoy the stunning views. Even if you steer clear as the skipper steers right up close to one of the fiord’s many waterfalls, the spray can still travel!

Make sure your phone and/or camera is fully charged and has plenty of memory, because you’ll be snapping pics and videos like crazy all day! Many tour coaches have USB charge points on board, or you might like to plan ahead and bring a power pack so you don’t run out of battery (womp womp).

Visiting Milford Sound in Winter - Milford Sound cruise

There you have it – the complete guide to visiting Milford Sound in winter! Now head to our Milford Sound deals page to snap up a great value tour or cruise.

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