Part of New Zealand’s scenic Fiordland National Park, the glacier-carved Milford Sound is lined with sheer cliffs and peaks, over which waterfalls cascade. Naturally, the best way to explore the fjord is by boat. Below, we unpack the various cruising options in Milford Sound.
Sightseeing cruises of the fjord offer front-row views of the magnificent scenery, including the 5,552-foot (1,692-meter) Mitre Peak. Most sightseeing cruises last for a couple of hours and feature onboard commentary, as well as optional extras, such as tea, snacks, or meals on board. With any luck, you’ll also get to see some of the local wildlife, including seals, dolphins, and Fiordland crested penguins.
Full-day tours of Milford Sound typically depart from either Te Anau or Queenstown and combine a cruise with another activity, such as a scenic drive or even a helicopter flight, allowing participants to appreciate the dramatic landscapes from several perspectives. Many daylong tours make stops in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Fiordland National Park at destinations like Mirror Lakes, known for its startlingly clear reflections of the surrounding scenery, and the Chasm, a series of powerful cascading rapids that can be seen from a footbridge overhead.
Overnight and multi-day cruises on Milford Sound allow you to thoroughly explore the fjord and to witness the pristine natural environment after the day-tripper boat traffic has left. Some multi-day cruises anchor in the afternoon, allowing visitors to explore further via kayak or on a tender craft with a nature guide, before settling in for the night in a private cabin.