Once you’ve arrived in Queenstown, one excursion many people choose to do is take a road trip to Milford Sound. You can either find a day tour that will load you up on a bus early in the morning with a bunch of other people, get a lunch included with the price, cruise along Milford Sound and then come back in the afternoon on the bus again. This is definitely the easy way to get there, but we were on a budget and also wanted to be able to go at our own pace so we chose to do the long drive there by ourselves.
On Google Maps it says Milford Sound is about a 4 hr drive from Queenstown. Some people opt to stay at Te Anau, which is halfway, to avoid the long drive both ways. I figured, why not just get it all done in one day so we don’t have much to drive the next day. It took us about 7 hours to get there because we had many stops! So make room just in case you decide to do the same too.
We woke up early and filled up the car with fuel. The next town from Queenstown was Te Anau and that was a few hours away so we didn’t want to chance running low on fuel. Leaving Queenstown, we passed by The Remarkables, a mountain range that was featured in Lord of the Rings and is also a ski field at the top during the winter. It sits along the southeastern shores of Lake Wakatipu.
Halfway to Milford Sound you can make a pit stop at Te Anau. Here is the only place that you will be able to refill on fuel and get food before you reach Milford Sound. After Te Anau, you will start seeing signs along the way for scenic stops. We made a few stops in Ellington Valley. We flew the drone to get some views of the river from above too.
We also stopped at Mirror Lakes, but unfortunately it was a windy day and there weren’t any good reflections on the lakes.
Getting closer to Milford Sound, you’ll pass through Homer’s Tunnel. During the day there are stop lights that tell you when it is safe to go through. At night, it’s a little more dangerous because you’ll have to go at your own risk as the lights are off. Just go slow and move to the side if another car is coming from the opposite direction. Once you’ve reached the other side of the tunnel, you’ve officially reached the gateway to Milford Sound!
Once you reached the parking lot, there is a store front right across where you can buy tickets for kayaking or the cruises. There is also a small cafe and gift shop inside. I would suggest buying your tickets for the cruise at the docking area where there are 6 companies offering almost the same trip, but at different prices. We were limited to just going on Mitre Peak Cruises because we arrived late in the afternoon.
We were blessed to have a sunny day! If you research this area, Milford Sound and the Fiordland area has the highest rainfall statistics in the world! We were able to see the top Mitre Peak, rainbows in front of waterfalls and the seals playing and laying out on the rocks.
After the cruise we stayed a little while to take pictures of the area. On the left side of the car park is a short trail that leads out to the rocky shore before the tide comes in. This is where we decided to hang out. Only a few people were left. We stayed until the sunset. It was a beautiful end to a beautiful day.