How to Spend 1 Day in Fiordland & Milford Sound
The peaks of the Southern Alps splinter into a dramatic landscape of cliffs, mountains, and waterways in Fiordland National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site whose scenic crown jewel is Milford Sound. Whether you’re based in Queensland or Te Anau, you can explore Milford Sound in just one day. Here’s how to plan.
Morning: Getting to Milford Sound
Spectacular mountain scenery begins long before you arrive at Milford Sound; Fiordland National Park is one place where the journey is as spectacular as the destination. Bus trips to Milford Sound follow winding mountain roads from Queenstown or Te Anau, often with stops to walk and take photos along the way. For a glimpse of even more-remote places in Fiordland National Park, scenic flights cut right across the park’s roadless interior, giving aerial views of Fiordland’s most isolated peaks and hidden waterfalls.
Afternoon: Mitre Peak to the Tasman Sea
Once you step off the bus or plane in Milford Sound, leave land behind altogether to discover the narrow fjord by boat. Classic sightseeing cruises of Milford Sound go from the compact harbor to the mouth of the Tasman Sea, passing seal colonies, rain-fed waterfalls, and the towering profile of Mitre Peak. If you’d rather see the sights from the waterline, guided kayak tours let you nose along the shore; while you won’t cover as much distance, the maneuverable boats are perfect for a quieter and more independent experience.
Night: Out of the Fiordlands
Very limited accommodations in Milford Sound mean most travelers leave by late afternoon, but that doesn’t mean the day is over. If you’re headed back by plane, you’ll see evening light glint off the glaciers and waterfalls. With the sun setting in the west, this is a great time for photography from the plane’s viewing windows. Coach trips are just as scenic and mean a mountain twilight on the road back to Te Anau or Queenstown.