How to find the Milford Sound Swing

Ah, the Milford Sound swing – you’ve probably seen the gorgeous photos on your Instagram feed. That’s how I first came across it. The Milford Sound swing has the most epic view of Mitre Peak and the surrounding Milford landscape. So, I was obviously very keen to check it out on our recent visit to Milford Sound.

The Milford Swing can be quite hard to find with no signposts anywhere

Did you know the Milford Sound swing is actually quite hard to find, it’s not signposted or anything. I guess, the locals want to keep it kind of a secret. The story goes that a local worker made this swing for his girlfriend, so she could enjoy it on her days off. Now, that’s pretty sweet!

After doing a quick google search, the directions to the swing were still a little unclear to us. So, when we got off our cruise we asked one of the staff and she gave us detailed directions, even drawing us a little map on a piece of paper.

READ NEXT | the best Milford Sound Cruise: our experience

How we found the Milford Sound Swing

From the carpark (not the coach carpark) the actual carpark, cross the road and enter the start of the Milford Foreshore Walk. Walk to the left, away from the Cruise boats. After several steps you will cross a wooden bridge. Keep walking for 5 minutes and keep a lookout to your right, through the trees you will see the swing. It’s on a sandy patch jutting out into the water, towards Mitre Peak. We walked through the trees to the sandy area. You will see the swing in front of you just keep following your line of sight.

Here’s a map of where the Milford Sound Swing is located –

We were lucky because there wasn’t a soul around when we visited. Meaning we could enjoy the swing and take our time with photographs. We visited the Milford Sound swing at mid-day, when most people are on their cruise.

milford sound swing
milford sound swing

Some points to note about the Milford Sound Swing –

  • Wear closed-toe shoes, the sandy area you have to walk across can be very wet
  • Bring insect repellent, there are lots of sandflies in Milford Sound
  • We recommend walking the rest of the Foreshore Walk, it only takes an extra 10 minutes and there are some great photo opportunities.
  • If you get lost, please go back to the Visitor Centre and ask one of the staff members there. They will be more than happy to assist.
milford sound swing

And there you have it our detailed directions to the famous Milford Sound swing. I hope you found it helpful. Be sure to take lots of photographs when you visit. Also worth noting is that bad weather can hinder a great photo so be sure to check the weather forecast in advance.

Our recommendations for Te Anau (the closest town to Milford Sound)

If you fancy spending the night in Te Anau, we highly recommend Kingsgate Hotel. It is situated just a two-minute walk into Te Anua & conveniently Lake Te Anau is across the road. Be sure to watch sunset on Lake Te Anau.

The restaurant options in Te Anau are surprisingly good. We loved Paradiso Pizzeria an authentic Italian with excellent wood-fired pizzas. We also loved Bao Now a food-truck serving delicious Vietnamese fare.

Tell me: have you been to Milford Sound before? Did you manage to find the Milford Sound Swing, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comment section below.

Like this post? PIN IT for later!

The famous Milford Sound swing, a secret spot that can be difficult to find. Here are our detailed directions to this magical place.
The famous Milford Sound swing, a secret spot that can be difficult to find. Here are our detailed directions to this magical place.

Which Milford Sound Cruise should I choose?

There are many things you should take into consideration before deciding on the best Milford Sound Cruise for you. Milford Sound is one of the most beautiful & dramatic places in the world. In fact, Rudyard Kipling re-named it the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’. Milford Sound is New Zealand’s number one tourist attraction, attracting over 800,000 visitors a year. Which seems like nothing in comparison to tourist-heavy cities like Bangkok, London & New York. But Milford Sound is very remote and as a result quite difficult to get to. If you’ve visited, you will understand what a feat it is to get 800,000 visitors in and out of Milford Sound every year.

We self-drove to Milford Sounds via Te Anau this past weekend. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us. The weather was moody and slightly rainy – just the way we wanted it as it made our photos all the more epic. We also made the decision to stay the night in Te Anau so we could catch an early cruise. With Te Anau being only an hour & 40 minute drive from Milford Sound. Spending the night here made it a relatively stress-free journey for us. We do not recommend driving from Queenstown and back in one day. The drive is simply too long at over 8 hours return.

Anyway, we wanted to let you in on what were the most important factors to us when deciding on our Milford Sound cruise. There are lots of options, so you’re spoiled for choice.

You can read more about the drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound here

Do you want to be on a small or large boat for your Milford Sound cruise?

We were looking for a more intimate experience and so decided on Mitre Peak Cruises. Mitre Peak Cruises have a maximum capacity of 75 guests. We were lucky as there were only 30 people on our cruise. Bliss! It’s a smaller boat meaning you can get up close and personal with the waterfalls as well as Milford’s famous seal residents. It’s also a 2-hour cruise, in comparison to the 90-minute cruise time of most other operators.

If you want a larger boat we recommend Go Orange or Real Journeys.

milford sound cruise
milford sound waterfall
milford sound cruise new zealand

Opt for the morning Milford Sound Cruise

Beat the coach crowds and catch the early cruises which depart between 9 and 11am. Morning cruises pretty much guarantee smaller numbers. The majority of the coaches come from Queenstown and don’t reach Milford until after 12pm. So, the afternoon cruises are usually jam-packed. From our experience, when we first walked into the cruise terminal at 9:30am there were maybe 50 or so other guests waiting around. When we came off our cruise at 11:30am there were at least 300 people lining up to board the waiting boats.

milford sound cruise
couple travel, milford sound

Stay the night in Te Anau or Milford village to beat the crowds

We spent the night before our cruise in the pretty lakeside town of Te Anau and we highly recommend doing this. Te Anau really surprised us, there are lots of great food options in the town and it had a lovely laid-back vibe. We stayed at the Kingsgate Hotel along the lakefront and loved it!

Did you know Milford Sound is the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand and one of the wettest places in the world. Averaging 182 days of rain every year.

milford sound new zealand
seal milford sound

We are so glad we finally made it to Milford Sound after living in nearby Queenstown for over a year. We took lots of photos, ate some great food in Te Anau and really enjoyed the scenic drive from Te Anau to Milford.

Mitre Peak Cruises was the perfect choice for us – not crowded and quite a personalized experience given the smaller sized boat. The Captain was also really knowledgeable telling us lots of unique facts about the area over the speaker. Plus, there was free tea & coffee on board!

Tell me have you been to Milford Sound? If so, what cruise did you pick? We would love to hear about your experience in the comment section.

Like this post? Please PIN IT for later!

milford sound cruise guide

Milford Sound self-drive: our top tips

We 100% recommend self-driving to Milford Sound. You can drive at your own pace, stop at all the pretty sights for a photo, make an all-important coffee pitstop, stop when you need a bathroom break. The pro list is endless in our opinion for self-driving to this natural wonder of the world.

Most tourists to Milford Sound come from Queenstown – a 4 hour drive away. Hence, we don’t recommend doing the drive in one day – that’s a whopping 8 hours of driving. That’s not taking into account the traffic you will indefinitely encounter on the narrow roads into Milford Sound. So, 8 hours could quickly turn into 10 hours.

Instead of doing the trip in one day, we highly recommend spending the night in the pretty little town of Te Anau and leaving early the next morning to catch your cruise from Milford Sound. The drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound only took us 1 hour 40 minutes. We left at 7:30am & didn’t encounter much traffic. We were able to catch the 10am cruise – beating all the coach tourists who typically get the 12pm or later cruises. Winning!

In this piece, we will tell you the most photogenic spots to stop at en-route to Milford Sound as well as giving you the lowdown on road conditions, how much we spent & many more insider tips.

Read more: our directions to the famous Milford Sound swing

Where should I stop on the road to Milford Sound?

Eglinton Valley

About 40 minutes from Te Anau you will find the very photogenic Eglinton Valley.
This valley was carved out by glaciers thousands of years ago. Today, steep rocky mountains covered in native beech forest line the valley. The flat floor of the valley is covered in luminous golden tussock grass. Luckily – there are lots of safe spaces for you to pull in and take lots of photos.

eglinton valley, milford sound
eglinton valley, road to milford sound
eglinton valley, milford sound

Knobs Flat

A little further up the road from Eglinton Valley is the equally gorgeous Knobs Flat. We pulled into the campsite car park for our photos. Importantly, Knobs Flat is also the last flush toilets before you reach Milford Sound.

knobs flat, milford road
knobs flat, milford road

Mirror Lakes

Stroll among small lakes with gorgeous reflections of the Earl Mountains on this easy & short walk. The best photo opportunities here are on a bright & sunny day, unfortunately for is it was very cloudy.

Homer Tunnel

The famous tunnel on the Milford road that signals the start of your descent through the Cleddau Valley & into Milford Sound. It may not seem like it on first glance but the tunnel is wide enough for a bus and a small vehicle to pass each other. However, traffic lights operate during the busy summer months to keep it safe. The scenery before you enter the tunnel is gorgeous especially on a rainy day, with lots of narrow waterfalls cascading from the surrounding cliffs. Driving through the tunnel is an experience in itself. Honestly, I was terrified.

homer tunnel, milford road

Top tip – make sure you fill your tank up before departing Te Anau. Be aware, there are no petrol stations between Te Anau and Milford Sound. There is a little petrol station in Milford Sound (surprisingly the prices are competitive). There is also very limited cellphone coverage on the road.

How much petrol did we use?

We have a 2 litre engine car and we filled up in Queenstown and we made it all the way there and back with some petrol to spare.

Make sure you stock up on supplies in Te Anau

There are no stores or coffee shops on the road from Te Anau to Milford. If you’re leaving Te Anau early in the morning like we did, there are a few coffee shops in town that open at 7am. We recommend Sandfly Cafe and Wapiti Bakery. Freshchoice supermarket also opens at 7am.

Are there many public toilets on the Milford road?

Thankfully, yes there are – most of them are portaloo’s. However, there are flush toilets at Knobs Flat which we recommend using. All the toilet stops on the Miford road are signposted.

Be careful of the other drivers on the road

On the road to Milford Sound you will come across tourists driving really slowly. Randomly stopping in the middle of the road to take a photo or turning off without indicating. There are also “Fast & the Furious” wannabes who drive at least 20km over the limit and overtake where they shouldn’t. You definitely need to have your wits about you on the Milford Road. If you’re an inexperienced driver, we do not recommend driving this road!

There you have it, our top tips for driving what we believe to be one of the most beautiful drives in the world. We drove it this past weekend, and it was unforgettable. We made lots of photo stops as you can see from all the photos in this piece. Have you driven to Milford Sound? If so, what did you think? Are there are any other important facts we should include in this piece?

Read more: Which Milford Sound Cruise should I choose?