New Zealand

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.

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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.

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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.

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