119km (74 miles) NE of Te Anau; 286km (177 miles) NW of Queenstown
No matter when you visit or what the weather is like, your memories of Milford Sound are bound to be special. Its 14 nautical miles leading to the Tasman Sea are lined with mountain peaks that rise sharply out of the water to heights of 1,800m (5,900 ft.). Forster's fur seals laze on rocky shelves, and dolphins play in water that reaches depths of 600m (2,000 ft.). The sound's entrance is so hidden when viewed from the sea that Captain Cook sailed right by without noticing it when he charted the waters some 200 years ago.
It rains a lot in Milford Sound, and that's an understatement. And while I'm on negatives, it can't be stressed enough that weather in this area is extremely changeable, even in summer, so come prepared. As many have found, reading about the cold and rain in midsummer is one thing, experiencing it quite another. Over 927 centimeters (365 in.) fall annually, so be prepared to get wet. The sound is a mystical, moody place when it rains. You may not glimpse the mountaintops or Mitre Peak through the mist, but you'll see hundreds of waterfalls cascading down spectacular cliff faces. In dry conditions, there are only three or four permanent waterfalls in the sound.
In summer, coaches pour in at a rate of 100 per day for the launch cruises - that's up to 5,000 people joining you for a look at this special place. If you're prepared to overlook this rather cramped state of affairs, you'll be rewarded with grand, unforgettable landscapes.
Heed the Warnings
During the winter months, take the NO STOPPING - AVALANCHE ZONE signs along the Milford Road very seriously. No matter how much you want to stop and take a photograph, don't - it could cost you your life.
To read our complete thoughts on the iconic Milford Road, click here.