To be fully appreciated, Milford Sound must be seen from the deck of one of the cruise vessels. Real Journeys, Lakefront Drive, Te Anau (tel. 0800/656-502 in NZ, or 03/249-7416; www.realjourneys.co.nz), operates a bewildering array of cruises - both daytime and overnight options. Prices differ depending on whether you join the activity in Queenstown, in Te Anau, or at Milford Sound, and whether you have coach, car, fixed-wing, or helicopter connections. A popular day option is the Coach and Nature (or Scenic) Cruise, which departs Queenstown daily at 7:30am and returns at 8:30pm; the cost is NZ$235 for adults, NZ$120 for kids ages 5 to 14 (the Scenic Cruise costs slightly less). If you go coach both ways, don't expect to be back in Queenstown until around 8pm, but also be aware that flights in and out of Milford are completely dependent on the weather and you may have to bus it if your flight is canceled. If you choose to fly one-way you will pay close to twice the above prices. The scenic cruises tend to have more tour groups on board.
You can overnight on Milford Sound in Real Journey's Milford Mariner (Sept-May), which features 30 en-suite cabins and includes kayaking and trips in tender vessels, a three-course buffet, and breakfast; rates are from NZ$495 for adults, NZ$248 for children. The Milford Wanderer sleeps 61 in quad-share bunk-style compartments, with shared bathroom facilities; quad-share rooms are NZ$260 for adults, NZ$130 for kids; twin share cabins with shared bathroom are NZ$$325 for adults, NZ$165 for kids. Coach connections are available from Te Anau and Queenstown at extra cost.
Southern Discoveries (tel. 0800/264-536 in NZ, or 03/441-1137; www.southerndiscoveries.co.nz) has been a tradition here since 1957. It has four boats operating day cruises only. The Encounter Nature Cruise is priced from NZ$75 for adults and NZ$15 for children 4 to 14; a Scenic Cruise is priced from NZ$65 for adults and NZ$15 for children. Preordered picnic lunch options are available and Great Sights coaches from Queenstown and Te Anau connect with all cruises.
Both of the above cruise companies will take you to Milford Deep Underwater Observatory (tel. 0800/264-536 in NZ, or 03/441-1137; www.discovermilfordsound.co.nz), where you'll descend over 10m (33 ft.) beneath the fiord surface to observe the vibrant underwater community. It costs NZ$40 extra above your cruise price for adults, NZ$20 extra for kids. Mitre Peak Cruises (tel. 0800/744-633 in NZ, or 03/443-8787; www.mitrepeak.com) operates two small vessels for more personalized 2-hour cruises. They travel farther out than the other boats - all the way to the Tasman Sea, past St. Annes Point Lighthouse. Their prices are NZ$65 to NZ$75. Kiwi Discovery, 37 Camp St., Queenstown (tel. 0800/505-504 in NZ, or 03/442-7340; www.kiwidiscovery.com), offers a year-round day coach trip to Milford Sound for NZ$165 per person, with discounts for kids and families.
Walking is another marvelous activity in this area if you have the time. The Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre in Te Anau will furnish you with details on guided outings that climb into the peaks, meander along the shore, or take you close to waterfalls. One to consider is the much-praised Trips 'n' Tramps (tel. 0800/305-807 in NZ, or 03/249-7081; www.tripsandtramps.com), which has a 1-day walk on the Milford Track as part of a small group of 12 for NZ$175 per person.
Kayaking may be the most popular activity here after the cruises. Your best bet is Rosco's Milford Sound Sea Kayaks, 72 Town Centre, Te Anau (tel. 0800/476-726 in NZ, or 03/249-8500; www.roscosmilfordkayaks.com). These easygoing excursions offer an extraordinary way to experience the sound. You don't have to be super-fit or have previous kayaking experience. One of the most popular is the Milford Track Paddle 'n Walk trip, which departs daily at 2:30pm and returns by 7:30pm. This costs NZ$199 per person and includes an easy walk through pristine rainforest. Early risers might like to get the best of the day on the Sunriser Classic trip for NZ$130 per person. For people traveling out of peak tourist season, keep in mind that Rosco offers several excellent winter kayaking options. Adventure Kayak & Cruise, 33 Waiau St., Manapouri (tel. 0800/324-966 in NZ, or 03/249-6626; www.fiordlandadventure.co.nz), offers a stunning guided day tour on Doubtful Sound for NZ$239 per person. The minimum age is 14.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.