Do you want to go on a cruise to witness 'The Eighth Wonder of the World' yourself? Prepare for an awe-inspiring journey ahead! Piopiotahi Milford Sound is a must-visit for anyone exploring New Zealand, and cruising is undoubtedly one of the finest ways to experience its breathtaking beauty. The natural wonders here are truly remarkable, leaving an impression you'll cherish forever. You have to see it to believe it!

Located within 1.2 million hectares of UNESCO World Heritage-listed national park and at the end of the spectacular Milford Road, Piopiotahi Milford Sound is Fiordland's jewel in the crown. Despite its name, Milford Sound is not a sound! The early European settlers named the place Milford Sound – but they were incorrect as it's actually a fiord. Sounds are formed when a river valley is flooded by the sea, whereas Milford Sound was formed by the erosion of ancient glaciers.

Out of Fiordland National Park's fourteen fiords, Piopiotahi is the only one accessible by road. A small settlement of permanent residents sustains the area's offering of boat cruises, scenic flights, kayak trips, dive trips, and luxury lodge accommodations. While there are plenty of activities to do here, the area remains pristine and unspoiled, which is the real magic of this place.

According to Māori legend, demi-god Tu-te-raki-whanoa carved the magnificent fiords, improving with every fiord he created, making Piopiotahi Milford Sound his masterpiece. In fear that people would stay in Milford Sound forever, the goddess Hine-nui-te-po created the sandfly to keep people at bay.

Milford Sound

Often described as the “eighth wonder of the world”, the jewel in Fiordland’s crown, and one of the New Zealand’s top travel destinations, Milford Sound  (Piopiotahi)  was carved by glaciers…

A cruise in Milford Sound starts with getting there. The quote “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey” has never been more true. State Highway 94 (SH94), or the Milford Road is one of the highest and most scenic state highways in New Zealand, it is also the only road access to Piopiotahi. The drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound covers it all, from lush beech forest and vast valleys to mirror-like lakes, towering mountains and impressive feats of roading engineering.

The question is: will you drive yourself or will you jump on a coach and let someone else do the driving for you?
The Milford Road is not to be underestimated as it traverses one of New Zealand’s most challenging environments. There is a comprehensive safety management programme for the Milford Road including avalanche control during winter and spring. During the summer months, the road is busier and shared with coaches, campervans and minibuses.
The drive can be done in two hours, but that doesn’t mean it should be. There are multiple, easily accessible scenic spots along the way that are worth stopping for to explore, like the Eglinton Valley, Mirror Lakes, the spectacular Chasm walking track or the incredible feat of engineering that is the Homer Tunnel bored through the sheer granite of the Darran Mountains.
We recommend allowing at least four hours to drive from Te Anau to Piopiotahi Milford Sound if you want to stop and admire the spectacular views, or alternatively allow two hours to travel in and do your scenic stops on the return journey. If you decide to self-drive, plan your trip, always check the road conditions before you leave and allow plenty of time. Cell phone coverage is very patchy along the Milford Highway and at the Milford Sound Terminal.

Another great option is to take an organised tour from Te Anau and view the scenery without the need to drive. Coach tours offer the added bonus of a commentary along the way to learn about the geology, flora and fauna and history, as well short stops for walks along the way.

Pure Milford

The crew at Pure Milford are proud to welcome you to explore their beautiful backyard, Piopiotahi…

The next thing to consider is how much time you want to spend on a boat in Milford Sound. You can pick cruises that lasts from a couple of hours to an overnight cruise.
Day cruises are an excellent option if you're short on time but still crave a memorable experience. Departure times differ from early morning until late afternoon, depending on the season. You'll find a variety of day cruises available from different companies operating in the fiord. These include nature and scenic cruises, offered on small intimate boats or larger catamarans. Some cruises offer onboard meals as part of the package or as an optional extra, while others may require you to bring your own food.
Most Milford Sound cruises follow a similar route. They depart from Milford Wharf, navigate through the fiord, pass by several key features, and then proceed towards the end of the fiord before looping back.

An overnight cruise in Piopiotahi Milford Sound offers a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the tranquillity of the fiord during the evening and early morning, away from the crowds of day trippers. It is the ultimate way to escape and fully immerse yourself in the beauty of real remote New Zealand. Passengers can also enjoy a variety of additional activities, such as kayaking, tender-boat excursions or even hot tubs on the deck. Spending the night in the fiord also allows you to experience stunning sunsets and sunrises, and to gaze at the Milky Way stretching across the southern sky, offering an unparalleled view of the universe. Comfy beds, delicious meals from an onboard chef, a friendly nature guide and much more make for an unforgettable experience.  

Milford Sound
Milford Sound © Liz Carlson

Regardless of the cruise you pick, you’ll be treated to unmatched natural beauty.
The first thing that will catch your eye upon arrival is Mitre Peak, the most iconic sight of Milford Sound. It rises 1,692 metres (5,555 feet) directly from the sea floor and its name comes from e the distinctive shape of its summit, like a bishop’s mitre or hat. The shape is actually created by five peaks all together.
Lady Bowen Falls is the tallest waterfall, plunging 162m (531 feet) from a hanging valley into the head of Milford Sound. The waterfall provides electricity for the Milford Sound township by feeding a small hydroelectric scheme, as well as being the water source for the settlement.
Other magnificent permanent waterfalls on display in Milford Sound include Fairy Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Stirling Falls. However, if it's raining or there has been recent heavy rainfall, you're in for a treat as you'll witness dozens, if not hundreds, of waterfalls—a truly jaw-dropping spectacle.

With a bit of luck, you’ll also encounter some of the residents of Piopiotahi on your cruise. The biodiversity in Milford Sound boasts some of the world's most fascinating and distinctive animals. Native rainforest fringes the cliffs, containing precious birdlife, while down below a marine reserve protects the fish and visiting mammals like seals and dolphins. 
There’s a good chance you’ll encounter penguins during your Milford Sound cruise. The Little Blue penguin is a fairly common sight, whereas the Fiordland Crested Penguin is a rare and endangered species, found exclusively in Fiordland and Stewart Island, making it one of the world's rarest penguins. Fiordland and Milford Sound are also home to a diverse array of other native New Zealand birds, such as the takahē, kākāpō, mohua yellowhead, and kea.

The Milford Sound Observatory, the only floating underwater observatory in New Zealand, sits in Harrison Cove, offering a unique glimpse into the fiord's underwater world. Descend 10 meters below sea level via steps into the spacious viewing room for an up-close encounter with colourful sea life, including black coral typically found at depths of 500 meters. It's like stepping into an aquarium, except here, the wildlife is free to roam while you're enclosed!

Seal Rock is an unmissable sight on your Milford Sound cruise. That’s right, the local Kekeno New Zealand fur seals have their very own rock! The rock is located close to the Tasman Sea and it’s one of the few places in the fiord where the seals can climb up out of the water to just relax and soak up the sun.
An absolute highlight of any Milford Sound cruise is watching playful dolphins catch the bow wave of cruise ships. While around sixty Bottlenose dolphins live in the area, Dusky dolphins also occasionally appear in Piopiotahi.

In Piopiotahi Milford Sound the focus is on conservation of these beautiful animals and plants – Milford Sound cruise operators ensure you can get as close as possible to the local wildlife without disturbing it.


Thought to be the most intelligent bird on Earth, the kea is only found in Alpine areas of the South Island. Scientists believe they possess around the same intelligence as a seven-year-old human, and they have been found to work well in…


Did you know that there are more species of penguins that call New Zealand home than any other country? We are particularly blessed with these beautiful birds here in Southland as we have three species that can be found on our shores. The…

Piopiotahi Milford Sound is a landscape commanded by water. The area receives around 6.5 - 7 metres (21-23 feet) of rainfall each year and has been known to receive up to 9 metres (29.5 feet), making it the wettest inhabited place on the planet. Piopiotahi's entire existence is shaped around precipitation, and so should your travel plans!

Spring (September – November) in Milford Sound can bring higher rainfall and even snow to sea-level. The first forest flowers start to emerge - keep a lookout for the lovely white native clematis. As it is the equinox period you can expected unsettled weather patterns including the occasional exciting storm! Daylight savings starts in October, making the evenings longer.
December – February are the warmest months of the year in Fiordland. During the summer months Milford Sound often experiences a cool day breeze as the warm air rises. The best times of day to explore Milford are early morning or late afternoon and evening. Daylight hours are much longer so you won't miss out!
In Autumn (March – May), you won't notice a change to the tree colours as Fiordland native forest is ever-green. The days will start to draw in and be cooler in the mornings and evenings creating moody misty scenes. The weather during the day is still a pleasant temperature but you'll want to bring layers to beat the morning and evening chill.
Surprisingly, the Winter months (June – August) are the most settled in Milford. Although the daylight hours are much shorter the skies are often blue and cloudless. The air is crisp and fresh, and snow is seen on the mountains. A trip into Piopiotahi Milford Sound is a spectacular event with snow to low levels. Bring lots of layers, including a warm hat and gloves and you will feel more alive than ever.

Milford Sound boasts a truly unique environment, especially when it rains. Weather in this mountainous area is known for its rapid shifts. The best advice we can give you is to pack both your raincoat and sunscreen and be ready for whatever nature throws your way!