Moody Milford - Real Journeys
Piopiotahi / Milford Sound
Moody Milford Sound - credit Real Journeys

An immense and dramatic landscape, Piopiotahi / Milford Sound casts a spell over all who visit. Astonishing geological formations and rich Māori legends are revealed whether you’re exploring by land, sea or air.

A place of natural wonder

Enjoy Piopiotahi / Milford Sound - credit Real Journeys

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.

Beginning under the watchful eye of Rahotu / Mitre Peak, Piopiotahi / Milford Sound runs 16 kilometres to the Tasman Sea. Within this steep and narrow, glacially-carved valley, a treasure-trove of ecological delights awaits. Discover dolphins, penguins and seals safe within the protection of the Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) Marine Reserve. Explore the phenomenon known as deep-water emergence where species usually found at great depths, are found just metres below the surface due to a constant layer of dark cool freshwater blocking light to creatures below. 

And of course, the waterfalls. Cascading from impossibly sheer cliff faces, Piopiotahi / Milford Sound’s famous waterfalls rival some of the world’s tallest and are at their most spectacular on rainy days.

Picture that - credit Real Journeys

Incredible Piopiotahi / Milford Sound Experiences

Out of Fiordland National Park’s 14 fiords, Piopiotahi / Milford Sound is the only one accessible by road.  A small settlement of permanent residents sustains Piopiotahi / Milford Sound’s offering of boat cruises, scenic flights, kayak trips, dive trips and a luxury lodge specialist accommodation. While there are plenty of activities to do here, the area remains pristine and unspoiled, which is the real magic of Piopiotahi / Milford Sound.

With an endless list of things to do, the area is a paradise for bucket-listers, nature-lovers and those seeking wild places. 

  • Scenic Cruises range in duration and onboard services, but all give you the chance to see spectacular scenery. There are also overnight cruises in Piopiotahi / Milford Sound.
  • Kayaking adventures for all abilities along the fiord.
  • A dive experience like nothing else on earth for beginners to experienced divers.
  • Scenic flights above the dramatic landscape in a fixed-wing plane or helicopter.  Flights vary in length and depart from Piopiotahi / Milford Sound Airport by schedule or on demand. Include a glacier landing as part of your helicopter flight.
  • Hike the famous Milford Track or take a shorter day walk off the Milford road.
  • Visit the Underwater Observatory while on a cruise and see Piopiotahi / Milford Sound’s unique sea life.

Stay the night in Milford Sound and give yourself time to do it all.

Piopiotahi / Milford Sound Weather

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 / Milford Sound’s entire existence is shaped around precipitation; and so should your travel plans!

A truly unique environment, Piopiotahi / Milford Sound comes to life on a rainy day. Weather can change quickly in this mountainous region. Pack your raincoat, your sunscreen and prepare for whatever may come, we promise you won’t be disappointed.

Peekaboo - Caleb Bloxham

Milford Spring Weather

Sept-Nov: Spring 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.

Milford Summer Weather

Dec-Feb: 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! Keep a look out for the Fiordland Christmas tree - the southern rata has bright red flowers, not to be confused with the pohutukawa found further north.

Milford Autumn Weather

March-May: You won't notice a change to the colours of the trees 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 bring layers to beat the morning and evening chill.

Milford Winter Weather

June-Aug: Surprisingly, winter in Milford is the most settled time of year. 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.

Getting to Piopiotahi / Milford Sound

Visitors often underestimate the stunning alpine drive that is the road to Piopiotahi/ Milford Sound. With numerous viewing points and short walks along the way, the Milford Road (State Highway 94) is a breathtaking first taste of Fiordland and the immense scale of the landscape. Choosing to travel with a Piopiotahi / Milford Sound Coach and Cruise tour operator gives you the chance to sit back and soak in the incredible sights along the way.  Alternatively you can self-drive, taking care to allow plenty of time to stop along the way and navigate the twists and turns that unfold new views at every corner.

The drive from Te Anau to Piopiotahi / Milford Sound takes approximately two hours (without stopping), and the drive from Queenstown to Piopiotahi / Milford Sound takes approximately four hours (again without stopping) depending on road conditions.

Learn more about getting to Piopiotahi / Milford Sound

View the Milford Road webcam here

FAQs about Piopiotahi / Milford Sound

Can I stay in Milford Sound?

Yes although there are limited options. There are campervan sites and boutique chalets at Milford Sound Lodge, overnight cruises are also an option. There are DOC campsites along the Milford Road and accommodation at Knobs Flat and Te Anau Downs.

Do I need to check the road conditions before driving to Milford Sound?

It is always a good idea, especially during the winter and spring months. Check the road conditions here.

What is there to do in Milford Sound?

There are a number of activities you can do in Piopiotahi / Milford Sound. Scenic cruises give you the best chance to see wildlife and take in the full fiord. Scenic flights give an amazing view from above and can include a glacier landing. Diving will take you below the surface as will the Underwater Observatory. Kayaking is an adventurous and stimulating way to see the fiord. See Milford Sound activities here.

How do I get to Milford Sound from Queenstown or Te Anau?

If you are a confident and considerate driver you can self-drive to Piopiotahi / Milford Sound. If you would prefer to sit back and relax then book a coach and cruise tour. Most kayak trips and scenic flights can also include a road transport option to get into Piopiotahi / Milford Sound. You can also take a scenic flight from Queenstown or Te Anau.

Is it safe to drive to Milford Sound?

Yes if you are a confident and considerate driver. See more about driving the Milford Road here.

Is the Milford Sound road open?
How far is it from Te Anau to Milford Sound?

The drive from Te Anau to Piopiotahi / Milford Sound is 120 kms (74.5 miles). Allow 2 hours driving without stops. We highly recommend allowing longer to drive to Milford Sound so you can enjoy the spectacular scenery and short walks along the way.

Where is Milford Sound?

Piopiotahi / Milford Sound is the northern most fiord in Fiordland National Park on the southwest corner of the South Island of New Zealand.

What walks are there in Milford Sound?

There is a short foreshore walk (up to 30 minutes) linking Milford Sound Lodge to the boat terminal, passing the airport on the way. There are several walks to do along the Milford Road. You can also take a guided half-day walk on the Milford Track from Milford Sound, pre-bookings essential. 

Is there internet access in Milford Sound?

No! There is no internet access from Te Anau to Milford Sound. A perfect opportunity to switch off from the world and engage with nature.

Which is better Doubtful Sound or Milford Sound?

Tough question! Piopiotahi / Milford Sound will provide scenic drama, Patea / Doubtful Sound will provide mystery and intrigue. Both are day trips from Te Anau or Manapouri, and very long day trips from Queenstown (allow an additional 4 hours). You can also do overnight cruising and kayaking in both. Patea / Doubtful Sound is much bigger than Piopiotahi / Milford Sound.