Milford Sound Cruise

Milford Sound Cruise

If you are in or around Queenstown, a Milford Sound Cruise with Southern Discoveries is not to be missed. It is an absolutely beautiful place so expect to spend most of the cruise with your eyes wide open and a smile on your face!

milford sound cruise

During the ice age, a giant glacier ground its way into the sea creating a deep valley. When the glacier melted, the sea came in creating Milford Sound. The glacier that flowed down the valley was up to 2,000 metres deep! It was Captain John Gron who was the first European to discover Milford Sound. He originally named this spectacular find, Milford Haven, but it was renamed in 1851 as Milford Sound. Despite this, Milford Sound is actually a fiord (a long, narrow, deep inlet of the sea between high cliffs) not a sound! It is the only fiord in New Zealand that is accessible by road.

milford sound cruise

We drove to Milford Sounds (known as the self drive option) and parked at the Park and Ride in Deepwater Basin. This is a free car park with a free shuttle bus to the ferry terminal which runs every 20 minutes. This car park is split into two sections so make sure you have a proper drive around before you give up. We arrived at 10.30 and found one of the last 3 spaces – it gets busy quickly! If you can’t park there, there is a paid car park slightly closer to the ferry. It is $10 a hour and you have to walk to the terminal.

Encounter Nature Cruise

Southern Discoveries offer several cruise options to cater for all. What sets them apart from the rest is the fact that they take you further, closer and deeper into Milford Sound for an adventure you can’t forget!

milford sound cruise
southern discoveries

We opted for the Encounter Nature Cruise ($95) on the Lady Bowen boat which is Milford Sound’s longest cruise. It has specialised nature commentary onboard and is a small intimate cruise with a maximum of 75 passengers. We also added on a trip to the Southern Discoveries Underwater Observatory and a picnic lunch (sandwich, fruit, cheese and crackers, crisps and chocolate) for only $20. Each cruise also has complimentary tea and coffee.

milford sound cruise

Our cruise departed at 12.15 (check in at 11.55) and we boarded the smaller, more intimate Southern Discoveries boat.  Immediately after setting sail we were amazed by Bowen Falls, a huge waterfall surrounded by the fiords.

milford sound cruise
southern discoveries

As we continued our trip, the commentary from expert guide Dave was useful and he was happy to answer questions when he wasn’t on the microphone. When approaching animals, the boat slows right down and safely stops for us to view them. We saw some seals having fun on the rocks!

milford sound cruise
milford sound cruise

Standing under Stirling Falls

One of the highlights of our Milford Sound Cruise was standing under the Stirling Falls waterfall. Make sure you put your rain jackets on (they are provided free of charge by Southern Discoveries) get to the front of the boat and let the water just pour down on you! Dave’s tip to always look up was great as a rainbow formed in the sky through the water. It was just stunning!

milford sound cruise
milford sound cruise

The Underwater Observatory

We visited the Underwater Observatory around 2 hours into the cruise. We disembarked from our small boat and were at the observatory for around 45 minutes.

milford sound cruise

The observatory is located 60 stairs below the deck  and 10 metres beneath the water’s surface. With 20 windows at the bottom to view the ocean life, there is plenty of room for groups. We saw rare black coral growing in its natural habitat and witnessed several fish swimming around. The windows weren’t very clear due to the deep sea effect of the fresh water from the glacier so taking photos to capture the colour of the fish was difficult.

southern discoveries
milford sound cruise

After the Underwater Observatory, we sailed back to the pier on the larger boat used for the Scenic Cruises, which had an open top for the views.

southern discoveries
southern discoveries

Other Milford Sound Cruises

Southern Discoveries also offer the following Milford Sound cruises with departures throughout the day from 9am to 3.15pm in the summer and 9.45am – 2pm in the winter.

  • Scenic Cruise
  • Nature Cruise
  • Add on Kayaking

Southern Discoveries also has a combined coach and cruise trip from Queenstown (departs 8am) and Te Anau (departs 8.30am/11am).

southern discoveries

After the Milford Sound Cruise, make sure you visit (or perhaps ask your coach to stop if possible) at (i) the Tukoto River beneath Mt Tutoko, Fiordland’s highest mountain and (ii) The Chasm which was formed by water and stone.

southern discoveries
milford sound cruise

East London Girl: Milford Sound Cruise

Click Here to read about our other adventures in New Zealand!

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