Real Journeys Milford Sound Nature Cruise - NZ Travel

Real Journeys Milford Sound Nature Cruise

Real Journeys Milford Sound Day Cruises

Milford SoundMilford Sound is a world renowned natural wonder. Nowhere else in Fiordland do the mountains stand so tall, straight out of the sea. Luxuriant rainforest clings to sheer rock walls and waterfalls tumble hundreds of metres to the sea below.

In Maori legend, this landscape was created by Tu Te Raki Whanoa, a godly figure who carved the fiords with a magical adze. Without doubt, Milford Sound (Piopiotahi) is his finest creation. Whatever the fiord’s mood – brooding and wet, or tranquil in the sunshine, it will inspire you.

Real Journeys provides coach and flight connections from Queenstown and coach connections from Te Anau, connecting to our range of Milford Sound cruises to suit different preferences.


Daytime Cruises:

  • Nature Cruises (2 hours to 2hours 30 minutes): Relaxed, extended cruise with specialist nature guides on board.
  • Scenic Cruises (1 hour 40 minutes): Cruise the fiord on a modern, spacious vessel.

Help Notes:

Wheelchair Policy:

  • Milford Coach & Cruise: Vessel suitable for wheelchairs.  Coach is fine, just cannot get on and off coach along the way.
  • Milford Nature Cruise: Vessels are unaccessible to wheelchairs.
  • Underwater Observatory: Not accessible to wheelchairs. This is due to the only accessway being a spiralling stairway to viewing platform.

The only vessels that are wheelchair friendly are the scenic cruise boats (Milford Monarch and Milford Sovereign). The simple reason being that the nature cruise vessels (and therefore the overnight boats as they are one in the same) have what we call sills in all the doorways - A raised structure that needs to be stepped over when boarding the vessel.

Region Location Map


Main Office:
Visitors Centre

State Highway 94, Milford Sound

Cancellation Policy: All cruise departures are subject to weather conditions so it is required to reconfirm your tour 48 hours prior to departure. At this time your departure point and time will be verified.

Differences between Doubtful Sound & Milford Sound -

Milford Sound: Busier, but scenery is more dramatic. Shorter sound.  

Doubtful Sound: Further south and 10 times larger. Only boat on the whole sound and more likely to see wildlife including dolphins and seals.

Driving times:
Queenstown to Milford (one way) 5 hours (291 kms)
Te Anau to Milford (one way) 2hrs 30 mins (170 kms)

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Available Activities:
Milford Sound Scenic Cruise

Milford Sound Scenic CruiseEnjoy Milford Sound’s dramatic scenery from the comfort of a spacious modern vessel.
The Scenic Cruise vessels have purpose built observation lounges and large decks, so you can be sure you’ll get some great viewing opportunities. Keep a look out for wildlife such as seals basking on the rocks.  There is a wide range of dining options on board so treat yourself to a delicious lunch while watching the scenery drift past.
During the cruise, the friendly crew provide commentaries in several languages and point out highlights such as Mitre Peak and the Pembroke Glacier.


Key Points:

  • Duration 1 hour and 40 minutes
  • International buffet, picnic and obento lunches available (must be pre-ordered, extra cost).
  • Luxury coach connections from Queenstown and Te Anau with multi-lingual commentaries (extra cost).
  • Queenstown flightseeing options: Fly both ways or fly back after coaching into Milford (weather permitting, extra cost).  See below for more details.
  • Suitable for all ages
Season: All year, daily departures.

Duration: 1 hour and 40 minutes

Min Child Age: 5 years old

Max Child Age: 14 years old

Infants: 0 - 4 years carried free of charge.

Milford Sound Nature Day Cruise 

Nature Day Cruise Milford SoundExplore Milford Sound on an extended and relaxed Nature Cruise.
With specialist nature guides on board, Real Journeys Nature Cruises offer a close-up experience of Milford Sound’s rainforest, soaring rock walls, and wildlife.

Throughout the cruise, the guides share stories of the fiord’s history and are happy to answer your questions.
Nature Cruises have a flexible itinerary that allows plenty of time to enjoy the scenery and to pause to view highlights.

Cruise so close to waterfalls that water soaks the foredeck, or drift gently while watching out for dolphins, seals and penguins.

Key Points:

  • 2hours 30 minutes (2 hours in winter)
  • Picnic and Obento lunch options available (must be pre-ordered)
  • Specialist nature guides provide commentary (English only)
  • Milford Sound Discovery Centre (underwater observatory) option. Please note this is at an extra cost and selected departures from Milford only. Please see below for more details.
  • Luxury coach connections from Queenstown and Te Anau plus fly out options from Milford Sound. Scroll down for more details.
  • Suitable for all ages.

Season: All year, daily departures.

Min Child Age: 5 years old

Max Child Age: 14 years old

Infants:  0 - 4 years carried free of charge

Optional Extra's:

Scenic Flight Connections from Queenstown 


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Flying over the Southern Alps between Queenstown and Milford is the ultimate way to experience southern New Zealand’s dramatic alpine scenery.
A hidden landscape unfolds below, revealing glacial lakes, waterfalls, deep valleys and cloud-piercing summits.
Our aircraft are specially selected for the mountainous terrain of Fiordland and Mount Aspiring National Parks. All our pilots are specifically trained for alpine flying and provide an informative commentary along the way.

On landing at the Milford Sound airstrip you are transferred to the harbour where you board your selected Real Journeys cruise.
You can choose to fly both ways or to fly back to Queenstown after travelling the spectacular overland route to Milford Sound on our luxury coach. Fly back options are available with all daytime and overnight cruises.

  • Flights depart daily from the Real Journeys Visitor Terminal, Lucas Place, Queenstown Airport
  • Courtesy transfers from most Queenstown and Te Anau accommodation if pick up address is advised in advance
  • All flights are weather dependent
  • Flights weather permitting
  • Suitable for all ages
  • Child rates apply for 4 to 14 years
  • Infants 0 - 3 years carried free of charge where the infant sits on parent's knee. Otherwise child rates apply.

Exclusive Coach Transfers from Queenstown or Te Anau


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The journey to Milford Sound from Te Anau and Queenstown is magnificent.
Our drivers have been selected for their experience and knowledge, and our schedule includes plenty of time for short nature walks and photo opportunities along the way. 

Coach connections depart from Real Journeys Visitor Centres:
  • Queenstown: Visitors Centre, Steamer Wharf  (Beach St)
  • Te Anau: Visitors Centre, Te Anau

Courtesy transfers from most Queenstown and Te Anau accommodation if pick up address is advised in advance
Lunch can be pre-ordered, please advise at time of booking.

Milford Discovery Centre - Underwater Observatory


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Guided visits to the Milford Discovery Centre are available as an add-on with most Milford Sound Nature Cruises and Overnight Cruises (bookings essential - extra cost). Due to the delayed return, this option is not available to passengers travelling by Real Journeys coach or plane.

After an informative introductory talk, you will descend to the underwater viewing chamber to observe the fascinating corals, anemones, sponges, sea horses and fish species in their natural habitat.

Please request this at time of booking.

Please note: If you choose a visit to the Milford Discovery Centre you will return to the Milford wharf by water taxi approximately 30 minutes later than the scheduled cruise return.


What is the difference between Milford and Doubtful Sounds?
Milford Sound at the mountainous north end of Fiordland National Park is the classic fiord. A deep water inlet between steep sided high mountains. Milford Sound is a middle sized fiord at around 13 kms in length and it is famous for its dramatic scenery, especially Mitre Peak.  This fiord is the most accessible of Fiordland National Park’s 14 fiords and it can be reached by road or by flight connections from Queenstown.

Doubtful Sound is located in the heart of Fiordland National Park where the mountains are still very impressive but not as high as Milford Sound. Doubtful Sound is three times longer and has a sea surface area roughly ten times larger than Milford Sound.  Its three arms are Hall, Crooked and First Arm.  It is famous for its wilderness scenery and wildlife sightings.  To travel to Doubtful Sound visitors first take a launch trip across Lake Manapouri and coach over Wilmot Pass.

How long does it take to travel to Milford?
If you are travelling from Queenstown it will take around 5hrs to reach Milford.  Te Anau to Milford is around 2hrs 20mins.  This timing allows for stops along the way for photos or short walks to places of interest.  If driving make sure you fill your vehicle with petrol in Te Anau before travelling to Milford (there are no petrol stations at Milford Sound or en route).

What are the road conditions to Milford like in the winter?
Driving conditions during winter (May to September) can be difficult.  Extreme care is needed as freezing temperatures mean the road can ice over in shaded places.  During the winter it is mandatory to carry snow chains in your vehicle as the road can sometimes be covered in snow.  These are available for hire from petrol stations in Te Anau and Queenstown. If you are not confident about driving in winter conditions then take a Real Journeys coach to Milford Sound and relax and enjoy the stunning scenery.

Where do you park and check in at Milford?
There is a large car park at Milford Sound.  You will need to allow around 10 minutes to walk from the car park to the Visitor Terminal where you check in for your cruise.  Check in is required 20 minutes prior to departure. See our map of Milford Sound.

Is there secure luggage storage at Milford Sound?
There is a limited amount of luggage storage available so customers who are walking the Milford Track are able to store their luggage safely.

What happens if the weather changes and we can’t fly out from Milford?
Your travel agent or the outlet where you purchased your Milford Sound trip will refund the flight component of your ticket.  You will return to Queenstown by coach.


What is the difference between a sound and a fiord?
A fiord is a glaciated valley - Typically narrow and steep-sided, that has been flooded by the sea after the glacier’s retreat.  A sound, on the other hand, is a river valley flooded by the sea following a rise in sea levels or depression of the land, or a combination of both.

Is it worth going to Milford or Doubtful Sound on a wet day?
Many say you have not seen Fiordland unless you have seen it in the rain.  When it rains in Fiordland the landscape is dramatic. Rock faces stream with waterfalls, mist hangs around the tops of the mountains and rivers and streams rage.  From a dry comfortable vantage point on board the coach or vessel this landscape is spectacular.

Do you pick up from local accommodation in Queenstown or Te Anau?
If you have booked a coach and cruise to Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound our coaches pick up from most accommodation in Queenstown and Te Anau.  When booking either from our website or directly with our staff, please let us know if you want to be picked up from your accommodation or from our Visitor Centre.

How likely are we to see wildlife in Fiordland?
While we cannot guarantee you will see wildlife, sightings of fur seals are reasonably common in both Doubtful and Milford Sounds.  A pod of bottlenose dolphins resides in Doubtful Sound so you have a good chance of seeing these fascinating mammals, and in Milford Sound dolphins are occasional visitors.  In both sounds the rare Fiordland crested penguin can at times be observed.

Are the vessels licensed to sell alcohol?
Alcohol is available on all our excursions. 

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