Milford Sound in New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park is a stunning natural attraction.

This massive water inlet (also known as fiord) has mountain peaks, ink-dark waters, greenery-clad cliffs, and the best of wildlife.

Almost all visitors take the 2-hour long Milford Sound cruise.

Some make it an even grander affair by reaching Milford Sound by helicopter to enjoy aerial views as well.

In this article, we share everything you must know before booking your helicopter tour to Milford Sound.

1. What to see at Milford Sound
2. Milford Sound Cruise
3. Helicopter tours from Queenstown
4. Helicopter tours from Wanaka

Milford Sound highlights

This natural attraction has lots of things to see. Check out the map below.

Download Print Version / Map Courtesy: Milford-sound.co.nz

Here are a few things you must keep an eye out for – 

Lady Bowen Falls

Lady Bowen Falls in Milford Sound. Image: Southlandnz.com

At 162 meters (531 feet), Lady Bowen Falls is the tallest waterfall in Milford Sound. All the houses and businesses in the area get their electricity and water from Lady Bowen falls.

The three other waterfalls not to miss are the Fairy Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Stirling Falls. 

Sinbad Gully

Sinbad Gully in Milford Sound. Image: Southerndiscoveries.co.nz

Sinbad Gully is a U-shaped valley formed by the slopes of the mountains surrounding Milford Sound. 

Mitre Peak

Mitre Peak rises to a height of 1.7 kms (more than a mile). Image: Wikipedia

Mitre Peak rises 1692 meters (5555 feet) and is the most iconic sight of Milford Sound.

It gets its name from its shape – a Bishop’s hat gets referred to as Mitre.

Seal Rock

Seals relaxing on the Seal Rock at Milford Sound. Image: Greatsights.co.nz

Most of Milford Sound’s coastline is made up of sheer vertical cliffs, except for Seal Rock.

It is a not-so-high large rock on which native New Zealand fur seals can climb and rest even as they bask in the sun.

The Lion

In the foreground you can see the Lion mountain at Milford Sound. Just behind it is the Elephant mountain. Image: Richard-seaman.com

Mt Kimberley at Milford Sound is also known as The Lion.

When you are in front of the mountain, you will understand why it got its nickname – the massive mountain resembles a crouching lion.


Back to Top


Milford Sound Cruise – what to expect

The best and only way to enjoy Milford Sound is by getting on a cruise.

To get a sense of the experience to expect during the Cruise, check out the video below – 


Back to Top


Best helicopter tours from Queenstown to Milford Sound

Tours to Milford Sound come in many flavors.

There are three parts to visiting Milford Sound and depending on your preference, each of them can be a different experience. 

Part 1: Going to Milford Sound

You can choose to go by road – and it is a beautiful drive – or you can opt for a helicopter or an airplane. We recommend the helicopter because you get stunning aerial views. 

Part 2: Activities at Milford Sound

You can choose to opt for tours, which include the 2-hour Milford Sound cruise. Or opt for a tour which only consists of a gourmet picnic at the attraction.

Part 3: Returning from Milford Sound

The return can be by a helicopter, airplane or road. If you return by a helicopter, your tour will also include a snow landing for ten minutes or so on one of the nearby mountains. 

Our recommendation: You must opt for a helicopter tour, which also includes a Milford Sound cruise and a snow landing during the return journey. 

Tickets for kids

While some of these tours are free for infants below three years, some of them charge highly discounted tickets.

Whatever be the case, on the ticket booking page, you must mention if you are traveling with kids below three years. 

Cancellations

For a full refund, you can cancel the recommended tour tickets at least 24 hours before the experience.

1. Helicopter tour + Milford Sound cruise + snow landing

This trip starts when you board a six-seater Airbus Squirrel helicopter and take off for Milford Sound, the most popular fiord in New Zealand.

Once you land on the famous fiord, you get onto a scenic cruise so that you can explore Milford’s sheer cliffs and gushing waterfalls. 

If you are lucky – and most visitors are – you will see dolphins, seals, and penguins.

Once the Cruise is over, you board the helicopter again for an aerial tour, followed by a snow landing on Mt. Tutoko.

After ten minutes, you take off again and return to Queenstown.

Departure: 35 Lucas Place, Frankton, Queenstown 9300, New Zealand (Google Map)

Duration: 4 hours
Tour Operator: Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters
Tour timings: 10 am, 12 noon, 2 pm

Cost of the helicopter tour

Adult ticket (12+ years): $710
*Child ticket (0 to 11 years): $498

*If your less than three years old kid will sit in your lap, they can join the tour for free. Don’t buy tickets for them.

See available dates & read reviews

*If you prefer to start your tour early, check out a very similar 4-hour Milford Sound helicopter tour offered by Over the Top, which begins at 7.15 am.  Find Out More

2. Plane to Milford Sound + Cruise + return by Helicopter + Snow landing

This trip starts with a jaw-dropping flight in an airplane above the postcard-perfect scenery of the South Island and Fjordland National Park.

The flight to in Milford Sound takes 40 minutes, after which you will board a boat to cruise among the scenic grandeur of the beautiful area.

Once the 2-hour boat excursion is over, you will reach Milford Sound Airstrip for the return helicopter ride to Queenstown. 

On the way, you will land in a scenic alpine location and spend ten minutes exploring.

If you prefer, you can purchase a picnic lunch for $21 per person.

Departure: 39 Lucas Place, Frankton, Queenstown 9300, New Zealand (Google Map)

Duration: 5 hours
Tour Operator: Milford Sound Scenic Flights
Tour timings: 8 am, 10 am

Cost of the helicopter tour

Adult ticket (15+ years): $675
Child ticket (4 to 14 years): $430
Infant ticket (0 to 3 years): $168

See available dates & read reviews

*You can upgrade the previous experience by adding a visit to the filming location of ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.’ With this upgrade, you also get a picnic lunch for free. Find Out More

3. Helicopter Tour from Queenstown and back

You fly in a helicopter and take in stunning views of the lush rainforest, bush-lined valleys, and crevasse-filled glaciers of Milford Sound.

Even as the Pilot gives a live commentary, he will touch down twice to help you feel the snow – once in Milford Sound and once in Tukuko Glacier. 

The Milford Sound cruise is not part of this experience.

Departure: 29 Lucas Place, Frankton, Queenstown 9348, New Zealand (Google Map)

Duration: 2 hours
Tour Operator: Helicopter Line
Tour timings: Once you book the tour, you can discuss the take-off time with the operator

Cost of the helicopter tour

Adult ticket (15+ years): $593
Child ticket (4 to 14 years): $415
Infant ticket (0 to 3 years): $296

See available dates & read reviews

Over the Top Limited offers a more exclusive heli tour over Milford Sound. It lasts 1 hour 30 minutes, and since its a private helicopter, you get to decide the time of taking off. Find Out More

4. Luxury coach to Milford Sound + Cruise + return by helicopter

This option is a 10-hour tour, which starts with a drive in a luxury coach alongside Lake Wakatipu. 

Then you move to Milford Road, aka Highway 94, making photo stops and take in fresh Alpine air.

Once you reach Milford Sound, you board the Milford Mariner or Milford Wanderer cruise boat and go the full length of Milford Sound to the Tasman Sea. 

A local nature guide will provide live commentary even as you enjoy the fiord’s wildlife, waterfalls and mountains. Image: Myguidequeenstown.com

You may also get to see fur seals, bottlenose dolphins, and rare Fiordland penguins. 

After the 2-hour Cruise, you return to Queenstown by helicopter. Midway, you touch down on Donne Glacier and spend ten minutes in the snow.

Departure: 88 Beach Street, Queenstown 9300, New Zealand (Google Map)

Duration: 10 hours
Tour Operator: Real Journeys
Tour timings: 7.15 am

Cost of the helicopter tour

Adult ticket (15+ years): $707
Child ticket (4 to 14 years): $467
Infant ticket (0 to 3 years): Free

See available dates & read reviews

5. Helicopter to Milford Sound and back + Gourmet picnic

Ideal for a 4 to 5 member group, this is a Fiordland helicopter tour with a gourmet picnic landing thrown in. 

This luxury heli tour to Milford Sound comes with a once-in-a-lifetime gourmet picnic. Image: Queenstownnz.co.nz

You fly you past the snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps and experience several landings with time to stroll on a deserted beach as well.

Departure: The Blue Hanger, 10 Tex Smith Lane, Frankton, Queenstown 9371 (Google Map)

Duration: 4 hours
Tour Operator: Over the Top Limited
Tour timings: Since this is an exclusive experience, you decide the take-off time

Cost of the helicopter tour: $4970 per group of 5

See available dates & read reviews

Save time — see the best of Milford Sound in half a day by opting for round-trip flights and a scenic cruise. Find out more


Back to Top


Helicopter tour from Wanaka to Milford Sound

Wanaka is a small resort town around 70 Kms (44 Miles) from Queenstown.  

Some people travel the distance in 75 odd minutes and take their helicopter tours to Milford Sound from Queenstown, while others prefer to take them from Wanaka itself. 

You can avoid all the travel and save yourself at least three hours if you take your tour from Wanaka itself. 

Wanaka to Milford Sound tour

During this helicopter tour, you get to experience the beauty of Milford Sound both up close and from above.

Your pilot will land the helicopter on beaches and alpine crossings, so you get to spend time in the snow. 

Kids up to 14 years get a discount on this helicopter tour tickets. 

Departure: 2211 Wanaka-Mount Aspiring Road, Treble Cone 9381, New Zealand (Google Map)

Duration: 3 hours
Tour Operator: Aspiring Helicopters Ltd
Tour timings: 9 am

Cost of the helicopter tour

Adult ticket (15+ years): $994
Child ticket (4 to 14 years): $596
Infant ticket (0 to 3 years): Free

See available dates & read reviews

^Back to Top