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Milford Sound, New Zealand

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Milford Sound is a classic example of how a picture is worth a thousand words, and yet Milford Sound is notoriously hard to photograph so pictures rarely do it justice. Nestled in the World Heritage Fiordland National Park, Milford Sound has been described as one of the Natural Wonders of the World. Discover the beautiful scenery of this famous fiord, including the awe-inspiring Mitre Peak and stunning waterfalls that crash down into the serene waters. Wildlife such as dolphins, seals and penguins are often seen in their natural environment.

DISCOVER THE MILFORD TRACK

 

 

All you really need to know about Milford Sound

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1. If it’s not on your bucket list, it should be.
Milford Sound is one of those places that seems to always make it on “Places You Have to See Before You Die” type lists. In fact, it was judged the world’s top travel destination in an international survey in 2008 (Traveler’s Choice World Destination Awards, Trip Advisor). If you need more convincing, Milford Sound is in a World Heritage Area – a combination of Fiordland National Park, Piopiotahi Marine Reserve and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Site. That means a lot of people (not just us) think it’s a pretty cool place worth preserving. And finally, if that’s not enough, Rudyard Kipling himself called it the eighth wonder of the world!

2. Milford Sound is actually a fiord, not a ‘sound’.
Geologically speaking, a “sound” is a large ocean inlet, larger than a bay, deeper than a bight and generally wider than a fiord. A fiord is a land feature cut by ancient glaciers. So if you want to get technical, Milford is really a fiord, rather than a sound, but it’s not hard to see how its discoverer, John Stokes, made that mistake when he named it. Thanks to a handful of intrepid explorers, including William Homer, Quintin McKinnon and Donald Sutherland (not the actor!), Milford Sound (known to the Maori as Piopiotahi) quickly became a famous tourist destination in the 19th Century and Stokes’ name stuck.

3. Bring plenty of insect repellant. Trust me – it’s no accident one of the most stunning places on earth is hardly inhabited, by people that is. For some reason, locally brewed insect repellant seems to work better on the sandflies, and there are lots of non-DEET natural alternatives available to try – but bring some of the maximum strength type as well, just in case. 

Milford Sound Cruise
The most popular way to see Milford Sound is on one of the many Milford Sound cruises. If you’re looking for a relaxed way to snap some photos, there are a number of Milford Sound cruises you can hop on to get up close to some of the waterfalls around the fiord.

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Alternatives to a Milford Sound Cruise: Kayaking and Hiking the Milford Track
When you visit Milford Sound, one of the best ways to take in the colossal scale of the place is from a Sea Kayak (which is what you’d be doing on our Rimu, Tui and Winter Rimu trips). Check out our Sea Kayaking Milford Sound page to see what it entails. For the not-so-fainthearted, Milford Sound is also an epic climbing, mountaineering and base-jumping hotspot thanks to the enormous sheer granite cliffs.

Of course, the other way to discover Milford Sound, Sutherland Falls and some of the impressive surrounding scenery is via the Milford Track. This famous track starts across the lake from Te Anau and finishes at Sandy Point four days later where you’ll board an afternoon boat to the Milford marina, offering a welcome rest to weary legs.

Wildlife in Milford Sound
One could be forgiven for thinking it’s just the awe-inspiring cliffs like Mitre Peak that attract the visitors every year, but there’s also an abundance of wildlife and some ecological gems to be discovered. If you take a cruise or jump in a kayak, there’s a fair chance you’ll see some New Zealand fur seals, a local pod of bottlenose dolphins and even the Fiordland Crested Penguin (‘Tawaki’ in Maori), which is one of the rarest penguins in the world, and dusky dolphins.

If you’re a keen diver, you can explore the deep sea corals that abound the area (with a thick wetsuit). A surface layer of fresh water darkened by plant matter from the surrounding rainforest allows these corals to grow in much shallower water than usual. Milford Sound has a unique underwater observatory to view these corals while staying dry.
 
Where is everyone?
Now that we’ve painted a picture, it’s appropriate to explain why Milford Sound is not (yet) a tourist highway. As history shows, it wasn’t a particularly easy place to find in the first place and still isn’t particularly easy to get to now. In fact, when Captain James Cook sailed by in 1770, he didn’t even spot the entrance to the fiord. Nowadays, you have to be a somewhat dedicated traveler to take the 4-5 hour drive each way from Queenstown (although on our trips we take this into consideration when we design our itineraries and make the most of other attractions in the area, just so you know). There are, of course, the sandflies we’ve mentioned. It’s also a bit of a gamble with the weather; Fiordland is luscious and green because it gets nearly 7 metres (over 20 feet) of rain every year! Don’t worry about trying to choose a cloudless day though because when the rain and wind is lashing at you sideways and all around you hundreds of waterfalls are miraculously appearing from almost every cliff top, it’s the not such a bad thing. In fact, the word ‘spectacular’ doesn’t really do it justice.

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  • Milford Hiking Adventure - Manuka

    14 Days  | 

    South Island  | 

    US$6399 + tax

    ACTIVE 2 - 3
    • ACTIVE 1

      What's The Rush?

      I’m not a triathlete, but I’m in decent shape and I’m not looking to experience a place just through a bus window. I’m happy to slow down on the trail, soak it in and breathe in the fresh air.


    • ACTIVE 2

      Leg Stretcher

      Sure, I own some hiking boots, they’re even worn in, but they don’t go on long trips. I like my creature comforts and I like to give a range of activities a go.


    • ACTIVE 3

      Earn Your Lunch

      I stay active on vacation so that I can eat and drink what I like without feeling guilty. I season my trips with a little fresh exercise.


    • ACTIVE 4

      Challenge Accepted

      I’ll let my trusty guides sweat the small things, so I can focus on my goal. Getting to the top, reaching the end, achieving my dreams! Sure, it’ll be tough, but the views will be worth it.


    • ACTIVE 5

      The Ultimate

      I’ve put in the hard yards and now I get to reap the rewards. I’m a seasoned adventurer, not afraid to get my boots wet.


    • Read more about the Active Range

    4.44 out of 5 (from 939 reviews)

    On this two week hiking adventure you’ll discover some of New Zealand’s Great Walks as well as lesser known hikes such as the Inland Pack Track on the wild West Coast.


  • Ultimate South Island Adventure - Rimu

    14 Days  | 

    South Island  | 

    US$5499 + tax

    ACTIVE 3 - 4
    • ACTIVE 1

      What's The Rush?

      I’m not a triathlete, but I’m in decent shape and I’m not looking to experience a place just through a bus window. I’m happy to slow down on the trail, soak it in and breathe in the fresh air.


    • ACTIVE 2

      Leg Stretcher

      Sure, I own some hiking boots, they’re even worn in, but they don’t go on long trips. I like my creature comforts and I like to give a range of activities a go.


    • ACTIVE 3

      Earn Your Lunch

      I stay active on vacation so that I can eat and drink what I like without feeling guilty. I season my trips with a little fresh exercise.


    • ACTIVE 4

      Challenge Accepted

      I’ll let my trusty guides sweat the small things, so I can focus on my goal. Getting to the top, reaching the end, achieving my dreams! Sure, it’ll be tough, but the views will be worth it.


    • ACTIVE 5

      The Ultimate

      I’ve put in the hard yards and now I get to reap the rewards. I’m a seasoned adventurer, not afraid to get my boots wet.


    • Read more about the Active Range

    4.53 out of 5 (from 5044 reviews)

    We'll take you on an unforgettable journey exploring our mountains, coastlines and countryside, on foot, by bike and with a paddle in your hands. Experience our unique culture and wildlife along the way.


  • Essence of the South Island - Tui

    8 Days  | 

    South Island  | 

    US$3999 + tax

    ACTIVE 3 - 4
    • ACTIVE 1

      What's The Rush?

      I’m not a triathlete, but I’m in decent shape and I’m not looking to experience a place just through a bus window. I’m happy to slow down on the trail, soak it in and breathe in the fresh air.


    • ACTIVE 2

      Leg Stretcher

      Sure, I own some hiking boots, they’re even worn in, but they don’t go on long trips. I like my creature comforts and I like to give a range of activities a go.


    • ACTIVE 3

      Earn Your Lunch

      I stay active on vacation so that I can eat and drink what I like without feeling guilty. I season my trips with a little fresh exercise.


    • ACTIVE 4

      Challenge Accepted

      I’ll let my trusty guides sweat the small things, so I can focus on my goal. Getting to the top, reaching the end, achieving my dreams! Sure, it’ll be tough, but the views will be worth it.


    • ACTIVE 5

      The Ultimate

      I’ve put in the hard yards and now I get to reap the rewards. I’m a seasoned adventurer, not afraid to get my boots wet.


    • Read more about the Active Range

    4.60 out of 5 (from 1935 reviews)

    Short on time? On this adventure you’ll hike, bike, kayak, cruise and jet boat in some extraordinary parts of the South Island. You can combine this with our 5-day 'Kauri' to see both Islands in two weeks.


  • South Island Explorer - Kiwi

    14 Days  | 

    South Island  | 

    US$5799 + tax

    ACTIVE 1 - 2
    • ACTIVE 1

      What's The Rush?

      I’m not a triathlete, but I’m in decent shape and I’m not looking to experience a place just through a bus window. I’m happy to slow down on the trail, soak it in and breathe in the fresh air.


    • ACTIVE 2

      Leg Stretcher

      Sure, I own some hiking boots, they’re even worn in, but they don’t go on long trips. I like my creature comforts and I like to give a range of activities a go.


    • ACTIVE 3

      Earn Your Lunch

      I stay active on vacation so that I can eat and drink what I like without feeling guilty. I season my trips with a little fresh exercise.


    • ACTIVE 4

      Challenge Accepted

      I’ll let my trusty guides sweat the small things, so I can focus on my goal. Getting to the top, reaching the end, achieving my dreams! Sure, it’ll be tough, but the views will be worth it.


    • ACTIVE 5

      The Ultimate

      I’ve put in the hard yards and now I get to reap the rewards. I’m a seasoned adventurer, not afraid to get my boots wet.


    • Read more about the Active Range

    4.71 out of 5 (from 290 reviews)

    Walk on some of our iconic New Zealand trails and take a cruise at Milford Sound. A great tour for those looking to take things at a relaxed pace.


  • New Zealand Winter Adventure - Winter Rimu

    14 Days  | 

    South Island  | 

    US$4599 + tax

    ACTIVE 4
    • ACTIVE 1

      What's The Rush?

      I’m not a triathlete, but I’m in decent shape and I’m not looking to experience a place just through a bus window. I’m happy to slow down on the trail, soak it in and breathe in the fresh air.


    • ACTIVE 2

      Leg Stretcher

      Sure, I own some hiking boots, they’re even worn in, but they don’t go on long trips. I like my creature comforts and I like to give a range of activities a go.


    • ACTIVE 3

      Earn Your Lunch

      I stay active on vacation so that I can eat and drink what I like without feeling guilty. I season my trips with a little fresh exercise.


    • ACTIVE 4

      Challenge Accepted

      I’ll let my trusty guides sweat the small things, so I can focus on my goal. Getting to the top, reaching the end, achieving my dreams! Sure, it’ll be tough, but the views will be worth it.


    • ACTIVE 5

      The Ultimate

      I’ve put in the hard yards and now I get to reap the rewards. I’m a seasoned adventurer, not afraid to get my boots wet.


    • Read more about the Active Range

    4.64 out of 5 (from 565 reviews)

    Visit New Zealand from May to September to hike quiet trails under crisp blue skies. You’ll be surrounded by stunning snow-clad mountains on this multi-sport adventure.

 

  • Great Walks Discovery - Takahe

    5 Days  | 

    South Island  | 

    US$2999 + tax

    ACTIVE 3
    • ACTIVE 1

      What's The Rush?

      I’m not a triathlete, but I’m in decent shape and I’m not looking to experience a place just through a bus window. I’m happy to slow down on the trail, soak it in and breathe in the fresh air.


    • ACTIVE 2

      Leg Stretcher

      Sure, I own some hiking boots, they’re even worn in, but they don’t go on long trips. I like my creature comforts and I like to give a range of activities a go.


    • ACTIVE 3

      Earn Your Lunch

      I stay active on vacation so that I can eat and drink what I like without feeling guilty. I season my trips with a little fresh exercise.


    • ACTIVE 4

      Challenge Accepted

      I’ll let my trusty guides sweat the small things, so I can focus on my goal. Getting to the top, reaching the end, achieving my dreams! Sure, it’ll be tough, but the views will be worth it.


    • ACTIVE 5

      The Ultimate

      I’ve put in the hard yards and now I get to reap the rewards. I’m a seasoned adventurer, not afraid to get my boots wet.


    • Read more about the Active Range

    4.43 out of 5 (from 891 reviews)

    If you're short on time and you'd like to experience some of New Zealand's Great Walks, this is the trip for you.

Trip Reviews

  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16212 reviews)

    Exceeded my Expectations. A Trip to Treasure.

    Active adventures provided an outstanding New Zealand experience. Our guides (Tory and Jordie) went above and beyond during our South Island Rimu trip. Their passion for the outdoors as well as the traditions and culture of NZ enhanced the two week journey. As guides, I was most impressed by their attention to detail and safety. I appreciated the warm smiles, gems of knowledge and yummy meals on even the challenging hike days. For my birthday, during the three day hike at Nelson Lakes National Park, Tory and Jordie surprised me with two delicious cakes to share with my new hiking family. A moment I will treasure, enhanced by the breath taking views of the alpine lake at Angelus Hut.

    The beauty of the country surpassed my expectations, particularly sites like Milford Sound and Mt. Cook. Such a diverse, lush landscape, each hike offered a unique perspective of the stunning views. Combined with the kayaking and biking options, allowed for an exciting and interesting mix. The highlight of my two weeks was my heli-hike on the Tasman Glacier, such an unforgettable experience.

    I'm looking forward to future Active Adventure trips, but will definitely keep a little piece of NZ in my heart. A truly bucket list destination.


    Gigi (from The Bahamas)
    Gigi Smith Review Image
    – West Virginia, United States
    Rimu, July 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16212 reviews)

    South Island Rimu Trip

    My South Island trip was outstanding, even with the cyclone that came ashore on the second day! The itinerary needed to be changed because of all the washed out roads to places that we were suppose to venture to. Our guides, Jackie and Carrie, came up with new plans that were great. A mark of a good company is when they can handle unexpected events, such as a cyclone, and still provide their guest with a trip of a life time. Thank you A.A. for a great and safe trip!
    Pete Orefice Review Image
    – Connecticut, United States
    Rimu, February 2018
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16212 reviews)

    Even Cyclone Cook couldn't dampen our fun

    I hopped onto the last half of the Kauri after two weeks on the South Island in the Rimu adventure. It just so happened that we had a cyclone hit the island that week, so everything was very wet, to say the least. But everything still worked out okay! We still did lots of hiking in the rain, which was fun in itself. The views were not the same as they would be on a clear day, but different doesn't mean bad. They were unique, and there were a lot of rainbows thanks to the water. We even did the mountain biking in the downpour, which was hilariously muddy and still a lot of fun. Overall, the people were good, the guides were excellent, the food was fantastic, and the trip was terrific.
    Janine Carbone Review Image
    – New Hampshire, United States
    Kauri, April 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16212 reviews)

    2017 Manuka Trip with Claire and Jess

    Awesome trip.....
    New Zealand is a beautiful country with plenty of great hikes and sights to see. Jess and Claire were fantastic guides. Would go again in a heartbeat!
    Paul Scopa Review Image
    – Massachusetts, United States
    Manuka, March 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16212 reviews)

    Tui in February

    I combined Kauri with Tui and it was the perfect blend to see both Islands in New Zealand. My Tui experience was terrific. It certainly was an active adventure!
    Andrea King Review Image
    – Connecticut, United States
    Tui, March 2017

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Why travel with Active Adventures?

Above all, we aim to be amazing hosts. We're proud of our kiwi roots, and our professional, warm and relaxed style of running trips around the world is unforgettable.

We're VERY picky about who we select to work in our team, and we have people from all over the world lining up to guide our trips. So we get to hire the absolute BEST in the business.

As soon as you get off the plane, we've got all the details of your vacation covered – top notch meals, comfortable transport & accommodation, amazing guides and INCREDIBLE service.

Whether you’re new to adventure travel, or you’ve never travelled in a group before, you’ll find yourself arriving home positively different from when you left.

With our small groups (no more than 14), you'll get to know our team, your fellow travellers, and have the flexibility and freedom to do as much (or as little!) as you like.

It's all about getting there under your own steam – on foot, in a sea kayak, or by bike. What better way is there to experience mind blowing scenery? If it's your first time, no worries – our expert guides have got you covered.

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