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TOP Milford Sound Tours from Te Anau

How do you possibly make clear distinctions between all the options of Milford Sound Tours from Te Anau and Queenstown? Is it better to tour Milford Sound from Te Anau or Queenstown is the first dilemma, then choosing one of the many tour companies is the next.

In this article we assume that you have come to the realisation that touring Milford Sound from Te Anau is the best option, rather than a 13-hour day from Queenstown so now we will break down, in our humble opinion, some TOP Milford Sound tours from Te Anau that fall under each of a small group and large group tour type, as well as giving very clear advice about who each tour is best suited to.

Hang on... You are a tour operator though!

It would be fair to say "well you are a tour operator, you are just going to talk about yourselves!"

Of course it would be great if everyone chose to come on our Luxe Tours Milford Sound Day Tour but firstly that is simply not possible due to the fact we have limited spaces available each day and secondly - frankly our tour isn't suited to every single Milford Sound visitor.

Each of the tours we are going to talk about are our competitors in some way or another but they are each unique and different to us, so we can remove any bias to ourselves and just speak from the heart of what we have experienced with each of our top choices, as well as pulling from the internet what other people are saying.

If you really want to know how Luxe Tours fits into the conversation of the best Milford Sound Tours then scroll to our bonus section at the bottom of the article or you can read any of these that relate more to us:

How have we chosen these Top Milford Sound Tours?

We have taken into account several key factors when making a judgement of top Milford Sound Tours:

  • Our experience with the tour and the operator.

  • What is included in their tour experience.

  • Recent guest reviews & feedback from sources such as Google & TripAdvisor.

  • The level of safe driving we have witnessed on the Milford Road.

Trips & Tramps - Small Group Milford Sound Tour from Te Anau.

Trips and Tramps Milford Sound Tour

Who are Trips & Tramps?

Owned by local Te Anau couple Steve & Kate Norris, Trips & Tramps is a family run business with deep seated roots in the Te Anau community and a true love for Fiordland area. Absolute bonus!

We love tours that are local & family owned as they have a real desire to give guests a world class experience and promote not only the best parts of Fiordland - such as the famous 'Instagram' photo stops, but also parts of the area that are not so well known but often even more beautiful. Guests leave Te Anau understanding why it is such a special place, having avoided just being transported in as quick as possible and back out from Milford Sound.

The Milford Sound Tour

Trips & Tramps has a Milford Sound Tour that is on par with others in terms of the photo & nature stops you will go to (such as Mirror Lakes, Eglinton Valley and Monkey Creek), but they also offer tours where you can add in a small hike as part of the day tour. some of the possible small hike locations include:

  • Gertrude Valley.

  • Hollyford Valley.

  • Lake Gunn Nature Walk.

Their pricing for this is fair as part of a small group tour with an adult starting from $275 for the 2024/2025 summer season.

Trips & Tramps also offers these tours to Milford Sound fully private, meaning you and your group can privately enjoy each others company while having your own guide for the day. Prices for tours such as this start from $1025 per adult but don't be put off by the higher price, it becomes cheaper on average as more people are added.

Trips and Tramps Hiking Tour Milford Sound

A lot of Milford Sound Tours will just stick to their one offering of the daily trip into Milford, however Trips & Tramps has many other combination packages focusing on guided walks and some of these include:

Their guides are well trained, we actually have one doing a few hours for us here at Luxe and we have been impressed with her depth of knowledge, most of which has come from working for Trips & Tramps.

Trips and Tramps Hiking Tour Milford Sound

How do Trips & Tramps stack up?

Our Experience

Trips & Tramps drivers and guides are always friendly with our team in Milford Sound or on the Milford Road when we meet most days. Steven & Kate Norris, the owners, are heavily involved in their community and volunteer their time to several groups such as the famous Kepler Challenge Race.

Tour Inclusions

The Trips & Tramps Milford Sound Tour from Te Anau stops at all the photo & nature stops we would expect of a tour and they add in a short hike at an appropriate location depending on the days weather. You won't be missing out on any of the key photo locations by travelling with Trips & Tramps.

Guest Reviews

Trips and Tramps Milford Sound Reviews

Trips & Tramps reviews are very strong with their Google score averaging a 5-star across a total of 183. When we break down that average score, they have 179 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ reviews, three ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ reviews and one ⭐️⭐️⭐️ review with the latter appearing to be a false or fake review left which can happen. On TripAdvisor, Trips & Tramps has an impressive 5-star average with 1,157 reviews and only 46 of those being below a five.

Safe Driving

The Milford Road is a challenging stretch of road and at Luxe Tours we have a real focus on our own safe driving to give our guests a good experience not just outside in nature but in the confines of a vehicle also.

Trips & Tramps drivers, from what we have witnessed, are cautious in the key areas on the road such as sections of slow, winding bends past Lake Gunn, between Monkey Creek & the Homer Tunnel and also through the Cleddau Valley to Milford Sound.

We have been passed once by a Trips & Tramps van but this was on a stretch of straight road with no blind corners and was within the speed limit.

Who is a Trips & Tramps Tour BEST suited to?

  • Any traveller wishing to do an affordable Milford Sound Tour from Te Anau in a comfortable van such as a Mercedes Sprinter.

  • Those who wish to do a short hike (30 - 60mins) as part of that tour.

  • Those wishing to travel in smaller groups (up to 15) in more private vehicles and away from the large crowds.

  • Any travellers wishing to do a fully private tour to Milford Sound and are able to spend the extra money to do so.

  • Those travellers who are looking for hiking track packages, heli-hikes and expert Fiordland hiking guides.

Who is a Trips & Tramps Tour NOT suited to?

  • Travellers looking for a premium small group Milford Sound focused tour that includes extras such as full leather seating, visual entertainment in the van, special guest amenities such as onboard snacks (although a lunch is included and tea/coffee on the cruise).

  • Travellers who simply want to drive straight to Milford Sound without many stops or a few small hikes.

RealNZ - Large Milford Sound Coach Tour from Te Anau

Who are RealNZ?

RealNZ are a big player in the Fiordland Tourism scene with tours operating in Doubtful Sound, Te Anau, Milford Sound, Queenstown, Stewart Island and even two ski-fields near Wanaka and Queenstown.

RealNZ Owners Les and Olive Hutchins

They are a family owned business with the children & grandchildren of original founders Les and Olive Hutchins still involved. Les and Olive purchased the Manapouri-Doubtful Sound Tourist Company in 1954, taking tourists into Doubtful Sound, It was their first tour and remains among RealNZ's most popular.

RealNZ has been known as several other names including Fiordland Travel, Wayfare and most commonly between 2002 and 2021 as Real Journeys. It has since repositioned itself to a 'conservation company, enabled by tourism'.

The Milford Sound Tour

RealNZ operate several Milford Sound Tours daily from both Te Anau and Queenstown but our focus is on their tour from the gateway to Milford Sound, Te Anau.

They have three tours daily from Te Anau to Milford Sound in the 2024/2025 summer season with departures at 7:45am, 9:50am and 10:10am that all connect to different cruises in Milford itself. The are also the cruise operator so you will flow from their large bus experience, onto their cruise boats.

RealNZ Milford Sound Day Tour

RealNZ operate large coaches of around 45 people and most of their fleet going to Milford Sound have glass-top roofs. Their prices for the 2024/2025 season start from $230 per adult and $135 per child.

Their tour does not stop at as many photo/nature locations compared to the likes of a small group tour, simply because large coaches cannot access some tighter locations for parking however they do take in most of the main stops you would find being recommended to you on the internet such as:

  • Eglinton Valley

  • Mirror Lakes

  • Knobs Flat Toilets

  • Monkey Creek

  • Cleddau Valley Lookout

One aspect we really like about RealNZ is their growing conservation efforts in the Fiordland & Queenstown area. They have a dedicated team around these efforts, with the first Chief Conservation Officer that New Zealand tourism has seen, who leads this team.

RealNZ Earnslaw

Two key areas of focus are carbon reduction and responsible consumption. Examples include:

  • Removing all PET consumables, such as plastic bottles, cutlery and even throw away plastic boarding passes, from operations.

  • Investing in electric vehicles with research underway to eventually incorporate into their coach fleet.

RealNZ is involved with key projects of restoring land or creating predator free islands such as Cooper Island in Dusky Sound, or the land surrounding Walter Peak near one of RealNZ's flagship tours from the Earnslaw Steamship.

How does RealNZ stack up?

Our Experience

RealNZ has always been a large operator in Fiordland and in especially Te Anau with several other tours being based out of here such as the Te Anau Glowworm Caves & Doubtful Sound Tours.

We use one of the RealNZ Milford Sound Cruises each day as part of our Milford Sound Tour and they have been professional to work with.

They have had their ups and downs with how they operate their business, with a slight rough patch over the 2020 - 2021 period, bestowed upon them by almost all tourism being lost due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However under new management and a renewed & energised input by family members on the board, RealNZ is delivering a quality large group tour experience, while increasing its efforts from a conservation & community support standpoint.

RealNZ Milford Sound Cruise

We have been on their tour and it is comfortable, well commentated with friendly & generally experienced drivers. Their cruises in Milford Sound are all two hours long, making them the longest out of all the cruise operators.

Tour Inclusions

You won't find some of the extras on a large group tour that you will on a small group tour such as snacks onboard or lunch inclusions, however with RealNZ these can be added on during the cruise part of the day.

The glass roof of their coaches is a nice point, the seats are comfortable and for some travellers - the feeling of safety in a very large bus, high above the road, is a bonus.

The tour includes most of the very well known photo stop locations.

RealNZ Milford Sound Cruise

Guest Reviews

It is difficult to extract the specific reviews for a 'Milford Sound Tour from Te Anau' on Google however from a more general view, RealNZ Milford Sound currently has 1,741 reviews and averages a 4.7-Star rating.

On TripAdvisor, they have 2,497 reviews which is broken down as follows:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ - 1,851

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ - 436

⭐️⭐️⭐️ - 110

⭐️⭐️ - 53

⭐️ - 47

Safe Driving

This is one of the main highlights of RealNZ that factored into our decision - we have witnessed very safe driving from RealNZ drivers on the Milford Road. We have often been behind a RealNZ coach on the return journey from Milford Sound and their drivers are well in their lane, cautious round tight corners and stick to the 90km/h speed limit for buses.

Who is a RealNZ Tour BEST suited to?

  • Those preferring a larger group experience on a big bus/coach.

  • Those looking to pay less money to visit Milford Sound.

  • Looking to tour with a company with widespread conservation & community links.

  • Those concerned with unsafe driving on the Milford Road.

Who is a RealNZ Tour NOT suited to?

  • Not keen on being with larger crowds of travellers.

  • Looking for a more personal guide/guest relationship.

  • Wishing to see 'off the beaten track' locations such as unique waterfalls or short nature walks.

Bonus: Luxe Tours Milford Sound Tour from Te Anau

Our Experience

Toby and Katelyn Pascoe, Luxe Tours NZ

Luxe Tours is owned by Katelyn & Toby Pascoe, locals in Te Anau and the Fiordland area. It is a pure family business with no outside shareholders. Luxe Tours ran its first tour to Milford Sound on February 5th 2024.

Luxe has built relationships with other local boutique suppliers such as the Milford Road Merchant Cafe (a local & family owned cafe) and Milford Helicopters (a local & family owned helicopter business).

Luxe Tours Coach, Luxe Tours NZ

It operates a luxurious and comfortable 12-seater Mercedes Sprinter small group coach that is limited to 9-guests and in late 2024 will introduce a 14-guest larger Mercedes with extended leg room & other new features.

Luxe Tours has a focus on being a sustainable tour through efforts such as:

  • All packaging such as drink bottles, plastic and paper packaging being 100% compostable.

  • A full composting system at the Luxe Tours office that 95% of waste goes into and is broken down.

  • Planting a native tree on behalf of every guest to offset the tours carbon emissions.

  • Collecting guest donations for the Kea Conservation Trust.

Tour Inclusions

The guest experience is at the forefront with a focus on incredible service and functional, helpful guest amenities such as:

  • A plant based plastic reusable drink bottle per guest.

  • Gel hand warmers for the colder months.

  • Onboard information guides & maps.

  • Umbrellas & waterproof jackets if needed.

  • Morning cafe muffin snack.

  • Other onboard treats.

Luxe Tours Milford Sound Tour from Te Anau stops at up to 11-photo/nature/rest stops with at least four of those being 'off the beaten track' such as our much loved short 20-min return nature walk to the Marian Waterfalls.

Lunch in the onboard cruise restaurant can be added onto any Milford Sound tour with meals such as Fish & Chips, Lamb Koftas and Fiordland Sharing Platters.

Luxe Tours Milford Sound Coach

Guest Reviews

Luxe Tours Milford Sound Reviews

Luxe Tours currently has a total of 178 reviews from three months of operation of which 100% are 5-star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.

Luxe Tours is now the highest average rated tour travelling to Milford Sound from either Te Anau or Queenstown.

Safe Driving

Luxe prides itself on safe & comfortable driving. We often pull over to allow other tour vehicles to pass us instead of having them try to undertake passes under pressure.

Our guides/drivers are paid a modest bonus for maintaining a 5-star review of their driving from guests, ensuring there is an incentive for providing world class service, care & safe driving.

Who is Luxe Tours BEST suited to?

  • Looking for an overall premium experience and have a reasonable budget of $249 - $310 for an adult.

  • Anybody looking for a very relaxed, comfortable day trip to Milford Sound in a higher spec small group coach with the likes of leather seats, USB charging etc.

  • Looking to include a short 20min return nature walk with waterfalls (Marian Falls or The Chasm).

  • Wants to get off the beaten track and see more unique locations.

  • Wishes to support a more family orientated business with local guides.

Who is Luxe Tours NOT suited to?

  • Travellers looking for the most affordable or budget friendly Milford Sound tour option.

  • Those who prefer travelling with more people and don't want a more personal relationship with their guide.

  • Those looking for a quick tour, straight into Milford Sound, cruise and then out again. Luxe Tours Milford Sound Day Trip is 9-hours in total.

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