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Guest Review: Our Luxe Tours Milford Sound Tour

Having previously worked as a travel agent (Frances) and a national park ranger (Russell), Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park in New Zealand had been on our bucket list for a while. We both understood that Milford Sound was an iconic location in the South Island, but we never could have imagined how much this beautiful part of the world would captivate us and leave us with a new favourite word - "wow!"

Frances & Russell Watson.

Luxe Tours Reviews

Russell Watson & Frances McGrouther, from Australia, travelled with Luxe Tours on the Milford Sound Day Tour in March 2024 and reported this review. They were not paid or enticed to provide it. We thank them for their kindness, time & effort in doing so.

Choosing Luxe Tours for our Milford Sound Tour

We initially encountered an advertisement for Luxe Tours on Facebook alongside some of their articles they had written to provide helpful information on travelling to Milford Sound. After further investigation into Luxe Tours and learning that the founders & owners of the tour were locals in Te Anau (the gateway to Milford Sound), we decided on booking their Milford Sound Tour.

We learnt that Luxe Tours was very new at the time and while some may have been nervous to book, we were very keen to do a small group tour experience to Milford Sound instead of going on a larger bus and we certainly weren't disapointed in the result. We could see that the owners and guides had experience in the area and they aimed to get guests off the beaten track and see some unique local locations.

The booking process was stress-free on their website. We had the option to add meals to enjoy on the cruise in Milford Sound itself, which we did, and any queries we had were quickly answered by Katelyn, one of the owners but also the Guest Experience Manager at Luxe.

The Luxe Tour Coach Experience

We were quite excited for the arrival of the tour coach on the morning of our tour and right on time it appeared outside our accommodation in Te Anau. Luxe departs first from the Milford Road Merchant, a very boutique cafe on the edge of the Te Anau township. Then they do pickups around town which only takes about 10-mins, before heading out onto the Milford Road.

Our guide Toby greeted us outside the tour coach with a smile and welcomed us onboard. Toby is also one of the owners, along with his wife Katelyn, of Luxe Tours and straight away we felt in safe hands. The new and comfortable coach had 11 leather passenger seats but only nine guests onboard with us included and Toby informed everyone that they limit their numbers to nine so that couples can sit together and everyone has plenty of space.

The legroom was surprisingly better than expected as they have designed their seating so that your legs can extend further under the row of seats in front of you. Because of the limiting of numbers, we had a row of seats to ourselves and were guaranteed a window seat each for the whole day.

Luxe Tours Coach Bus

Something that wasn't advertised online when we booked was just the amount of extra guest surprises on the tour coach. We were met with a plant-based reusable drink bottle on the seat, full of chilled water (a nice addition for the warm day we had) and Toby explained that these were ours to keep and fully recyclable.

There was also a fresh towel on the seat and a small packet of lollies with a very cute charging battery symbol on it - a little energy boost for later on in the day or for chewing as we dropped from the high elevation of the mountains.

These amenities were a pleasant addition to the experience and not something we expected from a day tour or have experienced before anywhere else.

The leather seats were comfortable, a lovely wooden floor that Toby kept tidy throughout the day and the nice addition of ambient lighting throughout, all of which gave us a very relaxing journey.

The Luxe Milford Sound Tour Experience

As we departed Te Anau, Toby gave his safety briefing and then we were into it, driving alongside Lake Te Anau for the first 30-mins, before turning off in towards Fiordland National Park and the mountains. We enjoyed hearing Toby's stories of the area, all the local knowledge he had was special as you could hear and see his love for the area.

Toby had 11 photo locations & nature stops planned for the day and everywhere we stopped, when we stopped and how long we stopped for was just perfect. We watched as other tours that left at a similar time to us got ahead of us as their stop times were shorter or didn't do as many stops, whereas we never felt rushed and were able to fully appreciate every location. This was particularly important for us as Russell is an a keen photographer and Toby understood that photography takes time.

One thing I noticed is that we were never around large crowds of tourists and we certainly didn't feel like tourists ourselves, rather as Toby put it - "travellers". If there were a lot of people at one stop, Toby would simply change the order of things and adapt to what was happening.

Driving through into Fiordland National Park was not something we were ready for emotionally. Initially I was very curious, interested to see for myself what the area was really like beyond all of the advertising material you see online. Was it really as clean, green and pure as it is made out to be? Was it really stunningly beautiful as even Luxe Tours has promoted a lot.

Well it was more than all of this.

As the day progressed and we moved up the Milford Road towards Milford Sound, this curiosity changed to amazement and awe, experiencing those "wow moments" at each twist and turn of the road.

It became apparent to us that our choice to take a guided tour was the best decision we could have made. Luxe Tours took us to spots that were hidden, or off the beaten track of the Milford Road. At times we were completely alone in the middle of nowhere, just surrounded by steep mountains, a clear blue river and the sounds of birds in the distance. It was truly magical.

Marian Falls with Luxe Tours

One of the highlights was Marian Falls, a 20-min return nature walk Toby took us on to get to some beautiful waterfall in the middle of the rainforest. Again, we were given time to just take it in, as well of photos of course. It was a completely different, contrasting experience to travelling down the main road through Fiordland where the scenery was more wide open vistas and majestic backdrops. The rainforest held its unique spell as we wandered in the rain, amongst fern and moss, feeling emersed in the green, listening to the water falling and tumbling around us.

Even though it was raining by this stage, Toby's positivity and saying "when it rains in Fiordland, learn how to dance", kept the spirits and energy high in the group.

Kea Parrot, Milford Sound, Luxe Tours NZ

One other experience was meeting a Kea Parrot, another dream of Russell's who loves to take photos of birds. You could see Toby constantly scanning the road and skies ahead to find one and finally we had our chance at the last photo stop of the day. We were then able to spend almost 15mins just watching and engaging with this beautiful large bird and its cheeky behaviour. Toby never rushed us away, even though we were heading back to Te Anau. Every guest appreciated this moment.

Milford Sound itself and a Beautiful Cruise!

Finally upon approaching Milford Sound we had another one of those "wow moments". It is truly breathtaking coming down a steep valley, dropping from about 1000m above sea level, into Milford Sound at sea level. The lollies were very helpful here!

Toby drove us right up to the cruise terminal so we didn't need to do a 10-min walk from the public carpark. He guided us into the terminal, explained everything we needed to know, handed out cruise tickets and showed us to the boat. His timing was perfect, enough time to use the bathroom and then go onto the boat and again avoiding large crowds of people gathered inside the terminal.

RealNZ Milford Haven Boat, Luxe Tours NZ

We boarded our cruise boat - the 'Milford Haven', a great sized, unique boat that was a bit more boutique than others we could see in the harbour. Toby explained it had capacity for 300 people, but they limited it to 150 and we certainly never felt crowded. There seemed to be hundreds pouring onto some of the other ones around us.

Luxe Tours had organised reserved seating on the boat in the best spot to see the scenery while we enjoyed our ordered lunch, which was waiting for us and piping hot when we arrived. Imagine enjoying fresh fish & chips, and a wild venison burger while cruising through one of the most remote places in the world! It was magic.

As soon as we could, we got out onto the front deck of the boat where we stayed for the majority of the cruise. You could almost reach out at touch the mountains at some points and as it started to rain, stunning waterfalls appeared from the tops above. We were as excited as children as we spotted seals and also dolphins!

The commentary on the cruise was great without being tedious. We enjoyed every minute of the cruise experience.

Our added on bonus - A Helicopter Tour

We treated ourselves to a guilty pleasure when we booked with Luxe Tours by adding on their 30-min Helicopter Tour. We knew it was potentially going to be a once in a life time opportunity so jumped at it.

Following the cruise, Toby dropped us off at the Milford Sound airport and introduced us to the Milford Helicopters team who looked after us well.

Wow! Seeing Milford Sound from the air was a completely different experience from the cruise, and absolutely awe-inspiring. This was what you call 'up close and personal' with the mountains as we flew within metres of the mountain tops! Russell had never experienced snow, so for us to land on the Tutoko Glacier and have the experience of playing in the snow, well this was a dream come true for someone who had waited 60 years to see snow!

The pilot gave us good time to enjoy the glacier and then buzzed us high over some of the mountain ranges we had seen driving into Milford Sound, before landing back with our tour group about a third of the way back towards Te Anau.

We remember sitting back in the coach with our adrenaline running and a smile on our faces that we couldn't lose and still comes back to this day.

Who is Luxe Tours not for?

Crowds Milford Sound, Luxe Tours NZ

If you prefer to be on a bigger bus with say 40 - 60 people, then Luxe Tours is not for you. This was the very pinnacle of what we would consider to be a 'small group tour'. It was thoughtful, intimate and pulled at every bit of our senses throughout the day.

We wouldn't recommend it for those wanting to just quickly visit Milford Sound itself and not take in much of the journey along the Milford Road.

The Milford Road is actually such a big part of the day experience, there is so much to look at and experience and we watched as several other companies just buzzed straight past it. That is absolutely fine for some so if you didn't want to stop often, or you were on limited time, then Luxe Tours wouldn't be for you.

Our Overall Luxe Tours Experience

At the beginning of the day and as we commenced the coach journey with Toby and Luxe Tours, we were extremely excited and eager to see what lay ahead of us.

With each twist and turn of the road, encountering huge vistas of amazing scenery, we became completely awe-struck, again and again.

"My catch cry of the day, ALL DAY, I have been told, was Oh my God Russell! This is amazing!" - Frances.

In between these bigger, wow moments, there were the quiet moments of standing back and soaking up the serenity and peace of that particular moment in time, such as when we stopped for morning tea at the river at Knobs Flat, provided by Luxe Tours and the Milford Road Merchant Cafe.

This was a magical day and something that will remain in our hearts forever. It was a dream come true to visit Milford Sound and Luxe Tours understood that and made our day just that much better.

The value for money was great! We would not hesitate to do it all again in a heartbeat. Thank you Toby, Katelyn and Luxe Tours!

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