top of page

Milford Sound for Australians - The VERY Honest Guide

Australians make up 46% of New Zealand's total tourism with the vast majority visiting Milford Sound throughout the year. With two - three hour direct flights connecting Australians with Queenstown, Milford Sound is an easy and natural choice of destination to visit for all ages. Fiordland National Park is of real interest to most travellers from Australia due to its wild dynamic environment that is similar to parts of your own country. It is also a place of comfort for you with similar cultural aspects and sense of humour shared between our two countries.

In this guide, we explore the best ways for Australians to explore Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park, as well as the unique experiences you are likely to have with your family and friends here in New Zealand!

How do you get from Australia to Milford Sound

We wish we could fly you direct to Milford Sound but the runway is shorter than some of your baggage carousels, you would end up in the Fjord.

However between Air New Zealand, Qantas, JetStar and Virgin Australia, there are direct flights from Australia into Queenstown from Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sydney and Melbourne with the longest flight being from the latter at 3-hours, 10-minutes.

You can expect to pay between $250 - $450AUD for a standard flight one way to Queenstown, but of course this doesn't take into account the opportunity for a deal, especially with the likes of JetStar. For greater service and comfort, we of course recommend Qantas or Air New Zealand to start your holiday off with a Kiwi flavour.

Air New Zealand vs Qantas, Luxe Tours NZ

Who is better out of those two airlines? Well it's a bit like our sports teams - the results chop and change 😉

From Queenstown, we recommend hiring a vehicle and making your way to Te Anau for a few nights. You have to drive through Te Anau anyway to get to Milford Sound, so it is a great way to break that long journey up.

Why should I stay in Te Anau?

There is a lot more than just Milford Sound to see and experience in this area and Fiordland National Park. Activities & tours such as the Te Anau Glowworm Caves, Doubtful Sound, hiking trails, helicopter or floatplane tours and various others.

Queenstown is certainly attractive and you should stay there for sure, however Te Anau & Fiordland deserves at least a few days of your time.

  • Staying in Te Anau is cheaper than Queenstown, about $100 per night on average for motels/hotels and up to $300 per night cheaper for an AirBNB.

  • Te Anau breaks your journey up. Touring or visiting Milford Sound from Queenstown is at least a 12-hour day. Put simply - it is very draining and you soon get tired of spending 10-hours of that in a vehicle!

  • Te Anau is an idyllic small town, with stunning scenery, situated on the largest lake (on water volume) in all of Australasia and surrounded by mountains.

All in all, Te Anau is a great, easy going place for you to stay either side of your Milford Sound visit - plus we have a collection of many more beautiful mountains than Queenstown and you won't be backed up in traffic all day long here!

Te Anau, New Zealand, Luxe Tours NZ

I have heard Te Anau is wet!


The western side of Lake Te Anau is very wet, averaging about 8-metres of rain a year but there is no township there. Over here on the eastern side of the, we only get the New Zealand average, about 1.2-metres a year.

You will be sitting in a bar on the lakefront, enjoying a cold drink under blue sky and see dark clouds rolling in over the western mountains - but don't fear, they likely won't get to the township. Because of these mountains, they capture the weather systems and the rain just clings that side of the lake.

Te Anau, New Zealand, Luxe Tours NZ

Quite often you get spectacular rainbows or weather events opposite, while basking in sunshine in town. It's not quite the Gold Coast or Bondi but it is just as scenic.

Check out the temperatures for today (8th March) at 10am between Te Anau and Queenstown. Not looking so good for the 'resort town' of Queenstown is it? 🥶

Te Anau Weather, Luxe Tours NZ

Why should I tour Milford Sound from Te Anau?

We wish we could show you our dash-cam video of tour vehicles from Queenstown passing us on the road doing well over the speed limit but privacy rights has got the brakes on that for now.

Speaking of brakes, some of them need to use them more and you might ask why is this the case?

The drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound is about 4.5-hours each way without any stops. Then you have a 2-hour cruise in Milford Sound. Just that together would be okay, about 11 hours of travel but surely you want to see more than that when coming all this way to see the (unofficial) 8th wonder of the world?

The Milford Road between Te Anau (you have to pass through Te Anau anyway no matter what), is stunning in its own right and for a lot of people is actually the highlight over Milford Sound.

If you do just a few stops, as well as some toilet breaks and a stop in Te Anau then you add on a few hours. New Zealand tour drivers can only drive for 13-hours a day. See the problem?

It becomes very rushed and tight, hence them passing us on the road every afternoon on the way home with nothing but their foot to the floor! We hate to imagine what it is like for passengers in the back of these big buses 😱

The other thing to consider is you will leave on a tour to Milford Sound from Queenstown at around 7am, and won't get back until around 8pm.

Compare this to a tour to Milford Sound from Te Anau where only 4-hours return is spent in the vehicle and you are looking at more like 8:30am to 5:30pm. Back in time for a great Kiwi steak at the local with a cold beverage, or two.

What extra stops will I see on a Te Anau Tour?

All up there are about 15 photo, nature and rest stops you could make on the Milford Road. Some companies will advertise more but it starts to get a bit "how long is a piece of string". Finding the balance is key.

At Luxe Tours we make about 9 - 11 on any given day but our guides are not on a schedule - if they see something they think you will enjoy then they will make the effort to stop and likewise if it is pouring with rain in the National Park, then they will make judgement calls to keep you comfortable and safe, as well as handing you an umbrella! They do not rush, spending quality time at each location.

If you are on a Milford Sound tour from Queenstown, there are two things that hold you back from seeing all the great stops - being on a large bus that can't get into some of them, and a tour that is racing against the clock to make it back within the drivers hours.

On a Milford Sound tour from Queenstown you are likely to visit along the Milford Road:

  • Eglinton Valley

  • Mirror Lakes

  • Knobs Flat Toilets

  • Monkey Creek

  • Cleddau Valley Lookout (although this one rarely seems to occur).

Taking our Milford Sound tour from Te Anau as an example (others from Te Anau are similar), you are very likely to visit:

  • Te Anau Downs Lookout

  • Eglinton Valley

  • Mirror Lakes

  • Knobs Flat Toilets

  • We throw in a family & local secret spot after this!

  • Lake Gunn

  • Hollyford Valley Lookout

  • Lake Marian Falls (20-min nature walk)

  • Christie Falls

  • Monkey Creek

  • Cleddau Valley Lookout

  • Tutoko Bridge

For example, see how tour breakdown here for photos so you can see why you don't want to miss that list: Tour Breakdown

A lot of these extra spots are uncrowded, quiet, beautiful and more wild natural locations that really show you the heart of Fiordland and New Zealand.

If doing a Milford Sound Tour from Queenstown, you will need to give up at least half of these photo/nature stops 👇

What do other Australian's say about Milford Sound?

What is unique about Milford Sound for Australians?

Milford Sound weather

It is a fair point to be concerned about Milford Sound's weather, it is one of the wettest places in the world and when you come from a country that seems to be never-ending sunshine, it can be a shock!

Don't fear though, it is beautiful when it rains in Milford Sound (which is about 200 days of the year) and if we had to choose between sunshine and rain, we would easily pick the latter. Milford Sound comes alive with hundreds of waterfalls and is very moody.

We will provide you with an umbrella if needed and even a waterproof jacket if it gets to that point.

Learn from our guides why Australia is actually partially responsible for all the wet weather we get here. Here's a clue - you are just too dam hot over there 🥵

Milford Sound Weather on Milford Sound Tour, Luxe Tours NZ

The Silver Fern & Manuka

You will learn more about not only the Silver Fern and why it is so successful against your rugby, league, cycling and almost all sports teams (apart from Netball), but we can also settle some age old debates such as who owns the Manuka plant!

Possums - Learn how this introduced species is New Zealand's worst pest

We love having Australian visitors here in Fiordland National Park and New Zealand, but we aren't such great fans of some of your native wildlife that have taken up residency here, such as the Brush-tailed Possum, introduced here in 1837 by some wise head in our government to stimulate our fur trade business.

What a shocker that was. Learn why on a Milford Sound tour from Te Anau!

Our accent

A word of warning for your Milford Sound tour - you will need to endure our funny accent. Our guides will defend that by claiming you are the one with the accent, but nevertheless it is a hurdle we will need to overcome. Luckily our tours are all english speaking so at least we have that box ticked.

It is made especially challenging with our local guides who will take you to Milford Sound here at Luxe Tours, they know all the best private spots to show you, even some family ones but they are true locals and roll their R's more than you will roll your eyes at their Australian rugby jokes.

Australia Rugby

Nature and no technology

If you come from one of the metropolitan cities in Australia, Milford Sound and Fiordland National Park is sure to be a very different experience for you and we believe this is a great thing.

You will see nature in a way you haven't witnessed it before. All you can see is mountains in the distance for as far as the eye can see. You will hear a song of waterfall and birds. You will have moments of goosebumps on your arms as you see what was across Australia and New Zealand before we put buildings there.

There is very little wifi or technology connection and again, this is a good thing. A little disconnect from the chaotic world and a bit more connection with the real world as we call it!

When is the best time to visit Milford Sound from Australia?

Summer is always very popular but summer has its pros and cons.

It is of course warmer but it can be more unsettled weather compared to say April - August. Milford Sound gets the majority of its rain in the summer months and as well as this it tends to be windier.

It is also very busy with up to 4000 people per day making the journey into Milford Sound. Milford Sound cruise boats run at near 100% capacity most days and getting space on the boat to snap the perfect photo can sometimes be challenging.

At Luxe Tours we combat this by going on a boat that only takes 50% of its capacity.

Milford Sound in Winter

Milford Sound in Winter

If you don't mind wearing a puffer jacket and seeing some snowfall, then our favourite time is between May and October when the weather tends to me more settled with calm clear days. Yes you still get some rubbish days, but there is more good than bad and Milford Sound in winter is gorgeous! Snow capped mountains and even some snow fights on the side of the road await you.

Cruises and the Milford Road are very quiet with plenty of space for everyone. It is still important to book ahead of time but you are also likely to find a good deal in these months.

You will also be among friends in this time as during the off-season months, Australia's makeup of New Zealand daily visitors goes from 46% to about 69%.

However if you can't find many others, you always have a friend in New Zealand and we welcome you to Milford Sound. Indulge yourself in nature, take a Milford Sound Tour from Te Anau and have a once in a lifetime experience with local guides who crack lame jokes about Australian rugby!

bottom of page