A Milford Sound journey that includes the drive in and out, as well as a cruise, is going to be a day that is at least six hours in length if travelling from Te Anau but that doesn't take into account photo stops along the way that you will want to make. With that in mind, it is very important to be well prepared. This article focuses on food and where you can eat along the way and in Milford Sound.
Where is Milford Sound?
Before talking about food, it is important to understand where Milford Sound is and why you need to be prepared before travelling. If you are a Milford Sound pro and know all about it, skip forward to 'Milford Sound options' or even 'Day tour planning'.
Milford Sound is located on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island. It is very remote with limited amenities and infrastructure, for example WiFi Internet in Milford Sound was only recently installed and is still quite limited in speed.
traffic in summer.
road conditions in winter (snow & ice).
winding and steep sections.
Places to eat in Milford Sound.
Pio Pio Restaurant.
This beautiful restaurant is located at Milford Sound Lodge, about a 1-minute drive back from the carpark of the Milford Sound cruise terminal. The restaurant focuses on locally gathered cuisine such as wild Fiordland Venison, or seafood from the west coast nearby. Options are available at lunch (cafe style & takeaway) and a full dinner menu. Prices for the main meals range between $42 - $52NZD. While on the higher side of what you should expect in New Zealand, they represent the extra costs of operating in Milford Sound due to its remoteness. You certainly won't be disappointed by the meal itself.
If eating dinner at Pio Pio Restaurant, it is generally recommended that you stay the night in Milford Sound before returning to Te Anau the next day as the Milford Road often is either closed or experiencing road works through the night that make the trip back difficult from 6pm onwards. This does complicate things as accommodation in Milford Sound is extremely limited and effectively your only option is Milford Sound Lodge with prices starting at $670NZD for a room there.
We have a helpful article here on Milford Sound accommodation and Te Anau accommodation.
Discover Milford Sound Cafe.
Located on the waterfront, this small cafe provides barista made coffee, light cafe snacks and some lunch meals.
Opening hours are between 8am - 4pm in summer and 9am - 4pm in winter.
All forms of payment are accepted but do be aware that in rough weather conditions the internet in Milford Sound can be affected and the cafe, along with other services in Milford Sound may not be able to process cards.
Milford Sound cruises.
The majority of Milford Sound cruises do include either light cafe snack options, tea, coffee, water and some non-alcoholic drinks. There are some cruises that include full restaurants offering either menu ordering, or a buffet option with a price of about $50 per adult. Most cruises & tours will usually also offer cold packed lunches.
At Luxe Tours our cruise offers a restaurant and full bar with ordering off a menu available. It is a fantastic way to enjoy the first part of the cruise, enjoying a locally sourced & crafted meal while the beautiful scenery goes by. Menu options start around $12 and go through to $42 for special Fiordland sharing boards.
Milford Road options.
There is only one option for purchasing food on the Milford Road (between Te Anau & Milford Sound) with a vending machine at Knobs Flat. It is located in the visitor information shelter at the front of Eglinton Valley Camp and accepts credit card, as well as cash.
The machine includes options such as lollies, chocolate, potato chips and cans of drink. We do not recommend relying on this being in operation as if there is internet issues in the area, then the machine can be non-operational.
Places to eat in Te Anau.
Te Anau is a much easier option to find places to eat. Located on the edge of Lake Te Anau, the township offers at least a dozen different options including restaurants, fine dining, cafes and small trailer & boutique experiences. Prices are fair across the board with most main meals in the town being in the $25 - $38NZD range.
In summer it is very important to try and book ahead as often places will fill up following the rush of visitors coming back out of Milford Sound. In winter - be aware that often some eating places will have limited hours or be closed altogether. Below is some of our favourites in each category with links to their website or location:
Milford Sound tour planning.
We should disclaimer that every tour is different in what the operator will provide either as part of their tour, or have on offer for purchase. We can only speak for ourselves so we will use Luxe Tours as an example of what you need to consider when it comes to planning for your Milford Sound tour and cruise.
8:30am - 10:30am.
Your departure from Te Anau is likely to be in this time bracket, ours at Luxe for example is 8:45am and we depart from a cafe in town. We always suggest that our guests pop to the cafe early and grab a coffee or extra snack if they feel they need it. At Luxe Tours, we offer a morning snack provided in our Milford Sound tour such as a savoury scone, or sweet scone, along with gluten free options. We stop at a quiet scenic spot along the Milford Road to enjoy this. Some other operators will also do the same and may offer tea/coffee along with this.
12:30pm - 1:30pm.
The majority of Milford Sound tours will arrive in Milford Sound around this time to transition to the Milford Sound cruise. Most cruise operators offer, at a minimum, tea/coffee and non-alcoholic beverages and then light snacks such as potato chips, or muffins. Then there are some of the larger operators who offer a full restaurant menu (such as our Luxe Tours cruise partner) or a buffet. At Luxe Tours, our cruise partner RealNZ and the boat our guests travel on has a full restaurant and bar with meals such as Venison Burgers, Blue Cod or special Fiordland Sharing Boards available. We allow guests to pre-order this before the day so that it is ready when coming onboard to enjoy and not miss any of the beautiful scenic spots on the cruise.
There will also be tour operators that also offer a cold packed lunch. At Luxe Tours we have this offering and the lunch is ready to enjoy from 1pm on the day and has enough in it to sustain you for the rest of the afternoon.
3:30pm - 5:30pm.
Following a Milford Sound cruise, the journey back to Te Anau will be about two hours driving with maybe one or two more stops left. This is why we always recommend taking advantage of the restaurant on the cruise, enjoying a filling lunch and then not having to worry about food until back at Te Anau. Of course we can always stop at the vending machine on the way back through!
We do recommend bringing a few light snacks with you that you can nibble at if you are feeling a bit peckish, whether you are on a Milford Sound tour or self driving in. Because of limited food options in Milford Sound itself and the chance for there to be delays on the road due to weather, roadworks or traffic, you don't want to find yourself waiting for the next chance to grab something to eat out of hunger!
Whatever your budget, choice of travel to Milford Sound and style of food that you enjoy, the main point we recommend taking from this article is that you need to pre-prepare your food supply for the day. If self-driving, do not rely on any of the options we have talked about being available as with anything in Milford Sound - nothing is guarenteed. If you are travelling on a Milford Sound tour, we highly recommend taking advantage of the food offerings from the tour operator such as lunch on the cruise or lunchboxes. Check out our related articles below for other considerations when travelling to Milford Sound.