As one of the most popular tourist attractions in New Zealand, the Milford Sound gets over half a million visitors a year (source).
But, is Milford Sound worth it?
Or is it just sheep leading the sheep? Do the sheep come away with expectations satisfied and once in a lifetime moments captured? Or is it a letdown, and thoughts begin to ponder about how else their money could have been spent?
Personally, I haven’t been after deciding to visit the Catlins instead on my last trip to the South Island. But people do talk about it a lot in hostels around the South Island, whether it is worth visiting, or should they stick to other areas, mostly because it’s perceived as too touristy.
I figure the best way to seek the truth is to ask those who have been there in recently. Given I’m not there as I write this, the best place to find answers was via Instagram.
I sent DM’s to people who have recently posted photos with #milfordsound.
The message said (I altered it slightly at times):
Hi there, I’m Jub from Tiki Touring Kiwi. I was wondering if you could quickly how me out with an article. I see you recently visited Milford Sound. In your opinion, is it worth visiting? How did you experience them? And if you’ve got a sentence or two of your thoughts about your experience, that’d be awesome.
I wanted to get a minimum of 30 responses as that’s what we’re told in school is a good minimum sample size. To get 35 responses that are in this post, I had to send over 100 DM’s! Not the best response rate, but I can’t blame people for not responding to some random bearded guy sliding into their DM’s and wanting answers.
Nevertheless, here are the responses. I’ll add some notes at the bottom of the post about my thoughts and the limitations of this sample.
Is Milford Sound Worth Visiting?
Yes, it’s worth visiting. Self drove then took a boat cruise. There’s also an underwater observatory only accessible boat. Wish I would have known about that ahead. @socalrachel
I would really recommend going to Milford Sound. You gotta check the weather before you go there because it rains a lot. When I was there it was rainy and foggy. I took a boat and we couldn’t see the beautiful nature all around because of fog but we have seen a lot of waterfalls. A friend of mine went there day after and the weather was awesome. Totally different, sunny without any clouds. So it depends on the weather a lot. I would also buy the boat ticket online a couple of days before going. It’s cheaper, even during the crowded season. @vojta.klein
It was breathtaking! I would 100% go back in a heartbeat. We drove to the docks and caught a cruise around the fjord…the fjord walls are huge, as were the waterfalls that we got up close and personal with every couple of kms. @be3pymedia
Milford Sound, it’s a dream! I can’t really find words to explain what I felt seeing all that beauty. @fed_er_ica
It was amazing and the most worth it place I made the effort to go to. Beautiful walls, ancient glacier valley that’s actually a fjord and not a sound. I would recommend to anyone will travel there. Being able to access this place just by car, then getting on a ferry tour was just amazing. @aaronportanova
It’s absolutely a dreamland with nature’s serene beauty and aqua life. Loved it. @wil_l_ie
I spent two weeks touring down the South Island and wanted to spend some time at Milford Sound and decided to spend a night there too. I travelled by coach from Queenstown and did a guided walk to learn about the Milford Sound wildlife on the first day. The next day I did a 5-hour kayak over the sound and it was honestly one of the highlights of my entire trip. I saw penguins, dolphins and sea lions in the fjord as well as the biggest waterfall of the sound. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited. @olliedabson
After travelling the world for a year, Milford Sound is one of my favourite places. I did it on a little boat, and think it’s better than big Jucy boat or whatever. The only regret I have is I didn’t visit the sound after heavy rain. It should be wonderful with waterfalls everywhere but, on a sunny day, it’s nice too. @tetexplorer
It is worth visiting definitely! We got a coach there and did a cruise! It was like a different planet really, we went on a really warm sunny day but we would like to go back and experience it when it’s raining so the waterfalls are in full force. @annaaldersley
I thought it was well worth the 5-hour journey there from Queenstown with stops along the way. I had a very positive experience, surprisingly it wasn’t overly crowded or touristy when we went. But we did opt for a smaller cruise so we could enjoy it more. I was mesmerized by the scenery at every turn we took! It seems so untouched in a way that is unique to NZ’s natural landscapes. Being from Melbourne, we don’t often get to experience snow-capped mountains and waterfalls. Overall I’d say that I would go to Milford Sound every year if I could. @jeyda_res
My second time visiting Milford Sound was just as amazing as the first. It is definitely worth visiting as the photo’s don’t do it justice and it is a place you have to witness and experience with your own eyes. We actually spent 5 days walking to Milford Sound with ultimate hikes, which was amazing and allowed you to see untouched parts of Fiordland that you would otherwise never see. On the 4th day, we arrived at Milford Sound and stayed in the Mitre Peak Lodge and then on the 5th day, we did a cruise of the sound. @global_mads
MS was 100% worth visiting, I went by tour cruise which was a great way to see the sound with commentary of the history and natural features. It was a breathtaking place to visit unlike any other. Around each corner was a scene more picturesque than the last and a sight rich with animal habitats. @tfowler26
I was there for a week because the Milford Sound is so magical. It’s beautiful no matter what the weather is as the rain increases the beauty of the waterfalls. The wild beauty will humble you. @walking_brice
100% worth visiting. We went on a cruise called Mitre Cruises. It was like stepping into a scene from Jurassic Park the Lost World, with all the cascading waterfalls, no sign of civilsation, wild animals everywhere. We would have loved to do some walks around, but arrived around midday and once the cruise was done we didn’t’ have time. @marko.kisa
It was one of the best experiences in New Zealand, an iconic place. I did a scenic flight from Queenstown to Milford Sound, the view was incredible and the way the Fjordland has been formed is really interesting. I live in Picton and I can really see the difference. The history about the name is interesting as it’s really a “Fjord” and not “sound”. If you’re doing a cruise, the best time to go is when it’s raining when the waterfalls are at their most impressive. By boat you can also enjoy the dolphins and other wildlife. Kayaking is also a good option for sporty people. The best experience is the flight – cruise – bus from Queenstown if you have the time so you can have all the different atmospheres. Otherwise I really recommend the scenic flight as on the way you just feel that you can touch the glaciers and lose yourself in the mountains.@experience_once
It’s so worth it, it’s so beautiful there. I visited on a sunny day and people always said that it’s more beautiful on rainy days for the waterfalls. But my experience was incredible, the highlight was when we went under the waterfall on the cruise. It’s very unique! @allancustodio
We drove to the sound having booked a nature cruise for the afternoon. It’s definitely worth visiting! The drive alone has so many sights to see on the way. @rachie_rach06
The Milford Sound were a great experience, yet I don’t need to see them again. We were on a ‘guided’ tour but we weren’t well informed about the sound, so I can’t say much about them. However, experiencing Mirror Lakes prior to the tour was amazing. I highly recommend people to visit Mirror Lakes prior to getting on board for the Milford Sound. @neha_c87
I thought it was absolutely worth visiting! It was the one major criteria when choosing a tour of NZ – I had to be able to visit Milford. It’s definitely a day-long commitment and quite the long tour, but worth it. It’s a relaxing bus ride and a beautiful cruise! We went with Jucy Tours and our bus guide stopped us off at beautiful lookouts on the way there. @avivamedia
In my opinion (visited in Dec), it’s super crowded with the cruise boats full of people jostling for a photo. It’s not that nice. Anyway, there’s not a lot to do there beyond kayaking and the cruise. I would still recommend it as a beautiful experience you can’t skip it because you would regret it. But I think I would prefer to go to Doubtful Sound instead, and kayak there. @lockenkopfaufreisen
It is definitely worth visiting. I experienced the sound by foot and cruise. It’s like entering Narnia, it is magical and very Instagram ready! @colourless_blur
Absolutely I’d recommend it…it was my favourite place I visited throughout five weeks in NZ, Oz, and Fiji! I joined an organised tour, it was a twelve hour round trip from Queenstown. This involved a bus there and back and a boat cruise on the sound, which is essential. I was very lucky to get a sunny day! The scenery is truly breathtaking, between the jagged mountains, steep-walled fjords, waterfalls, amazing light, etc. It was simply amazing. @jpwherever
It was definitely worth a visit! I took the cruise to see the sound. It’s an awesome place, and not just the sound but the highway to get there too. There are lots of ways you can enjoy the places and it’s a place I’ll be recommending to people when they come to NZ. @gonzalovillarroelg
Really it’s hard to put in words. But if anything the feeling you get there is one of space. There’s no clutter from the cityscapes or town, nothing is in a particular hurry. The forest is like walking through a few hundred-year timelines…the soft moss acts like big squishy pillows. Things slow down here. The scenery will literally take your breath away, especially if you are brave enough to jump into the many lakes or fresh waterfalls or streams. It’s easy to be present there. @jessehannahmay
Absolutely worth visiting. I booked a trip through the tour company, Great Sights, which included lunch. Pick up from my hotel in Queenstown, coach tour, and then on to the gem of the sound for about two hours. It was remarkably beautiful and serene – feels otherworldly and untouched by people which is rare and amazing to experience. @k.fae_
We love the Milford Sound! It’s so beautiful, the most beautiful part of the South Island. You have to go there for sure. We did a boat and kayak trip. It’s indescribable how beautiful the Milford Sound/Fiordland National Park! @travelyup
Yes I’d say it was certainly worth visiting. The drive down there alone was stunning. We then did the boat cruise and it’s so impressive. I would say it’s very weather dependant though, as we rather dreary conditions – whereas a gorgeous clear day would have made it better. But still loved it! @edmundparkinson
Milford Sound is absolutely worth it…no doubt. My thoughts would be incredibly valuable experience…no words can describe how amazing my visit to Milford Sound. Your trip won’t be complete in Queenstown if you didn’t visit Milford Sound. @missjaegerbomb
Well, Milford Sounds was only one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen 🙂 So definitely worth visting!! It was like being in some kind of a dream, and I’m from Iceland so I’m used to breathtaking views, but this was amazing. @eyglo_lilja
To be able to see Milford Sound has been on my bucket list ever since I got the travel bug four years ago. My experience of the Milford Sound was absolutely amazing and if I get the opportunity to go again, I 100% would. We stayed in Te Anau and did the Day Safari tour through Rosco’s Milford Kayaks. This tour departs from Te Anau and stops at scenic spots along Milford Road before a three-hour kayak around Milford Sound. Look back to my experience, all I could remember was how beautiful Milford Sound is. We can’t wait to be back!!! @tintravelsto
Absolutely it is worth it. Hands down one of the best things I have ever done. How have I experienced the Milford Sounds? I did the day cruise twice, but you really need to hike the Milford Track. @jomack007
100% worth visitng. Our favorite experience in the South Island, we did the Jucy Cruise which I would recommend. Loved every second. Would love to see it in the rain to see all the waterfalls. Lots of sandflies around the carpark, so be prepared (none whilst on the boat trip). We got to see bottle-nosed dolphins, crested penguins, and seals. Best experience! @xkfosterx
We loved Milford Sound and definitely think it’s worth it. We did the cruise but wish we had more time to do some hikes and go for a paddle. We definitely recommend driving there yourself (there is a possibility it is even more scenic than the sounds) and booking a night in Milford in order to have enough time for everything it has to offer. You’ll get a chance to see the sunrise (stunning) and experience it before the buses roll in. @craving.adventure
Yes, Milford Sound is gorgeous. I would definitely recommend doing it as a bus tour, we went with Milford Sound Directwhich was the best decision ever. @leanne.m.rooney
Yes it’s worth it if you enjoy great views 😀 I went through a boat ride that provides transfer to Milford, a boat ride, and a complimentary lunch. To be in a place like Milford is a one of a kind experience, there’s nowhere like it on earth! @ganzaroli
Milford Sound is awesome, I’ve driven the road to reach it eight times. Each of them with my mouth open, indescribable, not only Milford itself but all the steps along the way like Marian Lake and Gertrude Saddle. They are some of the best tracks I’ve ever walked, especially Gertrude Saddle from which you can see the wilderness, hear the silence, smell the freedom of an unpolluted place. I slept on the top of the mountain and during the sunrise Milford looked incredible. @nich9d9
So, it doesn’t take rocket science to discover that Milford Sound is worth visiting based on these responses. I definitely didn’t expect the answers to be this one-sided.
BUT, there are limitations in my sample.
My (small) sample size could well be biased as people were posting on Instagram about there adventures. If they weren’t happy with their experience, they’d be less likely to post about their trip on Instagram (or maybe these people didn’t respond to my message as to not appear negative). Over half the users on IG are also between the ages of 18-34, therefore if you are outside of this age range you might not be represented in my data (I didn’t look into who was posting, I messaged everyone in a chronological order. Also, I was messaging people in April, well after the high-season has finished. Maybe people have a different experience in December and January when tourist numbers peak.
Nevertheless, I’ll likely try to plan a road trip (or hitchhike) down to the Milford Sound next time I’m in the area and head out on a kayak to explore.
Does this post help you at all? I’d love to know! Drop a comment below, or email me [email protected]