5 Reasons to Visit Milford Sound With Kids

Our visit to Milford Sound with kids was spectacular. Milford Sound is now one of our favorite places on the South Island of New Zealand.  In fact Rudyard Kipling once called Milford Sound the “eighth Wonder of the World.”  We know it’s not actually, but it should surely be one of the natural wonders of the world.

Milford Sounds rainbow - new zealand
We were lucky to see a glorious rainbow

During our travels around both islands of New Zealand, one of the highlights of our adventure was the drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound.  We saw rain, snow, sun and drizzle during our drive, and the scenery was simply breathtaking.

milford sound new zealand
Driving to Milford Sound we ran into a steam train… i mean, why wouldn’t we???

Milford Sound is about 288 km from Queenstown, or about a 4-hour drive.  It’s a gorgeous drive, however it’s very important to plan the drive very carefully.  Living in the US we are used to gas stations, restaurants, and stores every couple of miles, however in New Zealand, they are few and far between.  Especially on the roads connecting two larger towns, which can sometimes be a 2 hour drive (we learned this the hard way!) 🙂

milford sound new zealand kea bird
The endangered Kea is the world’s only alpine parrot, and one of the most intelligent birds. The Kea was been crowned Bird of the Year in 2017.
An attack Kia bird eating our car
The Kea was very resourceful while trying to get into our car!

This part of New Zealand is staggeringly beautiful with amazing feats of nature around every curve and tunnel.MIlford Sound waterfalls MIlford Sound waterfalls and mist

When we arrived at Milford Sound, we were in awe at the beauty.  One of the best ways to experience Milford Sound is to take a boat cruise. This trip to Milford Sound with kids was off to a great start.

MIlford Sound cruise terminal with kids
Milford Sound…. The eighth wonder of the world (according to Rudyard Kipling anyway!)

Choosing the Perfect Milford Sound Boat Trip

Taking a boat trip through Milford Sound with kids in New Zealand is like stepping into a postcard. This fiord, nestled within Fiordland National Park, is a haven of towering cliffs, dramatic waterfalls, and wildlife. For families planning to experience this wonder, selecting the right boat tour can make all the difference. Here’s some help navigating your options and ensuring a memorable journey for everyone, especially when traveling with kids.

Milford Sound Cruise Options

Milford Sound offers a variety of boat trips, ranging from short, leisurely cruises to more extended and adventurous excursions. The key is to match the tour’s length and activities with your family’s interests and the ages of your children.

Short Cruises

Typically lasting 1-2 hours, these cruises offer a concise, yet breathtaking, introduction to Milford Sound. They’re ideal for families with young children who might find longer tours challenging.

Nature Cruises

Slightly longer, these cruises focus on wildlife spotting and provide detailed commentary on the sound’s ecology, geology, and history. If your kids are curious about nature, this could be a fascinating choice.

Adventure Cruises

For families with older children or teens, consider a more adventurous option that might include kayaking or a small boat tour to explore closer to the waterfalls and wildlife.

Tips for a Smooth Sailing

Book in Advance

Milford Sound is a popular destination, and boat tours can fill up quickly, especially during peak seasons. Booking early ensures you get your preferred time slot and avoids disappointment.

Check the Weather

Fiordland’s weather is famously unpredictable. While Milford Sound is stunning in any weather, knowing what to expect can help you prepare appropriately. Bring waterproof jackets and layers for everyone.

Bring Snacks and Entertainment

Even on shorter cruises, having snacks and small toys or activity books can keep kids content and engaged. Some boats offer refreshments, but having your favorites on hand is always a good idea.

Consider Motion Sickness / Sea Sickness

If anyone in your family is prone to motion sickness, prepare by bringing a patch or other medication for motion sickness. The waters in Milford Sound are generally calm because the entrance creates a natural barrier against waves. But, it’s better to be prepared.

Choosing the right boat for your family means balancing comfort, interest, and adventure. By preparing ahead and embracing the journey, you’re set for an unforgettable exploration of one of New Zealand’s crown jewels.

checking out MIlford Sound from a boat
Milford Sound Boat Cruise
MIlford Sound New Zealand waterfalls from the boat
Hot Hubby trying to stay dry from the boat spray!

There are many companies offering cruises, and I would strongly suggest you research the various companies, determine which best fits your needs, and make reservations early as they do sell out.MIlford Sound - kids and waterfalls

The kids loved MIlford Sound

It’s difficult to try and share in words and photographs how special this massive fiord is. We gazed in awe at the towering peaks, cascading waterfalls and amazing wildlife.  The fam posing in the rain MIlford Sound was full of seals and sea lionsWe were even fortunate to spot a penguin.  Penguins live in MIlford Sound New ZealandThe piece de resistance of our trip was seeing the incredible 5,560ft-high Mitre Peak.  This place is magical and there are waterfalls at every turn.

MIlford Sound New Zealand with kids
The views were incredible!

A boat trip on Milford Sound with kids is more than just a sightseeing tour; it’s an opportunity to create lasting memories with your family. Whether marveling at Mitre Peak, feeling the mist of Stirling Falls on your face, or spotting seals lounging on rocks, these moments become treasures.

Make Your Milford Sound Experience Incredible

  • The weather is extremely unpredictable! Did I mention this already?
    During our drive we saw rain, gushing waterfalls, snow and glorious sunshine.  Dress in layers and be prepared for everything!
  • On the drive, plan your food, potty breaks, drinks and gas with precision.
    There are no shops or petrol stations after you reach Te Anau, and Milford Sound is still a two hour drive away
  • There is very limited cellphone coverage on the mountainous roads!
    If you are relying on Google Maps or other navigational apps, you might want to throw it back old school and take a map just in case.
MIlford Sound is stunning
Milford Sound is simply stunning!
  • Consider spending the night in Te Anau, which is considered the gateway to Milford Sound, to break up the drive.  We did not and it made for a loooooong day of driving home through the mountains, in complete darkness, trying to avoid stray sheep.
  • Be sure to stop at one of the fantastic wineries along the way!
    New Zealand wine country near Queenstown with a photobomb kid
    Where’s Waldo????

    New Zealand wine tasting

Queenstown was our home-base for our visit to New Zealand’s South Island. We took some amazing day trips to Dunedin to see penguins and did some jetboating in Queenstown. And we loved learning about the Maori culture on the North Island.

Have you been to Milford Sound?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments!

About The Author


I’m a travel and health writer, digital brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising an active family, life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.

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