Is flying to Milford Sound worth it?

So you’re going to Queenstown, and everyone keeps going on about how much you absolutely *must see* Milford Sound.

I mean, I’m not here to disagree with them.

It’s pretty stunning.

But the question is, how should you get there? Well, there are four main transport options you can choose from. Starting from least expensive to most:

Self-drive ¦¦ If you have access to a car, the easiest way to get to Milford Sound might be to just drive it yourself. You just have to pay for petrol and snacks and you’re good to go. I hear the scenery along the way is breathtaking, and you’ll be able to stop, get out, and take photos to your heart’s content. Things to bear in mind are that it’s at least a 4 hour drive each way – as the crow flies it’s not a large distance, but the road has to skirt the mountains. It makes for a lot of driving in a day, so make sure to not drive tired and check the road conditions before you go and throughout the journey.

This option is hard to cost because I don’t know how many snacks you want to buy but using some consultancy-grade back of a napkin calculations I reckon fuel would run you about $120 NZD for the return trip. Bear in mind that’s for a whole car full of people so if you can pack ’em in your cost per person decreases nicely. Oh and don’t forget petrol ain’t that cheap in Queenstown. Neither are snacks. Just sayin’.

Coach ¦¦ Again this is a long drive, but with the benefit of not having to do any of the actual driving yourself. If you’re lucky you may even get some food thrown in with this option. However, it’s still a long trip and you don’t have the benefit of being able to choose your own adventure – when the bus departs, how often you stop, etc. Nano did the coach on the way to Milford Sound and said they had a great driver who stopped as often as they wanted so she could get her photos, so that’s encouraging.

You’re looking at around $100 NZD per person for this option. There seem to be special offers around for coach trips so do shop around.

Small plane ¦¦ You can get to Milford Sound in just 40 minutes if you fly – which makes this a very appealing option. In addition to the chance to see the beautiful scenery of New Zealand from above, this is a true ‘experience’ and not just a day trip. The negatives being you’re in a very small plane (seats 10 max) so if you’re not a keen flyer this isn’t the trip for you. Flights are also liable to be cancelled if the weather turns – so either you can have your whole trip cancelled or you are put on a coach for the return journey. I don’t know how common this is, just be aware it could happen.

Now, this option ain’t cheap. You’re looking at around the $400 NZD per person mark, give or take. Everyone seems to charge around this so I’d pick the operator based on quality of experience, convenience, etc. Note this price doesn’t include actually landing in Milford Sound – it’s just a flight over. If you want to land and do some sort of tour it’s an extra $80-100 NZD or so.

You can also mix and match a plane trip with a coach ride although this actually ends up being more expensive than just taking one mode of transport. I wouldn’t have expected that so do bear it in mind.

Helicopter ¦¦ If you want to go all out, you can go for the helicopter experience. I believe this included a couple of landings in scenic places on the way – places a plane wouldn’t be able to access. I’m not certain on that one though so do check with your operator of choice.

We were quoted an eye watering $950 NZD per person for this option. I’ve also seen companies where you can have a private helicopter tour, but I dread to think what the cost of that one would have been.

Add-ons ¦¦ Once you get to Milford Sound, you can choose from a variety of activities. Most people will go for a cruise, which I highly recommend. I loved seeing the Sound from the actual water, and we got to see some great wildlife along the way, too. As I mention above, it’s only an extra $80ish NZD for this option which personally I found well worth it. We also saw people out kayaking on the lake which looked pretty cool.

We decided to take the easy cruise option around Milford Sound, but if I were to go back again I think I’d look into doing a kayak tour. Because how cool does this look?! They must have been able to get so close to stuff. Like these waterfalls. Maybe not so easy to take photos from a kayak without risking drowning your camera, but I’d say it would be worth it.⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #panasonic #kayaks #kayakadventures #lumixlife #wearestillwild #moodygrams #adventureanywhere #agameoftones #getoutstayout #liveauthentic #awesomeearth #createexplore #theoutbound #adventureculture #letsgosomewhere #wildernessculture #whereLUMIXgoes #liveoutdoors #exploreeverything #beautifuldestinations #worldpics #dametraveller #wearetravelgirls #outdoorwomen #wildernessbabes #ladiesgoneglobal #anestingnomad #girlsvsglobe #girlslovetravel #sheisnotlost

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So what did we pick?

It’s probably obvious, but we chose to fly-cruise-fly to Milford Sound – in a small plane, not a helicopter! We went with Milford Sound Scenic Flights and had a brilliant experience. Here we are inside the plane – every seat is a window seat (although choose carefully, many have an obstructed view thanks to those pesky wings):

The flight went without a hitch, our guide was super friendly and nice, and the cruise was on a smaller boat than the rest which personally I preferred. The only thing I’d say is don’t bother paying extra for the lunch on board the cruise option. It wasn’t worth it – bring your own. Other than that, I can certainly say that flying to Milford Sound is worth it and it’s a trip I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to a friend.

Have you been to Milford Sound? How did you get there? Can you handle small planes…?


For pinners:


Considering a trip to Milford Sound, New Zealand? In this post I run you through the various transport options to get there, and why we chose to fly.



  1. 30th November 2017 / 23:40

    I’m re-living our New Zealand honeymoon through your Instagram posts! We went to so many of the same places, including Milford Sound!! We went with a tour company that took us there and then brought us on an overnight boat cruise. I loved it and we are already planning to go back for our 5-year anniversary.

  2. 1st December 2017 / 00:09

    Wow that is a very small plane! I’ve never been on one that small, not sure I’d cope well haha. I’m not a good flyer at the best of times though!

    The photos you got are breathtaking and I’m sure the view is even more amazing in person – definitely worth the trip! 🙂

  3. 1st December 2017 / 02:01

    This is so beautiful. I must find my way to NZ sometime!

  4. 1st December 2017 / 06:34

    You seem to be hooked on small planes 🙂 Looks like a great trip, and fantastic place (a lot like British Columbia in fact).

  5. Jen
    1st December 2017 / 12:26

    Oh my goodness, you’re right! It is absolutely stunning! I really need to expand my horizons and travel haha.

  6. Julia
    1st December 2017 / 22:23

    We wanted to fly to Milford Sound as you did, but unfortunately the weather conspired against us (despite it being NZ summer) and our flight was continually cancelled. In the end we decided to drive as we didn’t want to miss out on seeing it altogether. The drive is long; beautiful, as you say, but also due to the long drive there and back in a day, it didn’t leave us that much actual time at Milford Sound. We also went on a cruise which was cool but I certainly didn’t get the amazing photo opportunities that you did from the plane. I definitely think you picked the best option and you were lucky your flight got to go ahead!

  7. 3rd December 2017 / 09:00

    Oh, that plane trip sounds so awesome! We haven’t been to the South Island yet but it’s on our future travel list!!

  8. 3rd December 2017 / 10:50

    I’m not a small plane person at all…. especially prop planes. They make me super, super nervous. I don’t actually know why… I think the opportunity to see NZ from the air would be worth it though!

  9. 5th December 2017 / 13:44

    I think flying at least one way is definitely a great experience. You cannot beat the arial views of those mountain-tops and glaciers and lakes. Granted you have a great tour-guide like we did, driving is also a must-do since you get to see a lot of stunning nature on the way. Return trip would have been too exhausting though. But then, it all depends on what one’s budget is. It is an amazing part of New Zealand though, so no matter which mode of transportation you choose, you’ Be blown away. xx

  10. 6th December 2017 / 03:55

    From all of the pictures that you’ve been posting, you obviously made a great decision to fly into Milford Sound and then cruise! While the plane and helicopter rides are more expensive than driving, I always say that our motto while on vacation is that we might not come back so we should go all out, so those might be our choices!

  11. kelly
    10th December 2017 / 09:07

    That plane is sooooo tiny!
    Good to know all the options; my dad travels around this neck of the woods all the time for his work and he has said its quite dangerous to drive at the moment due the foreign tourists coming over and having no idea what to expect from New Zealand roads.

  12. 31st December 2017 / 03:10

    What a great guide! I mean I would like to do them all, especially flying sounds like it would really be worth it!

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