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Milford Sound on a tight schedule with kids: must see?

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Milford Sound on a tight schedule with kids: must see?

Hi, we are a family with young kids ages 5 and 8 with not a lot of time on our once-in-a-lifetime trip to NZ planned for this December. Is Milford Sound a 'must see'? For us, it would mean:

- drive from Queenstown in afternoon to Te Anua which looks about 5 hours, overnight in Te Anua,

- 1 day tour to Milford Sound (my husband is not keen to drive himself) - overnight again in Te Anua

- drive to Dunedin for 2 days en route north.

I'm worried that all the extra driving might drive our kids stir-crazy or is it a "must" to see the fijords? Perhaps we should stay an extra day or two around Queenstown?


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1. Re: Milford Sound on a tight schedule with kids: must see?

It is only about 2:30 hr from QTN to Te Anau ( sounds like you've been using the very unrelaible Google Maps!). If you have time for the 2 nights in Te Anau then you are only looking at 2 x 2 hr driving to go to Milford Sound, where the kids will enjoy the cruise, wildlife sightings etc. stop at the entrance to Homer tunnel and look for kea, the super intelligent alpine parrot. With kids I recommend self driving rather than the tour.

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2. Re: Milford Sound on a tight schedule with kids: must see?

Another option is do the day tour to Milford Sound from Queenstown. Coach and cruise is about $150 and about half price for children. Some of the coach tours make as many as 10 stops on the Milford road and that is ideal for photos, catching up with the kea etc.

If the weather is fine when you arrive in Milford Sound ask your coach driver about the flight options for the return trip to Queenstown after the cruise. Children fly at half price and sometimes the cheap adult standby seats are available. The kids will love the flights and it means you can be all back in Queenstown by 5.00pm.

If you are on a tight schedule there is no point in spending two nights in Te Anau. Use the extra time to explore Glenorchy or Wanaka area.

Edited: 05 September 2012, 22:46
New Zealand
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3. Re: Milford Sound on a tight schedule with kids: must see?

The bus trip from Queenstown is 13 hours long - I wouldn't subject my kids to a 13 hour bus trip no matter how many stops are made along the way.

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4. Re: Milford Sound on a tight schedule with kids: must see?

Thanks for your suggestions. One more question:

is road from Te Anua to Milford not bad driving? We have experience on LeftHand side, but from Canada so haven't drove on other side of road for some time (will be renting an automatic) people-mover).


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5. Re: Milford Sound on a tight schedule with kids: must see?


Google Maps under-estimates the travel time - it doesn't over-estimate it. For Queenstown to Te Anau it gives a time of 2 hours 11 minutes - if you add 20%, it's about right.

This doesn't work for all destinations of course, but I like using Google Maps to map out trips because it has the added features of Satellite view and Street View.


It can't possibly take 13 hours to get to Milford Sound from Queenstown! SouthIslandBill was suggesting Coach-Cruise-Fly from Queenstown. According to this website:


it departs Queenstown at 7.15 am, departs Te Anau at 9.45 am (that's a 2 and a half hour drive) and returns at 4.30 pm if flying - if travelling back by coach, it returns to Queenstown at 7 pm - which is about 12 hours all up - that includes the cruise.

I'm not suggesting they travel to Milford Sound from Queenstown, just trying to put things into perspective. If the bus doesn't stop too often on the way back, the kids would probably sleep on the way back anyway.

Suzanne :)

Edited: 06 September 2012, 01:30
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6. Re: Milford Sound on a tight schedule with kids: must see?

Hi Joanne,

The drive is relatively easy from Te Anau to Milford Sound but it does get a bit windy and narrowed roaded a some points. Just be careful and go slow and you will be okay. Definitely pull over before you see a large tunnel to try spot the Kea! It loves people!

There is a bus tour from Queenstown but is a 12 hour day. Picked up at 7.30am and dropped back round 7pm. Or the tour from Queenstown is pick up at 8.30am and dropped back to Te Anau at 4pm. I've done that tour myself and really enjoyed it! Its not too long, not too short either! The driver gives great commentary.

Hope this helps :-)

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7. Re: Milford Sound on a tight schedule with kids: must see?

The other option is to drive to Te Anau and pick up the bus there for the trip into Milford.

Shortens the day a lot (you could still drive yourself back to Qtown if needed) and allows you to look at the scenery rather than concentrate on the road.

In the end, its as much a must see as a trip up the Pacific coast is to a visit to Canada.

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8. Re: Milford Sound on a tight schedule with kids: must see?


Fly, cruise, fly. http://www.airwakatipu.com/

That way you have plenty of time, a much better view and perspective of the sound to say nothing of "sanity preservation"


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9. Re: Milford Sound on a tight schedule with kids: must see?

We just visited milford (still in NZ at the moment). We drove from Queenstown in a 6 berth motorhome and stayed overnight in Milford then did the early morning cruise which had less tourists. We have an eight year old and she loved the Milford cruise. We made numerous short stops from Queenstown to break up the trip and we had no complaints from her. The road from Te Anau is not bad, windy and steep towards the end but if you drive slowly and the road conditions are good you will enjoy the scenery along the way. Apply plenty of insect repellant as the sand flies are extremely bad at Milford.

Queenstown is a good option if you decide you don't want to make the drive to Milford. So much there to entertain the kids from cruises, ice skating, jet boat, and more.

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10. Re: Milford Sound on a tight schedule with kids: must see?

Just read your message, we were there in May and yes, Milford Sound is a must see. To go all that way and miss it would be a shame. We drove from Queenstown to Tye Anau, got there later in the day, saw the glowworms that evening, and then did the tour to Milford the next day. I had pre booked the Milford Tour when in Queenstown, which was lucky as by the time we got to Te Anau the tour was booked out. By doing the tour my husband got to enjoy the drive, which is great because the scenery is just magnificent.

Glad we took the insect repellent, in fact, we used it most of the way down the west coast of the south island. We often stopped for lunch along the coast and were glad we had the repellent as the sand flies are awful.

We then drove from Te Anau to Dunedin, make sure you do the drive out the Otago Peninsula it is just fantastic, but then, all NZ is fantastic.

Enjoy your trip, we loved ours.