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Flightseeing vs. long drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound

Ridgewood, NJ, USA
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Flightseeing vs. long drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound

We have only one day to spend traveling to Milford Sound from Queenstown. Please advise whether it is worth the cost - in mid-November - to fly from Wanaka or Queenstown to Milford Sound for the boat cruise - or are there lovely sights along the road from Queenstown to Te Anau to Milford that should not be missed and make the 10-hour RT drive (for four adults) worthwhile? Any suggestions about specific carriers (and plane vs. heli) would also be welcome. Thanks.

New Zealand
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1. Re: Flightseeing vs. long drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound

Welcome to the forum :)

The flight is lovely, by fixed-wing or helicopter but then you miss the stunning Milford Road.

If flying from Wanaka consider Wanaka Helicopters tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g612500-d121…

and Wanaka Flightseeing tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g612500-d941…

The drive and cruise from Queenstown takes 13 hours so is not a self-drive day trip. The road has a high number of tourist accidents so please either fly or take the bus.

The ultimate trip from Queenstown is to bus there -yes, the road journey really is fabulous, cruise, fly back.

Edited: 26 June 2011, 22:04
Ridgewood, NJ, USA
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2. Re: Flightseeing vs. long drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound

Thanks so much for the good advice. I've now read many of your posts back to 2009! Very helpful. Bus/cruise/heli from Queenstown sounds like your best advice.

Do you happen to know whether the big cruise ships like Holland America enter the fiords, or do they remain out in the Tasman Sea?

New Zealand
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3. Re: Flightseeing vs. long drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound

yep, bus/cruise/heli is a brilliant trip!!

And yes, the large cruise liners enter the fiord, weather permitting nzherald.co.nz/milford-sound/news/image.cfm…

However I haven't seen them cruise in very far and they miss the fabulous road. I have, on occasion, driven into Milford (or flown) and not done the cruise. I think the road the most spectacular part of the Milford experience, followed by the flight, followed by the cruise. But with your trip you get to experience all three!

Don't be deterred if its raining at Milford the day you plan to go. While it might disrupt the flight out - in which case you can always bus - the numerous waterfalls and dark cloud add a wonderfully dark and moody ambiance.

Enjoy :)

Ridgewood, NJ, USA
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4. Re: Flightseeing vs. long drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound

Wanaka Lakes, you are super! Thanks for the cruise ship info and for helping us make a fabulous plan for our mid-November trip. At this point, I'm planning to schedule with Naked Bus, take the shorter scenic cruise and then hope our driver will help arrange a heli flight back - if weather permits. (From your discussions, it appears it's all up to the driver!)

The observatory stop sounds interesting but I'm not sure it's available with Naked Bus.

We're staying at Crown View B&B in Dalefield. Any idea how long it will take to drive into town to catch that early bus - and where we might find parking at such an early hour? Thank you so very much. Cheers!

South Island
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5. Re: Flightseeing vs. long drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound

Naked Bus is a great day trip form Queenstown to Milford Sound and these guys seem to do the most stops on the Milford road for photos/walks etc. This tour is actually run by a Queenstown company called Milford Sound Select. You could perhaps phone this company the day before you leave to do the tour ask them to pick you up at the Frankton Bus shelter en route to Milford Sound. There is lots of free parking there and your car will be safe while you are away.

Ridgewood, NJ, USA
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6. Re: Flightseeing vs. long drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound

Thanks so much for more good advice from New Zealand. Just can't wait!

Christchurch, New...
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7. Re: Flightseeing vs. long drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound

Can you alter plans and stay in Te Anau overnight? The drive to and from Milford Sound is great and self-drive is the best way. If you can manage it leave Te Anau about 8.30 am and drive directly to Milford sound (don't do photo stops on the way) and get on the earlier boats. Most people on coaches etc arrive for the later boats and they can get packed out at this time of the year. Do all your photo stops onthe way back. As mentioned by one poster, do not be put off by the weather. Rain makes wonderful waterfalls. Also the weather can change dramatically from one side of the Homer Tunnel to the other. Some years ago we did Te Anau-Milford-Queenstown in one day and it was a long, long day (and we know the area and the roads.....)

8. Re: Flightseeing vs. long drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound

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