Real Journeys Milford Sound Overnight Cruises - NZ Travel

Real Journeys Milford Sound Overnight Cruises

Real Journeys Milford Sound Overnight Cruises

milford-soundWhen the day visitors depart a silence descends on Milford Sound. Be one of the privileged few to experience the long southern twilight and the dawning of a new day in this magnificent world heritage region.

Departing from Milford wharf, cruise the length of Milford Sound to the Tasman Sea, where subject to favourable weather conditions, the sails are hoisted for a period before returning to sheltered waters to anchor in Harrison Cove.

The friendly crew and expert nature guides are always available to answer your questions and help with the activities such as kayaking and exploring the coastline by tender craft. Passengers have the opportunity to visit the Underwater Observatory as an optional extra. (Self driving only).

An overnight cruise in Milford Sound is the ultimate dinner, bed and breakfast experience. Explore the fiord in the quiet of the late afternoon and venture out in our kayaks or small craft. In the morning, awake to the beauty of the fiord.

There are 2 Overnight cruise options available on Milford Sound:

Milford Mariner

  • Private cabins with ensuite bathrooms

Milford Wanderer

  • Twin share compartments and Quad share rooms.  All have shared bathroom facilities.

Also, check out the Overnight Doubtful Sound Cruise - Less well known, but just as spectacular as Milford Sound.




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Main Office:
Visitors Centre

State Highway 94, Milford Sound

Distance from Town:0kms


Help Notes:

Cancellation Policy: Strict cancellation penalties apply for travel within 35 Days. Full payment is required 35 days prior to departure. 

All cruise departures are subject to weather conditions so it is required to reconfirm your tour 48 hours prior to departure.  At this time your departure point and time will be verified.

What to bring:

  • Comfortable walking shoes/boots
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Woollen sweater/fleece jacket
  • Change of clothes
  • Sunscreen/sunglasses
  • Insect repellent
  • Swimwear (optional)
  • Cash for bar and snacks
  • Camera and lots of film
  • Overnight bag only

IMPORTANT NOTE for self-drive passengers:  There is no fuel available in Milford Sound so it is important to fill up in Te Anau before departing on the 124 km round trip between Te Anau & Milford Sound. 

Available Activities:
Milford Mariner Overnight Cruise

The Milford Mariner offers a very special dinner, bed and breakfast experience. Designed along the lines of a traditional New Zealand coastal trading scow to reflect Fiordland’s heritage, the Milford Mariner caters for visitors who enjoy comfort, combined with activity. The vessel has been purpose built to accommodate passengers in private cabins with ensuite bathrooms. It has a spacious dining saloon, observation lounge and large open deck areas for viewing the scenery of Milford Sound.

Departing from the Milford Wharf, the Milford Mariner cruises the length of Milford Sound to the Tasman Sea. The vessel explores in a leisurely way many points of interest, with plenty of time available to view waterfalls, rainforest, mountains and wildlife with the experienced nature guide. After reaching the open sea, subject to weather and favourable conditions the sails are hoisted for a period. The vessel returns to the fiord and anchors overnight in sheltered Harrison Cove.
Activities include kayaking and exploring the shoreline on the tender craft.

The overnight cruise includes a delicious four course buffet evening meal and hearty cooked breakfast. Beverages are sold at the licensed, on board bar. The next morning following breakfast, there is further cruising before returning to the Milford Wharf. Suitable for most ages, except infants. Not suitable for wheelchair clients due to steep stairs.

Self-Drive Passengers (not using Real Journeys coach or flight connections) also have an opportunity to visit the Underwater Observatory as an optional extra.

Key Points:

  • Spacious viewing decks, dining saloon, fully licensed bar and observation lounge.
  • Accommodation is in private cabins with ensuite bathrooms (twin, double or single occupancy)
  • Three course evening buffet meal and cooked breakfast included.
  • Capacity – sleeps 60
  • Kayaking and tender craft (small boat) activities included
  • Specialist nature guide on board
  • Milford Sound Discovery Centre (underwater observatory) option for self drive customers only (extra cost)
  • Coach connections from Queenstown and Te Anau available (extra cost)
  • Fly out option, Milford to Queenstown ( Weather permitting and not advisable for customers with connecting flights or other restricted travel arrangements)
  • Suitable for all ages

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Milford Mariner

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Departures: Daily departures from Milford at 4.30pm. Returns 9.15 am (Off-Peak) & 10.15am (Peak) on Day 2.


Off-Peak: October, April, May & September

Peak: November to March

Duration: 2 days / 1 night

Room Types: Double, Twin, Single or Quad Share* occupancy available.

* During May & Sep quad-share accommodation is available on board the Milford Mariner

Min Child Age: 1 year old

Max Child Age: 14 years old

Infants: (0 - 12 months) carried free of charge if sleeping in a cot, otherwise child rates apply. Infants may travel in twin/double cabins only. Passengers to provide their own cot, unless by prior arrangement.

Milford Wanderer Overnight Cruise

An overnight cruise on board the Milford Wanderer is a unique adventure. Begin your overnight experience with a full length cruise of Milford Sound accompanied by a specialist nature guide. The atmosphere on board is friendly and relaxed, and you’ll quickly get to know your crew and fellow travellers.

As you explore the fiord, keep a lookout for wildlife, especially fur seals basking on the rocks. In the late afternoon, the Milford Wanderer will moor in a sheltered cove, allowing you to go exploring with a nature guide in the kayaks and tender craft (small boat). If you’re feeling brave, you can even go swimming in the fiord’s pure, but cold waters.

As the shadows deepen, the Milford Wanderer will return under sail (weather permitting) to Harrison Cove for the night. Enjoy a three course meal in the cosy saloon and relax in the company of like-minded travellers.  

Key Points:

  • Spacious viewing decks, cosy dining saloon and fully licensed bar.
  • Twin-share compartments and shared bathroom facilities.  Limited Quad-share accommodation is also available also with shared bathroom.
  • Three course evening meal and cooked breakfast included.
  • Kayaking and tender craft (small boat) activities included
  • Specialist nature guide on board
  • Capacity – Sleeps 61 quad-share or 40 twin-share
  • Milford Sound Discovery Centre (underwater observatory) option for self-drive customers only (extra cost)
  • Coach connections from Queenstown and Te Anau available (extra cost)
  • Fly out options, Milford to Queenstown available (weather dependent and at extra cost)
  • Suitable for all ages with exception of infants

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Departures: Daily departures from Milford at 4.30pm. Returns 9.30am on Day 2.


Off-Peak: October to April

Peak: November to March

Duration: 2 days / 1 night

Room Types: Twin Share or Quad Share with shared bathroom facilities. Please note: We endeavour to assign compartments as " all female " or " all male " but we cannot guarantee this.

Min Child Age: 5 years old

Max Child Age: 14 years old

Infants: Not suitable to accommodate children under the age of 5 years.


What is the difference between the Milford Mariner and Milford Wanderer Overnight Cruises?
Each cruise has the same focus on sharing the wonders of Milford Sound through in-depth commentaries and a variety of activities (wildlife viewing, kayaking and cruising in the tender craft).  The Milford Mariner offers private cabins with ensuite bathrooms and the Milford Wanderer offers quad share bunk-style compartments with shared bathroom facilities and from November 2011 offers twin share rooms with bathroom facilities.

How long does it take to travel to Milford?
If you are travelling from Queenstown it will take around 5 hours to reach Milford.  Te Anau to Milford is around 2 hours and 20 minutes.  This timing allows for stops along the way for photos or short walks to places of interest.  If driving make sure you fill your vehicle with petrol in Te Anau before travelling to Milford as there are no petrol stations at Milford Sound or en route.

What are the road conditions to Milford like in the winter?
Driving conditions during winter (May to September) can be difficult.  Extreme care is needed as freezing temperatures mean the road can ice over in shaded places.  During the winter it is mandatory to carry snow chains in your vehicle as the road can sometimes be covered in snow.  These are available for hire from petrol stations in Te Anau and Queenstown. If you are not confident about driving in winter conditions then take a Real Journeys coach to Milford Sound and relax and enjoy the stunning scenery.

Where do you park and check in at Milford?
There is a large car park at Milford Sound.  You will need to allow around 10 minutes to walk from the car park to the Visitor Terminal where you check in for your cruise.  Check in is required 20 minutes prior to departure. See our map of Milford Sound.

Is there secure luggage storage at Milford Sound?
There is a limited amount of luggage storage available so customers who are walking the Milford Track are able to store their luggage safely.

What happens if the weather changes and we can’t fly out from Milford?
Your travel agent or the outlet where you purchased your Milford Sound trip will refund the flight component of your ticket.  You will return to Queenstown by coach.

Are linen and towels provided on the Milford and Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruises?

Overnight Cruises and Quad share - We are a group of three people and would like to book a shared quad-share room. Will this mean we would be sharing with another person?
Yes, you could potentially be sharing with another guest. Alternatively you could choose to pay for the entire quad cabin, or two double cabins, to ensure privacy.

What is the difference between Milford and Doubtful Sounds?
Milford Sound at the mountainous north end of Fiordland National Park is the classic fiord - a deep water inlet between steep sided high mountains.  Milford Sound is a middle-sized fiord at around 13 kms in length and it is famous for its dramatic scenery, especially Mitre Peak.  This fiord is the most accessible of Fiordland National Park’s 14 fiords and it can be reached by road (coach or car) or by flight connections from Queenstown.

Doubtful Sound is located in the heart of Fiordland National Park where the mountains are still very impressive but not as high as Milford Sound.  Doubtful Sound is three times longer and  has a sea surface area roughly ten times larger than Milford Sound.  Its three arms are Hall, Crooked and First Arm.  It is famous for its wilderness scenery and wildlife sightings.  To travel to Doubtful Sound visitors first take a launch trip across Lake Manapouri and coach over Wilmot Pass.

Visitors with enough time choose to experience both fiords as they have different characters.

What is the difference between a sound and a fiord?
A fiord is a glaciated valley - typically narrow and steep-sided - that has been flooded by the sea after the glacier’s retreat.  A sound, on the other hand, is a river valley flooded by the sea following a rise in sea levels or depression of the land, or a combination of both.

What weather can I expect in Fiordland?
Fiordland’s weather is what gives the region its unique character. Rainfall is what makes Fiordland a land of lakes, rivers, streams, waterfalls and fiords. Visitors should always be prepared to enjoy some rainfall during their stay. It is recommended to bring sensible clothing for cool and wet weather to fully appreciate your stay.
The temperatures you can expect in the different seasons are as follows:

Summer (December-February) 19-23 Celsius

Autumn (March-May) 8-18 Celsius

Winter (June-August) 5-9 Celsius

Spring (September-November) 10-19 Celsius

Is it worth going to Milford or Doubtful Sounds on a wet day?
Many say you have not seen Fiordland unless you have seen it in the rain.  When it rains in Fiordland the landscape is dramatic. Rock faces stream with waterfalls, mist hangs around the tops of the mountains and rivers and streams rage.  From a dry comfortable vantage point on board the coach or vessel this landscape is spectacular.

Do you pick up from local accommodation in Queenstown or Te Anau?
If you have booked a coach and cruise to Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound our coaches pick up from most accommodation in Queenstown and Te Anau.  When booking either from our website or directly with our staff, please let us know if you want to be picked up from your accommodation or from our Visitor Centre.

How likely are we to see wildlife in Fiordland?
While we cannot guarantee you will see wildlife, sightings of fur seals are reasonably common in both Doubtful and Milford Sounds.  A pod of bottlenose dolphins resides in Doubtful Sound so you have a good chance of seeing these fascinating mammals, and in Milford Sound dolphins are occasional visitors.  In both sounds the rare Fiordland crested penguin can at times be observed.

Are the vessels licensed to sell alcohol?
Alcohol is available on all our excursions.

Do you offer vegetarian meals?
Overnight cruises include vegetarian options. Please advise us of any special dietary requirements when booking.


Optional Extra's:

Exclusive Coach Transfers from Queenstown or Te Anau


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The journey to Milford from Te Anau and Queenstown is magnificent.
The Milford Road (between Te Anau and Milford) is one of the finest alpine drives in the world. The scenery is exceptional, ranging from broad grassy flats, dense rainforest, and towering mountains through to glacial lakes and alpine herb fields. No other road in Fiordland offers such a diverse glimpse into New Zealand’s alpine zone. Our luxury coaches have been purpose built for travelling the Milford Road, incorporating the latest technology for comfort and safety. The seats are tiered and angled towards the windows to maximise your views, and the expansive glass roof provides breathtaking sights of the snow-capped peaks.
Our drivers have been selected for their experience and knowledge, and our schedule includes plenty of time for short nature walks and photo opportunities along the way.

Coach connections with Milford Sound Overnight Cruises:
During  the summer season (October to May), Real Journeys operates coach services from Queenstown and Te Anau connecting with our Milford Sound Overnight Cruise options. Excursions depart from Real Journeys Visitor Centres:
  • Queenstown: Visitors Centre, Steamer Wharf  (Beach St)
  • Te Anau: Visitors Centre, Te Anau Terrace, Te Anau

Courtesy transfers from most Queenstown and Te Anau accommodation if pick up address is advised in advance
Lunch can be purchased en route in Te Anau

Scenic Flight Connections from Queenstown


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Flying over the Southern Alps between Queenstown and Milford is the ultimate way to experience southern New Zealand’s dramatic alpine scenery.
A hidden landscape unfolds below, revealing glacial lakes, waterfalls, deep valleys and cloud-piercing summits.
Our aircraft are specially selected for the mountainous terrain of Fiordland and Mount Aspiring National Parks. All our pilots are specifically trained for alpine flying and provide an informative commentary along the way.

On landing at the Milford Sound airstrip you are transferred to the harbour where you board your selected Real Journeys cruise.

You can choose to fly both ways or to fly back to Queenstown after travelling the spectacular overland route to Milford Sound on our luxury coach. Fly-back options are available with all daytime and overnight cruises.

  • Flights depart daily from the Real Journeys Visitor Terminal, Lucas Place, Queenstown Airport
  • Courtesy transfers from most Queenstown accommodation if pick up address is advised in advance
  • All flights are weather dependent
  • Suitable for all ages
  • Child rates apply for 4 - 14 years
  • Infants 0 - 3 years carried free of charge where the infant sits on parent's knee, otherwise child rates apply

Milford Discovery Centre - Underwater Observatory


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Guided visits to the Milford Discovery Centre are available as an add-on with most Milford Sound Nature Cruises and Overnight Cruises (bookings essential, extra cost). Due to the delayed return, this option is not available to passengers travelling by Real Journeys coach or plane.

After an informative introductory talk, you will descend to the underwater viewing chamber to observe the fascinating corals, anemones, sponges, sea horses and fish species in their natural habitat.

Please request this add-on at time of booking.

Please note: If you choose a visit to the Milford Discovery Centre you will return to the Milford Wharf by water taxi approximately 30 minutes later than the scheduled cruise return.

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