Milford Sounds on a Budget
Milford Sounds is the eighth wonder of the world and a highlight to anyones trip in New Zealand. Sometimes with these things though, the excursions and activities you can do there soon rack up a lot of money. So we did Milford Sounds on a budget, and still got to take in its breath taking views and go on a boat!
Firstly, if you are campervanners like us, then you will want to find somewhere to sleep the night before on the way as it is good to get there really early and get the free parking (more on that in a bit). We stayed at Knobs Flat (1 hour from Milford Sounds) which was $20 per person and included unlimited hot powerful showers! Plus a kitchen to use and flushing toilets. Generally $20 per person is expensive for campsites, but it is by far one of the cheapest on the way to Milford Sounds. You can of course opt to stay in a Department of Conversation (DOC) site for $15 each, but theres no showers and they are long drop toilets. We enjoyed Knobs Flat and the lady who checked us in was very informative, it’s worth noting that we rang in the morning to book in there as it gets very full quickly! We took a short walk from the site to see a stunning waterfall around 8pm and we had to climb over a fallen tree to get across the river!
So Milford Sounds - there is a free car park 20 minutes walk outside of the main area (or get the free bus from the carpark) which everyone races to get to in the morning, so we left just before 7am to get a spot there. The other option is you could go in the afternoon (if you are not an early bird) as people tend to have left by then, but unless you want to stay 2 nights in Knobs Flat or a DOC campground, you are looking at 2.5 hours drive to Te Anau (no free sites there) and then another hour until you reach a free site.
We took the bus from the carpark which took us to the boat terminal, the cheapest you can get a boat is about $60 per person and that is the 9am one, otherwise it fluctuates between $80-100 each. We didn’t get one of those boats, we chose to go to Bowen Falls. It cost us $10 each and it was definitely worth it! You are only on the boat for about 2 minutes, just takes you from one side of the port to the other, but you don’t get it for the boat ride you get it for the waterfall. S-T-U-N-N-I-N-G! It had rained heavily the day before we got there and so the waterfall was just pumping out the water, we got soaked just from the spray back! We got to be practically under it, whereas the other boat rides weren’t even close, and we were probably in all their photos!
After our exhilarating waterfall experience we did the short walks around Milford Sounds, there are 2 main ones each about 20 minutes long if that. One is up a lot of steps to see some awesome views and the other is more around the water. Both well worth it, and both free!
They say the average time you spend in Milford Sounds is 3 hours, and I would say that was about right. On the drive back you pass lots of places for more photos, and for longer walks if you wish to do them. We were so tired and with a long drive ahead decided to skip them. But we did stop at the Mirror Lakes to see beautiful reflections of the mountains!
So there you have it, Milford Sounds is definitely doable on a budget, and it is definitely worth the long drive there and back!