Milford Sound is hands-down one of the best places to visit in New Zealand. The beautiful scenery is sure to leave you breathless.
But don’t bank on blue skies while you’re there – it rains on average more than 200 days a year in Milford! Don’t worry though; a trip to Milford is worthwhile rain or shine.
So sit back, and let us tell you why Milford is so stunning all year round and what to expect from the unpredictable weather that Milford Sound is famous for.
Milford Sound: The wettest inhabited places in New Zealand
Milford is one of the wettest places on Earth. On average, Milford Sound sees over 7 metres of rain a year (yep, we mean metres – generally speaking rain only gets measured in millimetres or centimetres here in NZ!)
Thanks to all this rain, Milford Sound is filled with luscious greenery as well as powerful waterfalls as far as the eye can see! Without the rain, Milford simply wouldn’t be the same.
But why is there all of this rain?
Well, we have the mountains and the ocean to thank for this one. The wet winds from the coast rush into Milford Sound and hit the mountains. The mountains then push the wind upwards where the water is eventually dumped as rain. It’s all part of the weather cycle in Milford and you definitely need to be prepared for showers when visiting.
Even amongst all of the rain, Milford still gets its sunny days. In fact, when the sun is shining temperatures in Milford can rise well above 25 degrees Celsius. On these days you will definitely need some sunscreen, a hat, and maybe even a cold beverage from the bar on our cruises.
And in all honesty, it isn’t unusual to experience pouring rain and the hot sun all within a matter of minutes in Milford. This weather is so hard to predict that the Milford weather forecast almost never gets it right. You really need to be prepared for all weather on your trip to Milford.
Milford Sound in the rain
While the rain might be a little wet and cold, it does make some parts of a trip to Milford even better!
It’s simple really; more water means more waterfalls (the locals like to call it liquid gold!) and Milford’s unique landscape looks pretty magical in the moody weather.
Things to see on the road to Milford in the rain
The start of any trip to Milford is the drive. Some of the highlights of a Milford Sound trip are along the road to Milford – and certain stops are actually better in the rain!
Lake Marian Walk Waterfalls
The waterfalls at the start of the walk to Lake Marian become that much more powerful in the rain. Their strength is impressive and the short walk to see them means you don’t have to spend that much time braving the weather to get there.
The Chasm is another waterfall along the road to Milford worth checking out. It’s famous for its power that actually carved the rocks that surround it. You haven’t really seen this beast’s true power until you see it in the rain!
The Cleddau Valley
Also along the road to Milford, you’ll pass through the Homer Tunnel and the Cleddau Valley. Thanks to the rain you’ll see hundreds of waterfalls form on the cliffs and mountains that surround you. The clouds set the mood and the landscape becomes even more dramatic.
Best Milford Sound sites in the rain
Then, once you get to Milford and venture out on a boat cruise the waterfalls continue – trust us, you’ll definitely lose count! Our nature guides on our cruises are experts in Milford whatever the weather. They’ll be able to point out all of the beautiful sites and give you some interesting insight into how they formed.
The Four Sisters Waterfalls
These four beautiful waterfalls are only possible to see in the rain. In fact, it only takes a few days for them to dry up! So, if you’re lucky enough to visit Milford in the rain be sure to keep an eye out for the Four Sisters!
The Palisades emerge from the huge overhanging cliffs in the rain. On a sunny day, you’ll still see it, but the water won’t be much more than a trickle. So you can be thankful for the rainy weather if you do get a chance to see this beauty in full force.
Stirling Falls is a truly magical waterfall to visit. On one of our Milford Cruises we actually get so close to Stirling Falls that you’ll have the chance to get showered underneath her. This is what we call the “Milford Glacial Facial” and it’s said to make you look ten years younger. (Sign us up)!
Bowen Falls is Milford Sound’s highest permanentwaterfall at a whopping 160 meters! Although Bowen Falls is more powerful in the rain, it’s one of Milford’s permanent waterfalls meaning it’s around all of the time.
When it comes to Fairy Falls, the rain really is your best friend. Although technically a semi-permanent waterfall, Fairy Falls rarely dries up because of Milford’s rather large annual rainfall. On our Encounter Nature Cruise, when possible, you’ll get the chance to taste some of the purest water in the world as we fill your glass from right underneath the falls.
Milford Sound on a Sunny Day
There may be fewer waterfalls on a sunny day, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other things to see. The wildlife of Milford love it when the sun makes an appearance. While on a boat cruise, you might be lucky enough to see seals lounging about on Seal Rock soaking up the rays. Friendly Keas will be flying about as their brilliantly coloured wings shine in the sunlight.
When the sun comes out and the clouds part, you also can enjoy the towering mountains that surround you. Mitre Peak is an icon of Milford and seeing it in its entirety is breath-taking!
If you do happen to get Milford on a clear day, be sure to stick around to enjoy the sunset. The best way to see the sunset is to spend a night or two at Milford Sound Lodge. This way, you can hang out at the foreshore until the shows over and only be minutes away from a good night’s’ sleep. Watching the sunset in Milford is worth hanging around for – we promise it won’t disappoint!
When’s the best time to visit Milford Sound?
Anytime during the year is a great time to visit Milford. Unlike many attractions in New Zealand, a trip to Milford Sound isn’t seasonal. That being said, there are a few key differences between winter and summer that you should know about.
Milford Sound in Winter:
Milford Sound can be cold in winter. Temperatures can drop well below 0 degrees Celsius while daily averages are around 5-9 degrees. But with the cold temperatures comes the snow-covered peaks – and Milford’s peaks are simply gorgeous.
Milford is also not as busy in winter. There will be fewer people around and less crowds, making the trip that much more peaceful. Relaxing inside one of our heated boats while enjoying a hot cup of tea is an ideal way to experience Milford Sound in the winter!
If you want to see penguins, then August to November is your best chance. Little Blue Penguins and Fiordland Crested Penguins call Milford Sound home. During these months, they’re out and about hunting to feed their chicks. This is the best time to see these busy little birds.
Milford Sound in Summer
Summer is beautiful in Milford. Temperatures average between 19-23 degrees Celsius. This makes being outdoors that much more enjoyable. Summer is the time to venture out on a few different hikes in the area or even enjoy the outside viewing deck on one of our Milford boat cruises. The landscape is green and full of life in summer!
You’ll still be able to see plenty of Milford wildlife in the summer too. Penguins hang around until late spring while dolphins can be spotted late into the summer months. Seals are around all year so you’re very likely to see these guys.
What should you pack?
The unpredictable weather means you need to be prepared for anything during your Milford trip. Some things you should definitely bring with you are:
- Sunblock – even in the winter, New Zealand’s sun is strong.
- Rain jacket – a rain jacket will come in handy if you do get any showers.
- Insect repellent – sand flies hang around in Milford Sound so repellent will definitely make your trip more enjoyable.
- Camera – Rain, shine, summer, or winter Milford is beautiful and you’ll want photos to remember it.
- Snacks – a long day of exploring means you’ll likely get hungry!
All year round, in any weather, we love bringing guests from all over the world to Milford Sound. Book your Milford Sound adventure with Southern Discoveries.