When is the best time to visit Milford Sound?

Whatever the weather – come hail, snow, rain or shine – Milford Sound is incredible year-round. But of course, there are some pros and cons to visiting at certain times of the year. We’ve broken down what to expect in each season to help you plan your trip.

It’s also worth noting that Milford Sound is one of the wettest places in New Zealand, with about 200 days per year. However, rain is exactly what you want as it makes the waterfalls even more awe-inspiring.

Spring (September-November)

Best for: waterfalls, wildlife, smaller crowds and more daylight.

Spring is a great time to visit before the summer crowds arrive. The Milford Track is less busy and there are fewer boats on the water. New life starts emerging and there are more daylight hours to explore (daylight savings starts at the end of September).

It's still rainy, but most of the harsh winter weather and storms have been and gone. Plus, melting snow and downpours make the waterfalls swell even more. Another spring treat is seeing adorable little lambs and fawns scampering around the fields.

Summer (December-February)

Best for: higher chance of clear views, hiking and mild weather.

Be prepared for bigger crowds. It’s definitely not a deal-breaker, but the mild summer weather attracts throngs of tourists. Average daily temperatures linger just below 20°C, and it can often feel quite humid due to being a mountainous region surrounded by water.

There's still plenty of rain in the summer, but there’s not as much as in the cooler seasons, so the waterfalls might not be as powerful. Clearer skies also make it a great time to go hiking as more mountain scenery will be on display.

Autumn (March-May)

Best for: hiking and mild weather.

Milford Sound doesn’t offer stereotypical autumn scenes, as most of New Zealand’s native flora stays green all year round. But what it does offer is pleasant weather that’s ideal for hiking. The days start to draw in earlier, but the weather is still mild enough to enjoy being out without loads of layers.

The temperature drops towards the end of the season so ensure you pack adequate clothing. Another advantage is that you’ll miss the hoards of tourists that were here just a few weeks ago. This means you'll have a higher chance of seeing dolphins as there are fewer boats in the water.

Winter (June-August)

Best for: waterfalls, fewer crowds and wildlife spotting.

Winter might be cold, but it’s way less crowded. You’ll have many of Milford Sound’s natural wonders (almost) all to yourself. This includes pods of dolphins and whales and colonies of fur seals who often like to pop up to the surface to see what’s going on. The bottlenose dolphins who live here are known to be playful and often chase boats.

If you’re a cataractophile (AKA a lover of waterfalls), winter is calling your name. Torrential downpours turn already spectacular waterfalls into one of Mother Nature’s greatest shows as water gushes down the cliff faces.

You actually want the weather to be a bit wet and gloomy in Milford Sound. This region was formed by extreme weather, and there’s something about the moody skies that makes the scenery look extra dramatic. You’ll definitely need your thermals and a jacket for a winter trip.

Average monthly temperatures in Milford Sound


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