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Cost of driving from Queenstown to Milford Sound?

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Austin, Texas
posts: 2
Cost of driving from Queenstown to Milford Sound?

Does anyone know roughly how much the fuel cost would be to drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound and back? We'll be in a rental car (two of us), but I'm not sure which type. I'm trying to decide if it's more economical to drive ourselves or do a tour that includes coach transport. I've also read varying lengths of time for the trip - is five hours one way about right?

Dallas, Texas
posts: 1,174
reviews: 53
1. Re: Cost of driving from Queenstown to Milford Sound?

Without knowing the car model and its mileage rating your question can not be answered.

However, you don't say when you plan to do this. The drive between Queenstown and Te Anau is about 2 hours on a 2 lane country road. It's not a difficult drive, but can be crowded, especially with buses from Queenstown during the peak travel hours.

The drive between Te Anau and the boats is a stunningly beautiful drive, on a 2 lane road. Depending on the weather the road can be dangerous, with heavy rain, flooding, snow, avalanche, mudslides (slips), etc. The drive is about 2.5 hours, and there are places to stop for photo ops. The buses stop along the way for photo ops. During the peak travel hours the road is very crowded.

Here's the challenge: if for any reason the road closes, mainly due to weather, you will be directed to get out before they close the road. If you can not get out it is your responsibility to get yourself and the car back to civilization Depending on the duration of the closure, this can be an incredibly expensive proposition.

If you're concerned about the cost of fuel, then I can assure you the cost of getting stuck there because of road closure far exceeds the cost of fuel. There are few places to stay at MS.

If you take commercial transportation to the Sound, the bus firm is responsible to get you out. There is very little mobile phone coverage along the way to the Sound.

I've been there twice during October and the road closed both times at 5PM due to weather. it was a mad dash (on the bus) to get out during heavy and blowing rain.

I hope you're getting the message here, take the bus.

Jervis Bay...
posts: 2,187
reviews: 53
2. Re: Cost of driving from Queenstown to Milford Sound?

The bus trip is fantastic. We went with the Barbeque bus. It took 12 hrs Queenstown to Queenstown. There were numerous stops in Te Anau and at various scenic spots along the way. The commentary filled you in on the geology and history of what you were seeing. Both if you get to see the scenery and it is an easy enjoyable day for both of you. The roads are narrow, windy and there are a lot of idiot campervan drivers who are unfamiliar with the roads and their vans cluttering it up. Save your sanity and energy for something else.

My dh was not keen about bus trips but raves about this one. It also means you can stay in Qtown and not pack/unpack for the day.

South Island
Destination Expert
for South Island
posts: 1,232
3. Re: Cost of driving from Queenstown to Milford Sound?

If you are visiting Milford Sound for the first time take the coach. It is more relaxing and drivers commentary will give you a greater understanding and appreciation of the area. The milford road is very congested in the summer months and the risks of having an accident in your rental car is high. For about $150 you can coach cruise coach Milford Sound from Queenstown. This includes the cruise on Milford Sound which would cost about $90 each if you drove yourself.

Taking a coach tour also gives you an option of flying back to Queenstown after the cruise if the weather permits.

Austin, Texas
posts: 2
4. Re: Cost of driving from Queenstown to Milford Sound?

Thanks for the replies - coach it is then!

Los Angeles
posts: 263
reviews: 11
5. Re: Cost of driving from Queenstown to Milford Sound?

Interesting conversation. I am looking at driving in July. Thoughts? I would likely skip the area if I have to do a bus....

Wanaka, New Zealand
posts: 1,926
reviews: 12
6. Re: Cost of driving from Queenstown to Milford Sound?

This topic has been discussed endlessly on here. I suggest you do a search to find past (many relatively recent) threads on the pros and cons of driving vs bus to Milford Sound.

Dallas, Texas
posts: 1,174
reviews: 53
7. Re: Cost of driving from Queenstown to Milford Sound?

Driving in July would put you in the dead of winter. The road is subject to avalanche and road closures, heavy snow is the norm.

If you get stuck there it can be a real problem getting out, especially if the road closes and you have a rental car> Depending on the duration of the road closure schedules can get ruined and fees begin to accumulate . There are very few places to stay at MS and it can be a really nasty drive in weather.

What's your aversion to the bus?

Take a plane....

Los Angeles
posts: 263
reviews: 11
8. Re: Cost of driving from Queenstown to Milford Sound?

Just not a bus kinda guy. If I drive from Christchurch to Queenstown. Then Q to Wanaka. Then Wanaka up to Franz Joseph Glacier. Am I keeping far enough North to avoid road closures (I know you can't forecast a 50 year storm, but generally speaking..). I guess I don't understand where things become REALLY remote as you head south. Thanks for your input.

posts: 4,630
reviews: 32
9. Re: Cost of driving from Queenstown to Milford Sound?


I agree 100% bus/coach travel is fine for consenting adults...........and I'm not one of them! Organised anything with a group..............not for me!

Fiordland is one of the absolute gems of NZ and should not be missed. To avoid coach travel and to put Fiordland in perspective, see most of the sounds, inlets and fiords, see parts of the Milford and Routeburn tracks and land on a glacier IMHO you can't beat a fly/cruise/heli/fly trip and pray the weather gods permit.

You should be aware that the Haast Pass (between Wanaka and the Glaciers is closed at times owing to land slip stabilisation works and is closed completly each evening and during periods of heavy rain. I saw some photos of the slip and such is the scale of the works this may still be the case when you visit :-(


Dallas, Texas
posts: 1,174
reviews: 53
10. Re: Cost of driving from Queenstown to Milford Sound?

Well, just to put it in perspective, the only bus I've been on in years is the Queenstown to Milford Sound bus.

I'm not a tour guy either, but having been on that road twice in miserable weather and having to high tail it out of there by 5PM because the road was being closed, I'll take the bus thank you.

Much nicer scenery on the ground than in the air.