Unless you really, really, really only have one day to spare for Milford Sound, this trip deserves more of your time. Although the operators try hard to give the opportunity to appreciate this unique trip, the day trip is just too long and doesn't stop enough. We recently hired a campervan in Queenstown (some great deals on these in spring, pit the companies against each other for price and DO NOT PAY that crazy expensive excess-reducing insurance, you can buy a travel policy to cover this for way cheaper) and drove to Te Anau, stayed in the Lakeside Holiday Park which was great, and then spent a whole day driving to Milford Sound. We stopped to take endless photos and video. Download the Milford Road map/blurb from DOC to find all the short walks on the side of the road - Mirror Lakes (best early), the lookout past the Divide, the first 10 minutes of the Lake Marion track (1 km up the Hollyford Road),the Homer tunnel walk, the Chasm walk are all short and stunningly beautiful. This visit the Chasm walk (we have done several times) was closed (avalance season I think) but we decided to walk to Lake Marion which is about 3 hours return. Bit of a challenging uphill slog to get there but rewarded by walking in snow and seeing lots of avalances as we sat by the lake for lunch. Quick walk down! If you don't want to walk 3 hours, the first very easy10 minutes of this track will put you over a swingbridge and by some spectacular rapids in the moss-draped rainforest. Milford isn't infamous for car thieves like some of my beloved country but please don't leave your valuables in your car ever! You need insect repellant too as Milford has annoying little biting sandflies (Namu). Keas hang around carparks (the lookouts and walking track starts) if you want to see them, though look out if your car is made interesting with kayaks or mountain bikes (last time we went to Milford with our kayaks and the keas ate the ropes while we did a short walk, egged on by a busload of tourists).
We stayed at Milford Lodge as we have several times - their accommodation suits all budgets but make sure you book in advance. Beautiful riverside spot and even has a glowworm walk. Lots of good places to cook, sit, eat and helpful staff. We took a cruise on the sound (fjord really) at 11am the next day, which was great as the wind and weather deteriorated later in the day. We had discounted tickets from Bookme.co.nz which is a brilliant website to get deals around Queenstown, this made the cruise excellent value. All cruise operators do the same basic trip with a clockwise circuit and commentary, stopping under a couple of waterfalls and pointing out the seals, or dolphins if you're lucky. We paid extra for lunch but wasn't hugely impressed, would have done better with a quick packed lunch after visiting a bakery/cafe or supermarket in Te Anau. Would love to do the overnight cruise one day when feeling richer! A couple of operators do kayak trips which is a great way to see the sound if you decide to stay there as well (and some cruises tack on an hours short kayak) The one day Milford track walk from the Milford end looks like a good deal too - we did this by ourselves on a previous trip by kayaking to the end and walking in to the Giant Falls for lunch. Beautiful, flat walk where we met lots of people coming the other way from the 3 day Milford Track.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.