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A guest snaps a photo of a powerful waterfall during the Piopiotahi / Milford Sound cruise

Weather in Milford Sound

Milford Sound is famous for being one of the wettest places in New Zealand. The number of waterfalls, lakes and rivers in the area is a testament to the amount of rainfall Milford Sound receives
If you're planning your trip to Milford Sound and wondering what to expect from the weather, here is an overview of Milford Sound's climate over the year.
Summer: December – February 

Milford Sound is typically cool all year round – you should always take a jacket, just in case! On a sunny day in summer though, temperatures can get up to around 27. Overnight, it can get as cold as 7-8 degrees, so if you’re camping in the area make sure you have plenty of warm clothes.

Summer is also not exempt from heavy rains – the total rainfall in summer is more or less the same as in winter.

One of the best things about summer is longer days and evenings that are light for longer. This means you have more time to enjoy the beauty of Milford Sound, and it’s much easier to camp in the area.

There is one major downside to visiting Milford Sound between December and February though – this is when the pesky sandflies are out in full force. It’s also the busiest tourist season, so you may need to book accommodation, cruises and tours in advance.

Autumn: March – May

Autumn is a wonderful time to visit Milford Sound. On the journey from Queenstown to Te Anau you can admire the changing colours in the foliage of European trees. Around Milford itself, most of the plants and trees are native, so you won't see the colours changing as prominently. 

Temperatures in Milford Sound start dipping below 20C around late April, and by May can be dropping below 0C overnight. Historically, May has also seen some of the highest rainfall in Milford. 

Daylight Savings usually finishes in early April, so if you make it to Milford before then you can still enjoy longer evenings. 

Autumn is also a shoulder season for Queenstown, Te Anau and the Milford area. The summer rush is over, but the winter ski season has yet to kick off, so you can enjoy having most attractions to yourself and lower prices around this time of year.

Winter: June – August 

Winter is a great time to visit Milford Sound, as the snow sprinkled over the mountains adds an extra layer of beauty. However, the snow can bring some problems with the road into Milford Sound, so you have to stay alert for updates.

The road can close if there is heavy snow or an avalanche. If you plan on driving into Milford, make sure you have snow chains for your vehicle - and know how to use them! 

Winter is low season for tourism, so you’ll enjoy quieter cruise trips and lower prices. Colder weather doesn’t seem to bother the wildlife, so you’ll still see plenty of dolphins and fur seals. The only thing you'll see less of is sandflies, which is excellent news!

The downside to winter in Milford Sound is that you will definitely see less sun. The low angle of the sun in the sky, combined with high cliffs and valley walls mean there are areas that are permanently frosty. You'll need to make sure you rug up well and be careful of slippery ice on some of the walking tracks around Milford Sound.

Spring: September – November

Spring weather in Milford is particularly unpredictable. Some days can be frosty and cold, while on others the sun will shine, and you'll be stripping off layers. By October, temperatures can get as high as 20C during the day and no longer fall below zero at night. Look out for signs of the area bursting back into life, such as the red flowers of the Southern Rata or the arrival of nesting migratory birds. Spring is also the time when lupins burst into bloom, so the drive into Milford Sound is more colourful at this time of year.

In spring, fur seal pups and baby dolphins are born, making this the most exciting time for wildlife viewing!

Rivers tend to be swollen at this time of year due to ice higher in the mountains melting, so be careful of any river crossings you might undertake while hiking in the area. 

There’s no such thing as bad weather in Milford Sound, just the wrong clothes! No matter when you go, you'll love exploring Milford Sound with Pure Milford.

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A cheeky kea boards the coach to Piopiotahi / Milford Sound