Embracing winter time on the Milford Road

Pros and Cons of Milford Sound in Winter

11 Jun 2015

The months of May to September mark winter in Fiordland and Milford Sound. The days become shorter and cooler, mountains become covered in snow, and the pace of life slows in the local community. Fiordland isn’t better or worse in winter. Milford Sound is made fabulous by the snow and cold, and there are many reasons to put Fiordland on your travel list. It’s really about what type of experience you want to have. Visit Fiordland in winter for the opportunity to try something entirely different and get out of your comfort zone - to create incredible memories!

I have come up with a list of the pros and cons of Fiordland in winter.

Couple in snow along the Milford Road, Fiordland | Trips and Tramps

The Milford Road is an alpine highway and can be blanketed in snow during the winter months!


Travel without the crowds

Fewer people travel to Milford Sound in winter so you get to experience more wilderness and beauty of the area, in relative solitude. Also with less people around your plans can be more flexible with your itinerary, as space is likely to be available.

Places look incredible

Fiordland in winter is characterised by still, clear days against a backdrop of snow covered mountains. The most beautiful vistas are experienced in winter and are a photographers delight.

Wildlife is still there

Native birds seek shelter and food in the valleys and around the town, so viewing is easier. Keas especially can be seen in abundance alongside the Milford Road, and around our township of Te Anau the kererū (our native wook pigeon) perch in trees. Marine mammals including seals, penguins and dolphins still frequent the fiords. The only thing we see less of is the Sandfly - making your visit much more pleasant!

The NZ native kea along the Milford Road | Trips and Tramps

The cheeky keas can be seen around the Milford Road in large numbers during the winter months.

Time to connect with locals

Winter is a time when the local community slows down and comes together. Consequently you’ll find people are in a better mood, and you’re more likely to be invited to join in. Unique Fiordland events in winter include the Hunting and Fishing Big 3 held early June, or jump into the lake for the annual Polar Plunge in support of the local Te Anau school. For local event information and calendar see Te Anau Events.

Special Deals available

As the people disappear, so do the peak season rates. Winter is a great time to travel on a budget or with the family. 

Exploring the Eglinton Valley in winter enroute to Milford Sound. Small groups, big scenery!


It gets cold – yes there is no escaping this fact in Fiordland! The winter sun is at a low angle and frosts produce ice on the sunless valley floors. However modern clothing is warm, relatively inexpensive and readily available – so dress for the conditions and make the most of it. Accommodation, boats and vehicles are warm inside but it is equally inspiring to get out there.

Daylight hours are limited – the days are shorter and darkness falls early (average daylight 8.00 am until 5.00 pm). If you have a car, plan to drive during the day and don’t rush, as ice can be a safety issue.  If you are planning to visit Milford Sound we recommend you book an all inclusive tour and let the professionals like Trips & Tramps do the driving for you!

Not everything is open - the Great Walks and alpine tracks are not suitable for hiking in winter, but there are still forest walks available on the Kepler Track and in the Hollyford Valley area. A team of experts actively managing the Milford Road to ensure your safety and keep the road passable. Some attractions and restaurants close or opening hours become limited, but there are still plenty of opportunities to ensure your travel is memorable.


So in summary the pros easily outweigh the cons, and Fiordland is worth a visit in winter. If you need help to plan your stay or need further convincing do not hesitate to contact Trips & Tramps. We are only too happy to share our local knowledge, enthusiastic spirit for the area and assist with logistics of your journey.

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