Milford Sound is, at least theoretically, New Zealand’s #1 attraction. It is located towards the southern end of the country’s south island. Getting there isn’t a problem. There are lots of ways to do it. Finding a place to stay isn’t really a big deal either. However, if you think you can just waltz into Queenstown, New Zealand, the jumping off point for Milford Sound, in the summer months and find a cheap place to stay then you don’t really understand how popular the tourist attraction really is. I’m here now and I haven’t seen anything but No Vacancy signs up at all the local accommodations that have signs out front telling the public whether they have vacancies or not. I would say that someone without a reservation who is looking for a place to sleep during the high season should expect to pay a significant sum of money for their accommodations.
But that’s not what this post is about. What I’m looking at in this post is what I would have to pay to get to Milford Sound from Queenstown on a one day trip. I’m going to compare that to what I paid to get there using a rental car. I paid significantly more than someone who was taking a bus trip but there was a reason. I’ll get to that soon. Most of the trips to Milford Sound are tour buses that take you from either Queenstown or Te Anua and put you on a boat where you spend somewhere between 1.5 and 2.5 hours riding around the sound, looking at one of Mother Nature’s better creations. The bare minimum price for the ride is $45 AUD with either Orange or Jucy. Both those cruises are first-thing-in-the-morning cruises. Mid afternoon cruises can cost twice that due to simple supply and demand. The $45 AUD does not include any transportation. If you want to throw in a bus ride from Queenstown the price goes up to $125 for Orange and $115 for Jucy. The trip from Queenstown will take 4+ hours to get there and 4+ hours to get back.
I rented a car at the Queenstown airport when I went to Milford Sound.. The car cost me $123 AUD for a 3 day rental. I didn’t have to pay the $12 AUD to get from the airport to Queenstown and the $12 AUD to get back to the airport. that the vast majority of people pay when they ride the public bus to and from the airport. My cruise wound up costing me $22.50 AUD as I rented a car from Jucy and got a 50% discount. I didn’t have to stay in Queenstown. I stayed in Te Anau, a small town located half way between Queenstown and Milford Sound. That means that my trip to Milford Sound wasn’t a 4+ hour drive there and back. It was a 2+ hour drive each way. While I would have liked to have had someone else drive me there and back, I didn’t want to sit on a bus for almost 10 hours. Plus, I would have had the cost of buying a lunch somewhere and it’s muyunderstanding that those bus lunches don’t come cheap. I went to the store and just grabbed a couple of cheap snacks for my trip. This saved a few AUD for food. Another thing I could do with the car was to go out sightseeing. I did a lot of that. I could stop the car anywhere and get out and take some photos. I couldn’t do that on the bus. One thing I did have to do was to buy fuel and that was what really shot the price up. I spent a total of $xxx AUD on fuel. That was the major cost difference as far as the rental car versus bus trip was concerned.
Was I glad I got the rental car? Absolutely. It was great. I could go wherever I wanted and I put a bunch of miles on the car wandering around places I would have never been able to go without the car. Yes, it wound up costing me some extra money but I feel the cost was worth it. There’s not a lot of public transportation when you get into rural New Zealand. A car is important if you want or need flexibility. Plus, I got to experience what it was like to drive around New Zealand.