Jim’s Accessibility Comments:
New Zealand’s Milford Sound is in our book of a 1000 places to see before you die and it is really one of the world’s most spectacular sights! A must visit! It’s located in the Fjordland National Park on the south end of the south island in New Zealand. It’s also in a rain forest so be aware.Now the problem of course is just getting here if you’re in New Zealand. You can take one of the huge cruise boats like a Princess Cruise that tour Fjordland National Park on good weather days (which we did) but to really get the full experience of the Milford Sound and NZ you should drive here which we also did.
The drive here from Te Anau is about 2.5 hours, and it’s also in our book as one of the most scenic drives in the world. If you have the opportunity, it is spectacular and a real memory so leave plenty of time. There are several scenic and accessible stops throughout the drive although several are quite steep. There is one, just one, wheelchair accessible public restroom in a level area along the way.
You’ll drive to the Milford Terminal which is very wheelchair accessible. There is wheelchair accessible parking and a reasonably large public accessible restroom. There are no steps to be concerned with in the terminal as all areas have well designed ramps.
The cruise tour into the sound takes a couple hours. There are several small cruise boats available from the terminal. We booked the Mitre Peak Cruise Boat online months in advance. It’s boat entry was accessible for most manual wheelchairs on the open air back deck only; there is a 12 inch riser to access the boat interior. The advantage to this smaller boat is that it is considered more agile and gets closer to the magnificent waterfalls and viewing areas, however there is no restroom.
The Real Journey’s Cruise Boat was quite a bit larger and appeared to have excellent wheelchair access. After our cruise I inquired at the Milford terminal desk and they said the Real Journey’s Cruise Boat had an accessible restroom.
The Juicy Cruise tour boats here are not wheelchair accessible. I was not able to determine if the Southern Discoveries boat was accessible as the information desk was not staffed.
Two side notes: (1) you are in a rain forest so bring bug lotion for the gazillion mosquitos, and (2) the optional $35 Underground Observatory at Hamilton Cove is not wheelchair accessible so don’t spend the money.
If I did this cruise again I would probably opt for the Real Journey’s Cruise Boat over the Mitre Peak boat.
If you get to New Zealand you must visit the Milford Sound. The canyon walls, the rock formations, the waterfalls and sea lions are absolutely spectacular. The setting is unique in the world and belongs in the book of 1000 places to see before you die.