Milford Sound is a fiord in the southwest of New Zealand’s South Island. 

Once described by Rudyard Kipling as the '8th Wonder of the World', it is widely considered to be a must see for any traveller visiting New Zealand.

Arguably the most scenic destination in New Zealand, Milford Sound is a fiord in the southwest of New Zealand’s South Island. It is home to fur seal colonies, penguins and dolphins and offers a sweeping landscape of jagged snow-capped mountains, shimmering fjords and lakes, and emerald greenery. It is famously known for its towering Mitre Peak, and waterfalls like Stirling and Bowen falls, which plummet down its sheer sides.



The Marine Reserve:

Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) Marine Reserve is one of the most popular places in Fiordland to dive and see the black corals for which the fiords are famous.


Things to do

Guided activities


Nature and conservation


Nature and conservation

The reserve’s name, Piopiotahi, means 'one native thrush'. The piopio (now thought to be extinct) was a ground-feeding bird that declined rapidly after the introduction of mammalian predators such as stoats and rats.

The reserve was established in 1993. It spans 16 km in length and covers an area of 690 hectares. The underwater habitats it covers are mostly deep muddy fiord basin, with a large section of deep reef and a small section of shallow rock wall along the shore.

Video clip about Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) from Protecting our seas DVD

There is very steep rock-wall on the inner northern side of Milford Sound which is dominated by delicate deep water invertebrates. These are animals that are fixed to the rock wall, including encrusting tubeworms, sponges, soft corals, colonial sea squirts, black coral and anemones.

On the Tasman Sea side divers can often get surrounded by schools of butterfly perch, hundreds of rock lobster and numerous reef fish. Octopus, stingrays, seals and occasional bottlenose dolphin also live in these waters. 

Getting there

The Piopiotahi Marine Reserve is situated along the northern side of Milford Sound, stretching from the village of Milford Sound to Dale Point, where it meets the Tasman Sea.

View a map of Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) Marine Reserve

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Know before you go

Removing marine life

Members of Ngāi Tahu Whānui may access the reserve to remove pounamu provided they have any required resource consents and/or authorisation by the kaitiaki rūnaka. Pounamu must be collected by hand, with minimal disturbance to the site and only so much as you may carry in one trip.

Members of Ngāi Tahu Whānu are also permitted to remove deceased marine mammals and collect teeth and bones found within the reserves.


Take-off and landing of aircraft is permitted within the reserve.


There are specific no-anchoring areas in some of Fiordland’s marine reserves. These areas are home to particularly fragile species that could be damaged by an anchor or its swinging chain. Information about the no-anchoring areas in each of the fiords can be found in the Fiordland user’s guide (PDF, 4, 440K) (external site)

Recreational, educational and scientific activities

Recreational, educational and scientific activities are encouraged as long as they do not disturb or endanger the plant and animal life or natural features. A permit is required from DOC for any scientific research within the reserve.

Commercial rock lobster pot storage

Because of limited suitable space for storing rock lobster pots in Fiordland, five areas within four marine reserves are designated for commercial rock lobster fishers to store live lobster caught outside the reserve in holding pots and to store inoperable rock lobster pots (with doors open). These five areas are shown on the maps for the following marine reserves:

  • Hawea (Clio Rock)
  • Kahukura (Gold Arm)
  • Taumoana (Five Fingers Peninsula)
  • Te Tapuwae o Hua (Long Sound)

They are not open for use by recreational fishers.

Right of passage

Right of passage through the marine reserve is not affected by the reserve status of the area.

Fiordland Marine (Te Moana o Atawhenua) Reserves (PDF, 2,000K) (opens in new window)

The Walking and Hiking Tracks:

Milford Track

Experience 'the finest walk in the world' as you retrace the steps of early explorers on the world-renowed Milford Track. Take a journey along valleys carved by glaciers, wander through ancient rainforests and admire cascading waterfalls.

  • Take your camera and capture the stunning panoramas from Mackinnon Pass across ancient valleys carved by glaciers.

  • Take a side trip to Sutherland Falls, which drop 580 m.

  • Enjoy the emerald waters of the Clinton River.

Explore with Google Street View | Watch videos

Track overview

53.5 km one way

Walking and tramping

4 days   Intermediate: Great Walk/Easier tramping track

Seasonal restrictions

In the Great Walks season (24 October 2017 - 30 April 2018):

  • Bookings are required for huts
  • Huts have gas cooking stoves and resident wardens

Outside the Great Walks season (1 May 2018 - 23 October 2018):

  • Facilities, including bridges, are greatly reduced
  • Flood and avalanche risks exist
  • Experience is required
  • Bookings are not required - huts are first come, first served

Dog access: No dogs