Skip to Content

Everything You NEED to Know about Kayaking in Milford Sound

Everything You NEED to Know about Kayaking in Milford Sound

This blog may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy for more info.

Kayaking in Milford Sound is one of the best ways to experience the beauty and nature of Milford Sound. From a kayak, the experience is completely different than from the shore or on a large boat. This blog is about everything you need to know about kayaking in Milford Sound. 

Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s most famous places to visit. This untouched wilderness is stunningly beautiful and huge in size. Milford Sound has earned its place as the number one fiord to explore of the nine in Fiordland National Park, and after visiting for myself, it’s not hard to see why.

During a visit to Milford Sound, it’s almost certain you will venture out on a scenic cruise – it’s one of the best things to do in Milford. However, the only thing (in my opinion) that tops a Milford Sound cruise is kayaking in Milford Sound!

Kayaking in Milford Sound is a truly special activity. From your tiny kayak, you really feel so small, like you’re floating among giants! It’s one of the best things to do in New Zealand.

This blog is to not only convince you kayaking in Milford Sound is worth it, but to let you know everything there is to know about kayaking in Milford Sound and help you choose the right tour!

The BEST Kayaking Tours in Milford Sound

Unless you’re bringing your own kayak to Milford, the only way to kayak in Milford Sound is on a guided tour.

The reason is that companies don’t rent out kayaks without a guide due to safety reasons. Milford Sound’s ever-changing weather and boat traffic make kayaking dangerous for inexperienced and unguided visitors.

So you’re going to need to choose a kayaking tour in Milford Sound – which can prove to be more difficult than it looks.

For starters, Milford Sound is home to many different kayaking tours that range in price, difficulty, and length! It’s very important to pick the right tour for your skill and fitness level.

That’s why below, I’ve decided to lay out two of the best kayaking tours in Milford Sound for the beginner and intermediate kayakers!

Related Read: The Lake Marian Track is the perfect day hike to do on the road to Milford!

1. Beginner Milford Kayaking Trip (1-hour kayak in calm waters)

Kayaking in Harrison Cove, Milford Sound
Kayaking in Harrison Cove, Milford Sound

The first tour I recommend for kayaking in Milford Sound (and really the only one for visitors with little to no kayaking experience or young families) is a short 1-hour kayaking trip in Harrison Cove.

Harrison Cove is the calmest area of Milford Sound but is also a huge tourist attraction. So for any beginner, it’s a great place to enjoy a short but beautiful kayaking trip!

Another perfect thing about this tour is that you start from a floating platform in Harrison Cove that actually lowers you into the water in your kayak. This means it’s easy to get in and out of the water!

This tour must be joined with a Milford Sound cruise but that actually makes it much cheaper than the rest of the kayaking tours in Milford Sound!

Children as young as 5 can participate but they must accompany an adult in a double kayak. This tour has an onsite rescue boat for extra safety and fast recovery in case of an emergency.

You can book this exact tour that includes a cruise in Milford, kayaking, and a picnic lunch. This is the same tour we did and loved too!

2. Intermediate Milford Kayaking Tour (3.5 hours of kayaking over 10km)

Full day kayaking tours in Milford Sound
Some of the longer trips explore different places in Milford Sound

This next kayaking tour is an awesome adventure through Milford Sound. For 3.5 hours you’ll kayak in a loop to some of the most spectacular sights in Milford Sound including the famous Bowen Falls, Mitre Peak, and more.

Although paddling 10 km isn’t that hard you’ll still want some experience and be relatively fit. Also, this tour isn’t recommended for those with back problems. It’s a more adventurous tour for those wanting to see a little more of Milford from a kayak!

This tour only runs from Milford Sound so you’ll have to have your own transport to get to the departure point at the foreshore! Also, be aware the entire tour takes 4 to 5 hours so leave plenty of time before or after your Milford Sound cruise!

Click here for more info or to book this tour!

Milford Sound Kayak and Cruise Tour Packages

Milford Sound Nature Cruise
The first glimpses of Milford on a nature cruise before joining our kayaking tour

The most convenient way to experience all Milford Sound has to offer is on a cruise and kayak package. These packages usually include about an hour of kayaking with an experienced and knowledgeable guide. This is perfect if you’re new to kayaking or not up for a full-day activity.

Cruise and kayak packages are also the most budget-friendly option. It’s really a tour for the everyday person and the one we opted to go with. Unfortunately, these combos can’t be paired with the longer kayaking trips!

Related Read: Kayaking is one of the best things to do in Milford Sound! Plus, you can even do it if you’re visiting Milford in winter!

About Our Chosen Kayak Tour

Kayaking tours in Milford Sound
Venturing out to explore this amazing fiord

We did the Cruise and Kayak Tour offered by Sothern Discoveries and had a blast! This is how our day went…

We started our kayaking adventure after the Encounter Nature Cruise and were dropped off at the Southern Discoveries Discovery Centre. This center includes an Underwater Observatory which is an area 10m (33 ft) under the surface of the water where you can see the marine life through glass windows!

Because we booked the cruise and kayak package our ticket also included a tour of the Underwater Observatory!

After checking out the Underwater Observatory, we headed off to get geared up for kayaking. We were given waterproof pants and the option of a thermal waterproof jacket and dry bags for cameras and phones if we wanted to take them. We left everything else behind and boarded our kayaks.

The platform with the kayaks sits a meter above the water and you actually board your kayak on the platform. You walk onto the platform, sit in your kayak, and then the platform lowers you into the water. This is super handy as this platform makes getting in and out of the water very easy!

yellow eyed penguin
A Fiordland Crested Penguin we saw when we went kayaking in Milford Sound!

Once on the water, our tour began. We headed off following our two guides as they explained lots of information about Milford Sound. We took photos and explored the whole bay all while keeping an eye out for some of Milford Sound’s unique wildlife.

To our surprise, we actually spotted two Fiordland Crested Penguins – the 3rd rarest Penguin in the world! Since we weren’t on a large ship we could get really close without startling them. This was one of the highlights of our Milford Sound kayaking tour!

As the tour continued we took the time to sit back and enjoy Milford’s grand size and prehistoric charm. This to us was the true highlight and the biggest reason not to miss kayaking in Milford Sound.

The kayaking tour went for just over an hour and after it ended we caught another boat back to the shore.

You can book the exact tour we did online in advance here!

The Price of Kayaking Tours in Milford Sound

A sunset in Milford Sound on New Zealand's south island
A sunset in Milford Sound is like no other!

The price of kayaking tours in Milford varies quite a lot which is dependent mostly on how long you go for. The cheapest way to get any of the tours is to do a cruise and kayak package.

The Southern Discoveries Cruise and Kayak is the one we did and costs $130 NZD (Adult). This includes the Encounter Nature Cruise, entrance to the Underwater Observatory, a guided kayak tour including gear, and a packed lunch. In our opinion, this is a fair price and the entire tour from start to finish ran for about 4.5 hours.

The longer kayaking trips cost about the same but don’t include a cruise!

What is included in a Milford Sound Kayaking Tour?

How to Kayak in Milford Sound
Also included is a kayaking demonstration in case you’re completely new to it!

Included on most kayak tours in Milford are the kayaks, life jackets, waterproof pants, thermal waterproof jackets, guides, and dry bags. As we did the cruise and kayak we also had a packed lunch, Encounter Nature Cruise, and cruise nature guide included!

What to Bring Kayaking in Milford Sound

kayaking in Milford Sound tours
Getting all geared up for the trip!
  • Sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses – if you do get a sunny day then it is a good idea to be sun smart, especially with the reflections off the water.
  • Camera – If it’s not waterproof then only take it with a dry bag and don’t take it out until you’re confident on the kayak.
  • Snacks – If you don’t include the packed lunch then bringing your own is a good idea
  • Spare change of clothes – I’m not saying you’re going to get soaked but with any water activity it’s always a risk. Bringing a spare pair of shorts and a shirt will be a lifesaver if you do fall in or get wet!

Our Review of Kayaking in Milford Sound

Both Bailey and I enjoyed kayaking in Milford Sound so much! Cruising Milford Sound on a ship is amazing but being on a humble kayak really put things into perspective.

We also were able to get closer to wildlife as we didn’t have a noisy engine scaring them away. Joined with the cruise, we really felt like we had truly explored Milford Sound.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter what tours you do in Milford as you’re still bound to be amazed at its beauty – but the kayak trip is really the icing on the cake and something we highly recommend!

Renting a Car or Campervan in New Zealand

Bailey takes a selfie with a JUCY campervan
Ready to hit the road!
Bailey stands infront of a JUCY campervan in New Zealand
JUCY is another favorite!

The first step to planning your New Zealand road trip is choosing your set of wheels! Most people rent a campervan or motorhome to get around, but you can also just rent a normal car and stay in hotels (as opposed to camping.)

You can search for rental cars online with Discover Cars in advance to compare car models and prices. We’ve used this website all over the world and if you want more details, read our honest review of Discover Cars for more details!

You can also do this with motorhomes and campervans on a website called Motorhome Republic. It shows all of the available campervans and motorhomes for your specific New Zealand road trip dates. You can compare prices and company reviews here too!

JUCY is our personal favorite campervan rental company in NZ. We love JUCY because they have such a range of both cars and campervans available, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something to suit your budget and travel style.

We’ve actually secured an exclusive discount code for our readers with JUCY. Just click here to browse their availability and use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off! What a good deal!

You can check prices, availability and book with JUCY online here.

Star RV is another company we personally recommend but specifically for motorhomes! They offer larger motorhomes (as opposed to budget campervans) at really reasonable rates.

Star RV has actually given us a discount code for our readers too! Use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off your motorhome rental! Note, this code is only valid for bookings made before June 21, 2024 with travel dates before Dec 21, 2024. Click here to browse availability, prices, and book with our discount code!

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and I pose for a photo on our Milford Sound cruise
Thanks for reading!

Need more information on Milford Sound? You may want to check out one or more of the blogs on Milford Sound below. We also have tons more blogs on New Zealand you can check out!

The Milford Sound Swing

Things to do in Mount Cook National Park

Queenstown to Milford Sound Road Trip Itinerary

Like it? Pin it for later!

Kayaking in Milford Sound Pin