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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 makes kayaking dangerous for inexperienced and unguided visitors.
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. So I’ve decided to lay out two of the best kayaking tours in Milford Sound for the beginner and intermediate kayaker!
1. Beginner Milford Kayaking Trip (1-hour kayak in calm waters)
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 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 with transport from Queenstown including lunch or without transport leaving from Milford Sound!
2. Intermediate Milford Kayaking Tour (3.5 hours of kayaking over 10km)
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, Pembroke Glacier, and more.
Although paddling 10km 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!
Milford Sound Kayak and Cruise Tour Packages
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!
About Our Chosen Kayak Tour
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 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!
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.
What do kayaking tours in Milford Sound cost?
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 $160 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!
Included on most kayak tours in Milford are the kayaks, life jackets, waterproof pants, thermal waterproof jacket, guide, and dry bag. 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
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 though, 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!
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!