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Milford Sound Boat Cruise or Kayak? How to choose your Milford activity

A group Kayaking on Milford Sound's clear blue waters. One of the Milford Sound Lodge's activities.

Whether you choose a kayak on Milford Sound or a cruise on Milford Sound, you won’t be disappointed. Both are incredible experiences and give different perspectives on the fiord. One is done from the comfort of a boat, and the other is experienced right on the surface of the water. 

If you want our opinion on which one to do - we’d tell you to do both. And with both experiences offering such a different take on the scenery and the experience of Milford Sound, it is a perfectly good option to do both a kayak and a cruise - and probably on the same trip!

Still deciding which experience to do? Here are some things you should know about these two popular Milford Sound activities.

Kayaking in Milford Sound

Kayaking in Milford Sound is an incredible adventure because it gets you so close to nature and wildlife. You can literally reach out and touch the water and the rocks. You can paddle under the waterfalls or you can choose to stop and soak it all in. 

The best thing about kayaking in Milford Sound is that you do it at your pace. And we highly recommend you slow it down and soak in all that is around you. It is a surreal experience to sit alongside the mighty peaks in complete silence. Perhaps the sound of rain, or wind - but no people.  

Don’t worry if you’ve never kayaked before. The Milford Sound kayak trips offer trips for most levels of ability. You will need to have a reasonable level of fitness but you don’t need to have had any previous experience. Tandem kayaking tours are also offered for those not comfortable paddling out into the open waters on their own.

The pros and cons of kayaking in one of the wettest places on earth

If you’re a keen photographer and are thinking of taking your camera, make sure you have a good dry bag for your gear. You can pretty much count on rain in Milford Sound, so you may have to decide whether it’s worth taking a good camera and will be able to safely take photographs without you or your camera ending up in the water. A GoPro is an ideal option for photography while kayaking.

As one of the wettest habitable places on the planet, Milford Sound experiences a lot of rain. You will be provided with all the necessary gear to keep you as comfortable as possible, but even with good gear, you may still end up with a wet bottom. Kayaking in Milford Sound in the rain is not for everyone, but if you’re enthusiastic and don’t mind a soggy behind, there is nothing quite like Milford Sound in the rain. Remember on a kayak, you don’t have the option of drying off and even the multitude of thermal and waterproof layers of clothing provided by operators won’t stop the trickles of water seeping through.

Boat cruises in Milford Sound

The easier of the two options, a Milford Sound boat cruise is no less spectacular than kayaking in Milford Sound. Milford Sound’s experienced cruise operators are adept at getting you near the waterfalls and as close to the wildlife as possible. Admittedly, it is not as close as kayaking! On the flip side, it involves no exertion and takes you further than a kayak tour. 

Definitely the more popular of the two Milford Sound activities, a scenic cruise is also the most flexible. There are a range of trip options and durations and also some overnight cruise options. Unlike a kayak, the cruise boats offer comfortable inside decks to escape the rain and keep dry and warm if needed. But we highly recommend spending some time out on deck to experience the crisp air and waterfall spray. 

With your camera equipment secure and dry, you can spend your time on the cruise capturing the gravity-defying waterfalls of Milford Sound and towering peaks that jut out from the inky waters.

Hot beverages and snacks are offered onboard and the crew, like the kayak tour guides, have a fantastic knowledge of the local area. You’ll also have more company on a cruise. Depending on what sort of traveller you are, engaging with people from other parts of the globe may make your trip far more interesting.

Discover our Milford Sound Packages which include a Milford Sound Cruise and overnight accommodation at Milford Sound Lodge