Harrison Cove

Kayak at Milford Sound

Date: 18 January 2024

Nestled in New Zealand’s South Island, Milford Sound is often referred to as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’. During your time in this remarkable part of the Fiordland National Park, you’ll discover breathtaking cliffs and peaks - including the iconic Mitre Peak that rises more than a kilometre out of the sea - cascading waterfalls, and amazing wildlife. In this guide, we encourage you to explore Milford Sound in an exciting and unique way - by kayak. Uncover the best tours, essential packing tips, and answers to commonly asked questions for an unforgettable experience on your kayak Milford Sound adventure!


Can you kayak in Milford Sound?

Absolutely! Kayaking in Milford Sound is a fun and popular activity. The calm waters and stunning landscapes make Milford an ideal destination for kayakers of all abilities. Whether you choose a guided tour or opt for a rental to explore at your own pace, kayaking provides an intimate connection with the natural wonders of Milford Sound.

What is kayaking in Milford Sound like?

Floating along at sea level allows you to fully realise the enormity of Milford Sound and its extraordinary scenery. Exploring this magnificent area on a kayak offers an intimate and serene experience unlike any other. Take a moment of quiet away from other vessels and visitors to the area, and get up close and personal with nature and wildlife. Due to the sheltered landscape of Milford Sound, the water is typically very still and calm, making it a lot easier than sea kayaking.

What is the best kayak tour for Milford Sound?

With a large variety of kayaking experiences, including private tours and sunrise trips, Rosco’s Milford Kayaks has an adventure to suit kayakers of all abilities. Getting on the water early for a sunrise trip could give you a heightened chance of spotting some incredible wildlife before the cruise boats take off for the day.

Alternatively, combine kayaking with a cruise on the Milford Sound Overnight Cruise for the opportunity to experience the beautiful scenery from every angle. Described as the ultimate Milford adventure, an overnight cruise allows you the time to enjoy varying weather conditions, time of day and water activities – including kayaking and swimming in the pristine waters.

Group of friends kayaking in Milford Sound

Kayaking on the Milford Sound Overnight Cruise

When is the best time for kayaking in Milford Sound?

Kayaking Milford Sound is a year-round activity, with each season adding its own magic. In winter (April-October), it will be on the colder side, so dress up warm but also take advantage of fewer crowds for a peaceful and tranquil experience. In the summer months (November-March), enjoy longer daylight hours and an increased possibility of spotting some rare wildlife. Despite the time of year, Milford Sound is one of the wettest places on earth, so always pack that rain jacket.

What should I bring for kayaking in Milford Sound?

When packing for your kayaking trip to Milford Sound, be sure to prepare for all weather. To fully immerse yourself in the experience, you won't want to be worrying about getting wet, so we also recommend a change of dry clothes. And, of course, a camera to capture all those amazing memories!

  • Waterproof jacket
  • Sunscreen, hat and sunglasses
  • Change of clothes
  • Swimwear
  • Insect repellent
  • Camera

Is kayaking in Milford Sound suitable for beginners?

Embarking on a kayaking adventure in Milford Sound requires no previous experience. Kayaking is a fun and easy activity for beginners, and the local tour guides will keep you on the right track. For the perfect taster of kayaking, the Milford Sound Overnight Cruise allows you a beginner-level, 30–60-minute experience, with the convenience of hopping back on your cruise ship afterwards.

Boat in distance approaching waterfall in Milford Sound

Scenic waterfall at Milford Sound

Are there any age restrictions for kayaking in Milford Sound?

The minimum age for kayaking is different on all trips. On some of Rosco’s tours, children as young as eight can participate. On the Milford Sound Overnight Cruise, children under the age of ten are not permitted to take part in kayaking unless specifically approved by the crew. Anyone under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Can I spot wildlife when kayaking in Milford Sound?

Milford Sound is home to lots of native wildlife, and sightings of fur seals are very common. Also, keep an eye out for dolphins and the rare Fiordland crested penguins, as they are occasional visitors. However, there is no guarantee you will see wildlife while on your kayaking trip.

How close can you get to the waterfalls while kayaking in Milford Sound?

There are two permanent waterfalls in Milford Sound, Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls, however thanks to the enormous amount of annual rainfall in the area (over six metres, with rain occurring 182 days of the year) you’re likely to see many more – even hundreds. On your kayaking trip, you will experience the thrill of getting up close and personal with the waterfalls (so remember that waterproof jacket) and get the best view through the instruction of your local expert guide.

Seals in Milford Sound

Fur seals relaxing on a rock in Milford Sound


What is the difference between a kayak and a tender boat?

A kayak is a small, narrow boat typically designed for one or two paddlers, who sit facing forward and use a paddle to drive and steer the kayak. A tender boat, or a dinghy, is a small auxiliary boat usually used to transport people or goods between a larger vessel (such as a yacht or a ship) and the shore.

Can I rent a kayak without a guide?

No. For the safety of all visitors, companies do not rent out kayaks without a guide on Milford Sound.

If I have my own gear, can I kayak Milford Sound by myself?

Yes. If you are an experienced kayaker with all your own equipment, you can take it onto the water. Just make sure to consider the ever-changing weather and boat traffic before setting off on your adventure.

Kayaking at Milford Sound