Kayaking is a great way to get out there and experience Milford Sound in all its natural beauty. We love getting out on the water bright and early, before the trip boats start chugging back and forth on the fiord, and seeing what wildlife we can see. On this page we’ll talk you through a kayaking trip on Milford Sound, and do our best to answer the questions you’ll have.
As mentioned above we think the morning is the best time of day to get out on the water. Your guides will make sure you get a good breakfast, and your morning coffee hit, before you head down to the wharf to get kitted up for your paddle.
Your guides will talk you through the best gear to wear, it’ll depend on the forecast and the time of year. But the kayaking company you’ll be going on the water with will provide you with the following: a warm fleece, splash proof jacket, woolly hat, gloves, and a personal floatation device. So all you need to worry about is extra layers if you don’t think you’ll be warm enough with all that. It might be a good idea to wear some thermal underlayers if you tend to feel the cold.
We’d also advise packing a change of clothes in your day packs, which you can leave at the kayak shed, so you can change as soon as you come off the water into something clean and comfortable.
Your camera! Milford Sound was described by Rudyard Kipling as the ‘Eighth wonder of the world’ so you’re going to want to be able to reminisce about your visit by looking back through those photos. And don’t worry, there’s ample opportunity to lay your paddle down for a moment and grab a snap – you’ll be paddling double kayaks so make sure you let your partner know you’re planning to stop paddling!
Your kayak guides can supply you with dry bags to store your phone or camera in, so that it doesn’t get splashed as you paddle.
Before you get off the bus be sure to raid the snack basket so you’ve got some fuel for your energetic morning. Fruit and muesli bars are great to munch on whilst you’re on the water, just be sure to take your rubbish away with you, and don’t put soft fruit in your dry bags with your electronics! It's also a good idea to take your water bottle with you, it's really easy to secure them to your kayak. And if the forecast is for a sunny day, don't forget to slap on some sunscreen!
The famous New Zealand Sandlfy is abundant in Fiordland National Park (according to Maori legend it was created to keep people moving and working, instead of staring at Milford’s incredible natural beauty) so repellent is always a good idea. The flies won’t bother you once you’re moving, it’s only on the shore where they’re an issue.
The length of the kayaking trip is always weather dependent. Ideally you’ll be out on the water exploring for around three hours. Your guides will lead you to different areas of the fiord, showing you waterfalls, naming peaks, and telling Maori legends.
The focus of the kayaking trip isn’t as much about a physically demanding workout, as it is about experiencing Milford Sound’s stunning natural beauty. So your guides will keep to a sheltered part of the fiord, and away from the trip boats, where you can explore at a leisurely pace. Three hours gives you long enough to do some exploring, take loads of photos, and build up a big enough appetite to get stuck in to lunch when you come off the water.
You mean aside from the sheer granite mountain faces, hanging valleys, hanging forest, and at least two permanent waterfalls?! Milford Sound is a haven for lots of marine life, and at different times of year you can expect to see a variety of animals.
Milford Sound regularly sees southern fur seals (also known as Antarctic fur seals) all year round. Another common sighting – but only during their breeding season of July to November – is the Fiordland crested penguin.
Dolphins are also a relatively regular sighting in Milford Sound. Bottlenose dolphins, and occasionally dusky dolphins, will come into the fiord. They can be seen riding the bow waves of the trip boats, and will often come and get close to your kayaks as you paddle around.
Aside from the animals that spend their time in the water, New Zealand also has a wide variety of birdlife, both native and introduced, so keep your eyes peeled!
If you wish to concentrate on hiking the iconic tracks of New Zealand and like your creature comforts, we’ve crafted this trip just for you. It has a strong focus on New Zealand’s natural history. Our guides have plenty of time to interpret the flora and fauna and explain the geological and social history of the areas you’ll visit. You also have the choice of a selection of the best day hikes Fiordland National Park has to offer, along with an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound, or hiking the famous Milford Track in its entirety. The ‘Manuka’ really is hiking New Zealand in style!
Activity level: The 'Manuka' is an active hiking trip, but has options to suit a wide range of fitness levels and outdoor experience. Typically hikes on the 'Manuka' trip range between three and six hours to complete, with longer hikes on the Milford Track Guided Walk option.
This is our signature adventure and a great, outdoorsy way to see New Zealand. We’ve been fine-tuning this perennial favourite since 1996 and it’s simply an awesome trip. You’ll explore the most beautiful, famous and little-known places in the South Island – up close and personal – with legendary hospitality and our unsurpassed attention to detail. For a great way to see the North Island too, combine this trip with our 11-day 'Kauri' (5-day 'Kauri' options available).
Activity level: The ‘Rimu’ is one of our more adventurous trips, but has options to suit a wide range of ages and outdoor experience. Typically, hikes on the ‘Rimu’ trip range between two and five hours to complete, with longer hikes available on the multi-day option. If you think you’d prefer a more relaxed pace and shorter one to three hour hikes, we recommend checking out our ‘Kiwi’ trip. Please get in touch with us if you’d like to chat about the various options.
This is an action-packed adventure where you’ll explore some of New Zealand’s most iconic and remote wilderness. It works well if your vacation time is limited, since you can fly from North America on a Friday evening, sleep on the plane, and be back at work ten days later to share your photos and stories on Monday morning. For a great way to see the North Island too, combine this trip with our 11-day 'Kauri' (5-day 'Kauri' options available).
Activity level: The ‘Tui’ suits people of a wide range of fitness levels and outdoor experience, particularly if you enjoy a variety of activities. Typically hikes on the ‘Tui’ trip range between two and six hours to complete.
New to adventure vacations or not quite ready to hang up your hiking boots just yet? On this South Island walking tour you'll experience beautiful, famous and little-known places – taking plenty of time to explore along the way! For a great way to see the North Island too, combine this trip with our 11-day 'Kauri' (5 day 'Kauri' options available).
Activity level: The ‘Kiwi’ suits anyone who enjoys walking and likes to give things a go. The pace is flexible and relaxed with most hikes taking one to three hours to complete on well-formed tracks with some undulations.
May to September is one of the best times to explore New Zealand. Our maritime climate ensures we have relatively mild winters, we’ll almost always have the tracks to ourselves and the snow-capped mountains make an even more dramatic backdrop than in summer – and usually you can get a great deal on flights! Years ago, we adapted our signature Rimu trip to suit the cooler conditions by adding skiing and snowboarding options, along with some of the South Island’s best hikes. This adventure is the perfect excuse to escape the heat!
Activity level: This is one of our more adventurous trips, but has options to suit a range of fitness levels and outdoor experience. Typically hikes on the ‘Winter Rimu’ range between three and six hours to complete, with a longer more challenging hike on the Copland Track.
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