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Sea Kayaking in Milford Sound

All you need to know about Sea Kayaking Milford Sound

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.

Group kayaking Milford Sound

Best time to get out paddling?

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.

So what do I wear?

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.

What else do I need to bring with me?

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.

How long is the kayaking trip?

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.

Kayaking group Lady Bowen Falls

What can I expect to see?

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!

 Other relevant information:


Trip Reviews

  •   4.38 out of 5 (from 1211 reviews)


    I combined the Kauri trip, last 5 days, with the Tui trip on the South Island. I did not have enough time to do the full 11-day trip. I am really happy with my decision to do the last 5 days. Crossing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing was an amazing experience! I loved everything about this trip... Andy and Jo were absolutely awesome!
    Andrea King Review Image
    – Connecticut, United States
    Kauri, March 2017
  •   4.60 out of 5 (from 1887 reviews)

    Professionalism and Exceptionalism Beyond Expectations!

    Our recent Tui trip of the South Island was absolutely the trip of a lifetime and more than I could have ever hoped for! As a very seasoned, frugal, independent, tour-averse traveller, signing up and spending the money for this trip was a bit out of character for me. However, that being said, this was probably the best travel investment I have ever made in my life! We packed so many amazing adventures into eight days, with the kindest most knowledgeable and most professional guides ever, that I seriously doubt I could have recreated it on my own. I cannot recommend Active Adventures and our guides Claire and Rachael highly enough and am already looking forward to and planning my next adventure this year with them!
    Chris Gan Review Image
    – Washington, United States
    Tui, January 2017
  •   4.60 out of 5 (from 1887 reviews)

    Trip of a life time

    My wife and I planned this trip with some friends to try something new and to maximize the experience of New Zealand. We spent 8 days hiking, biking, and kayaking through the South Island. Every day was action packed with something different to do. We got to try new things, test a few of our limits that we wouldn't have normally done, and learn a few things about local culture along the way. I can't say enough good things about our guides Ben and Liana. They were enthusiastic about everything we did and full of information. They helped us push limits and get the most out of the experiences we had. Everyone I've told about our trip has been wowed by the awesome things we got to see and do.
    Chris Busch Review Image
    – Pennsylvania, United States
    Tui, January 2018
  •   4.60 out of 5 (from 1887 reviews)

    Beautiful, perfect trip!

    The Tui trip was a perfect way to see parts of New Zealand on a short time frame. I was concerned traveling by myself, and this trip was the perfect way to do it. Between the the most spectacular scenery, the knowledge of the guides, and the varied and incredible itinerary, this really was the trip of a lifetime for me.
    Rosie Stein Review Image
    – New York, United States
    Tui, March 2017
  •   4.60 out of 5 (from 1887 reviews)

    Wonderful Choice!

    A trip to New Zealand was on my "bucket list" and my husband chose this trip for the south island. I think this is a wonderful way to see the outstanding scenery of the south island. We will be back!
    Lissa Jackson Review Image
    – Tennessee, United States
    Tui, April 2017



Why travel with Active Adventures?

Above all, we aim to be amazing hosts. We're proud of our kiwi roots, and our professional, warm and relaxed style of running trips around the world is unforgettable.

We're VERY picky about who we select to work in our team, and we have people from all over the world lining up to guide our trips. So we get to hire the absolute BEST in the business.

As soon as you get off the plane, we've got all the details of your vacation covered – top notch meals, comfortable transport & accommodation, amazing guides and INCREDIBLE service.

Whether you’re new to adventure travel, or you’ve never travelled in a group before, you’ll find yourself arriving home positively different from when you left.

With our small groups (no more than 14), you'll get to know our team, your fellow travellers, and have the flexibility and freedom to do as much (or as little!) as you like.

It's all about getting there under your own steam – on foot, in a sea kayak, or by bike. What better way is there to experience mind blowing scenery? If it's your first time, no worries – our expert guides have got you covered.

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