Kayaking in Milford Sound 

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Last updated Feb 27, 2024

Exploring Milford Sound is one of the must-do things in New Zealand and there are many ways to do that. However, one of the most adventurous ways to explore this magical place is kayaking in Milford Sound.  

Our experience kayaking in Milford Sound was one of the most unique adventures. We enjoyed the twilight wind and waves tour with a small group, kayaking for almost 4 hours from Stirling Falls to the Deepwater parking lot. 

Kayaking in Milford Sound

Kayaking Tours in Milford Sound 

Kayaking without a guide is not allowed in Milford Sound. We chose to do our kayaking tour with Rosco’s Milford Kayaks as recommended by the Milford Sound Lodge. They offer different kayaking adventures for all fitness levels. Some tours are pretty intense and require previous kayaking experience. 

Milford Cruiser is the easiest and shortest kayaking trip. About a two-hour tour with views of Milford and Lady Bowen Falls. Price – $175 NZD. 

Sunrise Classis is Rosco’s original kayaking trip. It takes about 3.5 hours to make a big loop in Milford Sound. Price – 195 $NZD and is a little more challenging than the Milford Cruiser. 

Milford Track Paddle & Walk is a combination of kayaking and hiking. The kayaking portion of this tour is very easy and then once at Sandfly Point, you will be hiking on the famous Milford Sound Trek. Price – $169 NZD. 

Stirling Sunriser is a combination of water taxi and kayaking. A water taxi will take out past Stirling Falls and you kayak back to the parking lot. This kayaking experience requires a lot of experience. You will be on the water during the peak day cruise time and will have to navigate around cruise ships. Price – $290 NZD. 

Morning Glory is an 18 km kayaking adventure that takes you to the beginning of Milford Sound. It starts at 6:30 am to avoid other ships and easily takes 4 hours. You will paddle to the entrance into Milford Sound and take a water taxi back. We really wanted to do this kayaking tour but there were not enough tour guides to accommodate. Price – $295 NZD. 

Twilight Wind & Waves starts at 4 pm which means you see the sunset behind the sheer cliffs in Milford Sound. This tour is very similar to Stirling Sunrise except it is in the evening when all-day cruise ships return, and you are the only ones in the water. Price – $290 NZD. 

All the kayaking tours with Rosco’s start from the Deepwater Basin parking lot. 

What to Wear When Kayaking in Milford Sound 

Kayaking in Milford Sound
Happy Kayakers | Kayaking in Milford Sound

I was expecting Milford Sound water temperature to be much colder than it was. In early January it was 61°F, and it does not get below 51°F. That being said, you will not be allowed on the water wearing cotton. 

I was wearing a quick-dry shirt, hiking polyester pants and open-toe sandals and didn’t have any issues. However, if you show up in cotton clothing, they will ask you to change. The kayak tent has tons of clothes to change into, different sizes and shapes.  

On top of your clothing, you will be given a waterproof jacket, a kayaking skirt that goes over the kayak opening to prevent water from getting in, and a waterproof bag for your phone, sunscreen, water and snacks.  

Sunglasses and a sunhat are recommended, just make sure they are a tight fit, as the wind can get serious out on the water. 

Kayaking in Milford Sound 

We really were not sure what to expect, kayaking in Milford Sound. It just sounded like an awesome idea. When we reached out to Rosco’s we were interested in the Morning Glory tour however, they could not commit until it got closer to the date as they did not have enough participants or tour guides. A couple of days before our requested date, they emailed back asking if we would be ok with doing the Twilight Wind and Waves tour instead.  

As much as we wanted to do the Morning Glory, we were not too upset not getting up so early to be on the water by 6:30 am. Starting at 4 pm is more up our alley when it comes to the schedule. 

The gathering point is at the Deepwater Parking lot, aka carpark, 15 minutes before the starting time. The parking is free here. During this time, you will be given an opportunity to change your clothes if needed and go over the safety and readiness rules. 

The water taxi takes all the kayaks and passengers past Stirling Falls and this is where the adventure starts. The tour guide will help you load into the kayak from the boat, adjust the paddles and help with any equipment you need.  The kayaks provided are double-seat with a foot-operated rudder.  

This tour starts at 4 pm and by the time you get into the kayak most day cruise ships are heading toward the dock and the kayakers are the only ones on the water. We had a group of 8 people (4 kayaks), including the tour guide. 

After a short kayak ride, you will reach Stirling Falls. Since the Stirling Falls are tucked between the sheer cliffs, depending on the time of the day the water around it can be completely illuminated or you can even see a rainbow. The beauty of the site is hard to explain in words, it simply needs to be seen. 

Kayaking in Milford Sound
Illuminated Water at Stirling Falls | Kayaking at Milford Sound

As you come around the cliff to see the waterfall, make sure that you have all of your items secured. Our guide suggested dropping sunglasses, hats, and phones under the skirt in the kayak as the combination of strong wind and water can blow those items into the water easily.  

We kayaked directly under the waterfall, feeling the glacial water all over us, and the combination of wind and mist blowing right into our faces. It was one of the most exhilarating experiences.  

After the amazing experience of kayaking under the falls, we had a great tailwind and our tour guide suggested we make a sail. We all interlocked our kayaks together and made a sail out of a tarp. The wind was so strong we were moving at a speed of over 7 knots. It was a fun way to get the group of strangers to work as a team.

Shortly after the sailing adventure, we kayaked closer to the cliffs for a little less windy and turbulent water. The tour guide gave us a short break for snacks while he talked about the history of Milford Sound.  

Our last adventure was watching the sun set behind the Mitre Peak and kayaking to Bowmen Falls. At this point, once the sun starts setting, you realize why it was a good idea to have all the waterproof gear on, as the temperatures quickly drop.  

Kayaking in Milford Sound
Bowen Falls | Kayaking in Milford Sound

Watching the sun set behind the sheer cliffs and creating shadows over the hills and water, being the only people on the water with complete silence and untouched beauty was simply breathtaking. The 4 hours we spent on the water flew by and our tour guide was amazing.  

Kayaking in Milford Sound
Sunset in Milford Sound | Kayaking in Milford Soun

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