Should we visit Milford Sound, or should we visit Doubtful Sound? One of the biggest questions proposed by travellers when visiting Fiordland National Park. I know what you’re thinking. That’s impossible to answer. Know that during your visit to Fiordland you can only cruise the two sounds, so your decision is limited. However, for those like me who have a severe case of not being able to make a decision, I have complied a comparison blog to hopefully aid you during your trip planning process.
Can you even compare the fiords? No, no you can’t. They are both beautiful, wild and a place of interest for many. In terms of transport they are similar when opting for our Coach + Cruise options but in terms of experience no, they are most certainly not the same.
Anyone who is anyone can drive to Milford Sound, even if you don’t want to cruise which can result in Milford Sound becoming a bustling hub of people ready to experience the fiord, in the height of summer over half a million people can pass through this corner of the world.
Doubtful Sound can only be accessed via Manapouri aboard the Go Orange and Real Journeys vessels. So, traffic is limited, there will only ever be two day trip boats out on the water at one time resulting in a much calmer experience.
There are plenty. The newly renovated Milford Haven is a firm favourite, providing outward facing seats, modern décor and beer on tap. The exclusive viewing top deck provides you with the epic panoramas you want while sailing.
The Tasman Explorer is limited to 45 passengers, meaning you and your fellow travellers will have ample amount of room to explore and soak in the serenity.
Prices do vary, but let’s base this descion on experience rather than cost.
Milford Sound Coach + Cruise includes the coach from Queenstown (Ex Te Anau is also available) right to the ferry terminal.
Doubtful Sound Coach +Cruise includes two boats and two coaches – the cruise is also an hour longer around the sound.
Number of humans
This is a large factor in decision making for most, the number of tourists crammed into one destination can sure make or break your whole experience. Of course, in the height of busy seasons on a peak time cruise in Milford it is going to be busy, if you choose to self-drive then the 9am and 5pm cruise will provide you with a calmer cruise experience, you will also catch the best light to photograph those mountains.
Limited to two boats on the water at once, you won’t feel suffocated in the grandeur of the fiord. The majority of Doubtful Sound is untouched by man, the waterfalls, vast mountains and lack of wind creates a powerful atmosphere.
The views are incomparable. Both Milford and Doubtful will provide you with all the New Zealand goodness you need, different yes, but equally as beautiful rain or shine.
Milford Sound is famous for its grand peaks, towering cliff faces and postcard views.
However, Doubtful is known for its dramatic calmness. The ocean looks to have a layer of black on the surface, due to freshwater layering on the top, giving you perfect reflections and added eeriness.
Fiordland is the home to some of the best wildlife in the world. Dolphins may well accompany you and lead you through the sounds. The seals of the fiords can be found hanging out on various rocks, undeterred by the waves of boats and tourists passing by. If you’re super lucky then you might sight the Fiordland Crested Penguins who reside in the waters, sometimes fishing and hopping around the rocks. Along with the cheeky Kea’s and Weka’s you are in for an absolute treat in the wildlife department. There is no saying which sound is better, just hope for a lucky day…
There was once a blue whale roaming around in Doubtful Sound… can you believe it?
Milford Sound is one of the wettest inhabited places in New Zealand. As well as one of the wettest places in the world. An average of 200 days of rainfall a year, you may or may not get a little wet. However, this isn’t a bad thing, quite the contrary. It’s the heavy bouts of rain that create over 200 more waterfalls and pump the resident falls around the fiords.
Doubtful Sound is also pretty wet averaging a similar amount of rainfall days, boasting epic waterfalls, vast empty ocean and some dramatic mood thrown it to.
Milford Sound is ridiculously epic, Rudyard Kipling famously coined it the 8th wonder of the world. The drive there is an adventure in itself, mingling with the Kea’s and passing through the Homer Tunnel, but Doubtful Sound really is an experience beyond compare. The raw wilderness experience you may be looking for, allowing you to disconnect and reconnect with what’s important.
Still finding it hard to decide? I am honestly torn too, I love both for their own unique reasons. But if you really have to choose… Doubtful Sound will help you get lost in New Zealand’s wilderness, escape the crowds and go beyond your average tourist activity. Milford Sound however is an easy day trip and worth the long drive, either way, we promise you will be amazed.
Or… you could just see both?