Kayaking in Milford Sound
Image: Douglas Thorne ©

Introduction

Fiordland offers fantastic areas for kayaking, including Doubtful Sound, Milford Sound and numerous lakes and rivers. Find out where you can go kayaking, kayak hire, safety and tips and trip planning.

Places for kayaking on lakes

Lake Te Anau – lakeshore

Lake Te Anau is a great option for day kayaking or activities with the family. Link up with walks on the Kepler Track, e.g. Brod Bay. Access is from the beach and lakefront.

Lake Te Anau – North Fiord (16 km)

This section of the lake can be very rough. There is good camping at the entrance to the fiord and at The Narrows further down, or stay at the Glaisnock Hut at the end of the fiord. Access to the lake is from Te Anau Downs (30 km north of Te Anau).

Lake Te Anau – Middle Fiord (20 km)

This section of the lake can be very rough, but also offers sheltered bays and islands, and the Junction Burn Hut in South West Arm. More experienced parties may enjoy the adventure of going to George Sound via a 45 min kayak portage from North West Arm to Lake Hankinson (difficult terrain), then a walk on the George Sound Route. No access or camping permitted in the Murchison Mountains (special takahē area) including the southern side of Middle Fiord. The best access to the lake is from Te Anau Downs (30 km north of Te Anau).

Lake Te Anau – South Arm (22 km)

There are walking tracks to the Hidden Lakes and lookout point, a jetty at Mussel Cove. No access or camping permitted in the Murchison Mountains (special takahē area) including the northern side of South Fiord.

Lake Manapouri

Scenic, wild beauty with sheltered islands, beautiful beaches and good walking options accessible from shore. Access to the water is at Pearl Harbour, Manapouri.

Places for sea kayaking

While challenging to access the sea around Fiordland, sea kayaking here is highly rewarding for the more skilled and adventurous. The most accessible areas are listed here, or you can go further afield by air or large boat transport.

Milford Sound (18 km)

Milford Sound is a very steep sided fiord with striking beauty, but busy with boat traffic. The southern side is more sheltered from the prevailing westerly winds, in particular the afternoon day breeze during summer. For camping there are two spots – Harrison Cove and Anita Bay. Access is by boat ramp off Deepwater Basin Road in Milford Sound.

Doubtful Sound (38 km)

Quiet, wild, isolated beauty. The southern side is more sheltered from the prevailing westerly winds. Numerous camp spots including Hall Arm. Huts include Deas Cove Hut  (Thompson Sound) and The Gut Hut (Doubtful Sound).  Access this fiord by crossing Lake Manapouri, travelling over Wilmot Pass (see Transport Services in Fiordland) to Deep Cove.

Places for river kayaking

  • Upper Waiau River - between lakes Te Anau and Manapouri
  • Hollyford River - access off Hollyford Road

For more detail on river kayaking see 'New Zealand White Water' by Graeme Charles, available from the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre.

Guided trips and kayak hire options

Guided sea-kayaking trips (one day or overnight) are available on the fiords Doubtful Sound/Patea and Milford Sound/Piopiotahi, or on lakes and rivers by arrangement with local guiding companies.

For experienced paddlers there are kayaks for hire on Lake Te Anau and Lake Manapouri. Kayaks are not available for hire in the fiords due to challenging conditions.

Guided kayaking and kayak hire options - Destination Fiordland website 

Safety and planning tips for kayaking

Safety is your responsibility. Make sure you have the skills and the correct equipment to safely do your chosen activity.

  • Fiordland weather can change at any time so be prepared for anything.
  • Be aware that the lakes and fiords are exposed, the wind usually strengthens in the afternoon and conditions can change at any time.
  • Fiordland rivers can rise and fall rapidly following rain or snow melt. Due to the huge catchments draining into the rivers, it doesn’t have to be raining where you plan to kayak to be at risk from flooding.
  • We recommend you carry a mountain radio for updated weather information and personal locator beacon for safety, especially on multi day trips. These can be hired in Te Anau.
  • Help keep invasive weeds such as oxygen weed (Lagarosiphon) and didymo out of the lakes and rivers. See Didymo controls for Fiordland National Park.
  • Sandflies are prominent in all areas so we advise taking insect repellent.

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