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Milford Sound vs Doubtful Sound - Quick Explainer

In this quick explainer guide, we explore Milford Sound vs Doubtful Sound and what their unique points are, the cost of each and the tour breakdown of each of them.

Milford Sound vs Doubtful Sound - Unique Points

Milford Sound Uniqueness

Doubtful Sound Uniqueness

You can self-drive in, or take a guided tour from Te Anau or Queenstown.

Only accessible by a cruise across Lake Manapouri and bus across Wilmot Pass to Doubtful Sound

Many tour operators in Milford Sound and many options for cruises in the fiord.

For visitors, options are limited to taking a guided tour. RealNZ is the main operator in Doubtful.

Very sharp, steep valleys created from aggressive glacial movement & carving over the last few million years.

Stunningly beautiful and very quiet due to low amount of boat traffic. It is a very large fiord, 10 times the size of Milford Sound.

Generally more waterfalls in Milford Sound and throughout the drive.

Dolphins are more frequent in Doubtful Sound.

Overall, slightly easier to access and tour to.

More segments of travel to undertake to experience Doubtful Sound. Cruise - Coach - Cruise - Coach - Cruise

Milford Sound vs Doubtful Sound - Cost for two adults

Milford Sound - Summer

Milford Sound - Winter

Doubtful Sound - Summer

Doubtful Sound - Winter

Self Driving & Cruise from Te Anau

$350 (not including cost of rental car & food)

$330 (not including cost of rental car & food)



Guided Tour & Cruise from Te Anau

$358 (Luxe Tours)

$358 (Luxe Tours)

$738 (Luxe Tours)

$645 (Luxe Tours)

Self Driving & Cruise from Queenstown

$422 (not including cost of rental car & food)

$402 (not including cost of rental car & food)



Guided Tour & Cruise from Queenstown

$510 (RealNZ)

$490 (RealNZ)

$958 (RealNZ)

$858 (RealNZ)

Prices for Self Driving & Cruise include the cost of fuel ($2.30 litre) and approximate amount of fuel self driving would use.

What does a Milford Sound Tour look like?

What does a Doubtful Sound Tour look like?

Getting to Milford Sound from Te Anau or Queenstown

The journey to Doubtful Sound in terms of different segments is much more substantial with several changes from coach to cruise and the only way to see Doubtful Sound is on a guided tour unless you have local connections to provide transport over Wilmot Pass (the road between Lake Manapouri and Doubtful Sound) or your own boat.

Milford Sound is a simple coach, cruise, coach journey with many great photo stops to see along the way so plenty or breaks. Although the drive time direct from Te Anau is two hours and four hours from Queenstown, in reality if you do these photo stops, you can expect about 3.5-hours from Te Anau and about 5.5-hours from Queenstown.

How to get to Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound, Luxe Tours NZ

Is Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound better?

This is something we get asked often and here is our very honest answer:

Milford Sound is better for the journey in and out along the Milford Road. The photo stops and locations are simply incredible, in particular the section between Hollyford Valley and Milford Sound. Driving through glacier carved valleys and between steep 2000m+ mountains is a real experience.

Journey to Milford Sound: 10/10

Cruise: 8/10

Doubtful Sound is better for the cruise in the fiord. It is very quiet, secluded and much less boat traffic. The tour is often adapted to the day and weather, and it is very common to see wildlife such as seals and dolphins. The cruise is slightly longer at three hours for the Day Tour.

Journey to Doubtful Sound: 7/10

Cruise: 10/10

How do you choose which tour? We suggest starting with the most simple way first which is to consider budget. Milford Sound is slightly more accessible when it comes to cost. Next consider whether you are more excited by the journey into Milford Sound along the world famous Milford Road, or more excited by a cruise in Doubtful Sound that is truly stunning.

If budget is not a focus for you, then why not consider packages? Luxe Tours is the only tour operator with an exclusive partner relationship with RealNZ (main Doubtful Sound tour operator) to offer joint Milford Sound & Doubtful Sound packages. You can do a day tour in Doubtful Sound, or their very popular Overnight Tour.

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