A Travel Price Comparison for New Zealand Kaikoura vs. Milford Sound for Hiking, Families, Couples, and Backpackers

Should you visit Kaikoura or Milford Sound?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Should I visit Kaikoura or Milford Sound? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city has activities that align with your interests along with knowing which is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the details and the data, which all comes from actual travelers.

Kaikoura

Kaikoura is a nature-oriented, biologically diverse, and unique town. It's also popular because of the food, beaches, and hiking.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound is a breathtaking, world renowned, and remote fiord. You'll find world class beauty here as well. And you can't forget about the skiing and hiking.

Kaikoura and Milford Sound: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Popular for food and cuisine
  • Active nightlife
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Fun shopping
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Very walkable
Pros
  • Popular for skiing
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Impressive beauty
Things to Consider
  • Less popular for food
  • Less walkable


Is there more to do in Kaikoura or Milford Sound?

Tourists will generally find more to do in Kaikoura. Although Kaikoura and Milford Sound are both popular with visitors, Kaikoura has more sights, activities, and attractions for travelers. Kaikoura is more popular for its museums, food, nightlife, beaches, and shopping, while Milford Sound is known for its skiing, hiking, and impressive beauty. Kaikoura is more touristy than Milford Sound and is popular for its local Sperm Whale population, abundance of marine life, and local crayfish (lobster) recipes. It is also home to its whale watching trips. Milford Sound is popular for its iconic hiking trails, stunning boat tours, and dramatic mountains.

How is Kaikoura different from Milford Sound?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Milford Sound and Kaikoura. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Is Kaikoura or Milford Sound Better for Skiing?

Kaikoura
Milford Sound

Milford Sound is a well-known place for snow skiing. However, Kaikoura is not a skiing destination.

People head to Milford Sound specifically to take advantage of the area's skiing and winter sports. Many locals head to the snow-capped peaks to enjoy skiing, but if you're unfamiliar with the area, a ski tour is your best option.

Kaikoura is not a skiing destination.


Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Kaikoura or Milford Sound?

Kaikoura
Milford Sound

Kaikoura is a decent place to visit for its museums and history. However, Milford Sound does not have museums and landmarks.

While most people don't head to Kaikoura specifically for the museums and attractions, it does offer a few options. There aren't many museums in the area, but it's worth learning more about the region's history with a visit to Kaikoura Museum.

Milford Sound does not have museums and landmarks.

Is the Food Better in Kaikoura or Milford Sound? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Kaikoura
Milford Sound

Kaikoura is an excellent place to visit for its restaurants. However, Milford Sound is lacking in options for its restaurant scene.

Kaikoura has a number of nationally recognized food spots and restaurants. Seafood lovers will be in heaven in this town! There are many local, freshly caught favorites such as cod, mussels, and crayfish (which is actually lobster). You'll find plenty of casual eateries, including an authentic American diner.

While Milford Sound is not famous for its food, you'll find what you need there. You'll find a restaurant or two in the small town of Milford Sound. Your best option is the Milford Sound Lodge. In the park you'll want to come prepared with your own food. Many organized tours include a picnic lunch.

Is Kaikoura or Milford Sound Better for Nightlife?

Kaikoura
Milford Sound

Kaikoura is a good destination for its evening party scene. However, Milford Sound is not a destination with noteworthy nightlife.

With a handful of venues, visitors can find a fairly lively vibe in Kaikoura. This is a small town so the nightlife scene is limited, but there are a few restaurants with bars around town.

Milford Sound is not a destination with noteworthy nightlife.


Is Kaikoura or Milford Sound Better for Beaches?

Kaikoura
Milford Sound

Kaikoura is an excellent place to visit for the beach. However, Milford Sound is not a beach destination.

Many people visit Kaikoura for it's beautiful beaches. There are many black pebble beaches in the area, which are great for wildlife spotting, but not so good for swimming. Gooch's Beach is one of the most popular, and it's sandier than many of the other beaches. South Bay is another popular area to visit.

Milford Sound is not a beach destination.

Is Kaikoura or Milford Sound Better for Hiking?

Kaikoura
Milford Sound

Milford Sound is a world-class destination for the nearby hiking options. Also, Kaikoura is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its hiking trails.

People visit Milford Sound specifically for its hiking, as the natural beauty is well-known. The Milford Track has long been considered one of the world's best hikes. It's also, arguably, the most famous hike in New Zealand. The 53 kilometer trek takes you from Lake Te Anau through stunning scenery, alpine settings, and across spectacular suspension bridges.

Many visitors explore the nearby hiking trails while visiting Kaikoura. There are many coastal walks in the area that will take you through a variety of landscapes. This is also a great way to see the many diverse types of wildlife throughout the peninsula.

Is the Shopping Better in Kaikoura or Milford Sound?

Kaikoura
Milford Sound

Kaikoura is a good destination for its shopping areas. However, Milford Sound is not a noteworthy shopping destination.

Kaikoura has a variety of shopping areas worth visiting. There are local shops where you can pick up some interesting products that are unique to the area.

Milford Sound is not a noteworthy shopping destination.


Is Kaikoura or Milford Sound Better for Families?

Kaikoura
Milford Sound

Kaikoura is an amazing town to visit for its kid-friendly activities. Also, Milford Sound is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its family-friendly activities.

With a huge array of activities for kids, Kaikoura is very family-friendly. Kids who love animals will appreciate all of the wildlife in the area. This is one of the best places in the country to see dolphins, whales, and seals. There are world class whale watching trips as well as opportunities to swim with the dolphins and get close to the seals. There is also kayaking, a coastal train, and even sheep shearing. Minigolf is also a fun activity in the area.

Milford Sound is a very family-friendly place to visit. The outdoor wonders will impress the kids as much as the adults. There are shorter walks that are family-friendly and the boat rides are also fun for the whole family. You can take a scenic flight or visit the stunning Mirror Lakes. This really is a playground for both kids and adults.

Is Kaikoura or Milford Sound Better for Couples?

Kaikoura
Milford Sound

With fun activities for couples, both Kaikoura and Milford Sound make for a superb place to visit.

Kaikoura is a very popular place to visit for couples. The town is all about wildlife, so if whale watching trips, dolphin spotting, and experiencing amazing local wildlife is your thing, then this is your spot! There are also beautiful coastal sights with a dramatic mountain backdrop.

Milford Sound makes for a fun place to visit for a couple. This is one of the most stunning natural areas in the world, and the romance comes from the spectacular beauty, world class hikes, and breathtaking surroundings that will leave you awed and inspired.

Is Kaikoura or Milford Sound Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Kaikoura
Milford Sound

Kaikoura is an excellent place to visit for backpackers and budget travelers. Also, Milford Sound is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for backpackers.

Plenty of budget travelers and backpackers visit Kaikoura. There are a decent number of hostels in the area and plenty of fun activities that backpackers will enjoy.

Plenty of budget travelers visit Milford Sound. The area's remoteness and high price tag make it a bit challenging for backpackers and budget travelers. If you have plenty of time and enough money, it is truly a not to be missed destination.


Is Kaikoura or Milford Sound Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Kaikoura
Milford Sound

Milford Sound is a moderate fiord for its public transit. However, Kaikoura is not a good town for times when you don't have a car.

Public transit is generally limited in Milford Sound. There are buses in the area, but private vehicles or organized tours are your best option for getting around.

Public transit is quite limited in Kaikoura. The town is very small and there is no real public transit in the area.

Is Kaikoura or Milford Sound a more walkable city?

Kaikoura
Milford Sound

Kaikoura is a good destination for its ease of walking around. However, Milford Sound is lacking in options for its walkability.

Kaikoura is a somewhat walkable town. There are many coastal walks in the area, which is a great way to soak up the beauty and see the wildlife. The town itself is small and most of the accommodation is along Beach Road, so it's relatively easy to reach places on foot.

Milford Sound is not a walkable town. This is one of the most remote places in New Zealand so you really must have a car or organized transportation to get around.

For even more information, also check out Is Kaikoura Worth Visiting? and Is Milford Sound Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Milford Sound or Kaikoura?

How long in Kaikoura or Milford Sound?

Kaikoura and Milford Sound both offer a nice selection of activities for visitors. Many travelers usually spend more of their time in Milford Sound than Kaikoura because of the number of activities and things to do in the area. Usually, 2-4 days is a good amount of time for Kaikoura, and 2-6 days is enough time in Milford Sound.

Families should spend more time in Kaikoura than Milford Sound. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Kaikoura, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in Kaikoura than Milford Sound. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Kaikoura that are great for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Kaikoura than Milford Sound if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Kaikoura.


  • How many days in Kaikoura or Milford Sound? Ideal Length of Stay
    Kaikoura 2-4 
    Milford Sound 2-6

One day in Kaikoura or Milford Sound?

Many travelers enjoy the shopping and nightlife when visiting the biologically diverse destination of Kaikoura. You'll find plenty of activities on the beach. Your budget might influence how long you stay. Since there is so much to do in the area, one day is probably not enough for all of it.

The beautiful fiord of Milford Sound offers skiing. Many visitors also spend a good bit of time hiking. With so much to do, one day is probably not enough time to see everything. It will give you the chance to have new experiences.


A weekend in Kaikoura or Milford Sound?

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Kaikoura. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do. For many, it makes a great getaway for a weekend. A weekend is usually enough time to experience most activities.

Milford Sound is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. If you have a weekend, this fiord makes for a great vacation. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Milford Sound, a weekend is sufficent for most. Take your pick from the many activities offered here.

Five days in Kaikoura or Milford Sound?

Travelers enjoy the food and shopping when visiting the biologically diverse destination of Kaikoura. Many visitors spend time at the beach while visiting the area. This town offers a variety of activities to choose from. Five days is usually plenty of time to spend here with extra days to spare. With this much time, visitors often visit nearby destinations or take day trips.

Milford Sound is a popular choice for travelers. Five days here is typical. It's no surprise that hiking is why people visit. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Milford Sound, five days is sufficent for most. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

A week in Kaikoura or Milford Sound?

You'll find shopping and nightlife around the town of Kaikoura. People usually spend lots of time at the beach. One week is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days. The length of your ideal trip is an individual decision.

Milford Sound is a great place to explore. It's no surprise that hiking is why people visit. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. One week is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days. This fiord offers something for everyone.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best Luxury Tours to New Zealand, The Best Budget Tours to New Zealand, The Best Tours for Seniors to New Zealand, and The Best G Adventures Tours to New Zealand.


Which place is cheaper, Milford Sound or Kaikoura?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Kaikoura is $137, while the average daily cost in Milford Sound is $118. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Kaikoura and Milford Sound in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Kaikoura $49
    Milford Sound $68
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Kaikoura $98
    Milford Sound $136
Compare Hotels in Kaikoura and Milford Sound

Looking for a hotel in Kaikoura or Milford Sound? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Kaikoura


Hotels in Milford Sound


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Kaikoura Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Kaikoura $17
    Milford Sound $14

Is it cheaper to fly into Kaikoura or Milford Sound?

Prices for flights to both Milford Sound and Kaikoura change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Kaikoura $38
    Milford Sound $34

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Kaikoura $154
    Milford Sound $39

Tours and Activities in Kaikoura

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Kaikoura are as follows:

  • Llama Trek (Taster) - Kowhai River Valley and Native Woodland Tour: $84
  • 1-Hour Private Heli-Picnic Mountain top tour in Kaikoura : $245
  • 40-minute Mt Fyffe Summit Heli Tour in Kaikoura : $229
  • Half Day Zipline Adventure in Kaikoura: $100
  • Kaikoura Swim with Dolphins Tour from Christchurch: $248
  • Kaikoura Whale Watch Day Tour from Christchurch: $220
  • Private Wildlife Kayaking Tour - Kaikoura: $188
  • Seal Kayaking Adventure in Kaikoura: $85
  • Sunset Evening Kayaking Tour - Kaikoura: $94
  • Sunset Kayak tour in Kaikoura: $85
  • Wildlife Sea Kayaking Tour - Kaikoura: $94

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Kaikoura -
    Milford Sound $13


When comparing the travel costs between Kaikoura and Milford Sound, we can see that Kaikoura is more expensive. However, the two cities are actually relatively comparable in price, as the difference is somewhat minimal. Generally, this means that you could travel with generally the same travel style and level of luxury in each place. Since both cities are in Pacific, it's no surprise that their costs are relatively close, as many destinations here have somewhat similar travel prices overall.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Kaikoura Expensive? and Is Milford Sound Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Kaikoura or Milford Sound?

Kaikoura has a larger population, and is about 57% larger than the population of Milford Sound. When comparing the sizes of Kaikoura and Milford Sound, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.