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

Should you visit Milford Sound or Rotorua?

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

Which city should you visit? Read on to compare the activities as well as the prices of travel for Milford Sound and Rotorua. We'll break down costs for accommodation, food, transportation and more to help you learn more about these two destinations. Then, you can figure out if either of these two places are accessible based on your travel budget, schedule, and interests. So, let's dig into it.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound is a world renowned, remote, and iconic fiord. It's considered by many to be an absolutely beautiful destination, too. It's also popular because of the skiing and hiking.

Rotorua

Rotorua is a cultural, natural, and world-renowned town. With stunning beauty, it attracts visitors from all around. It's also popular because of the food, hiking, and shopping.

Milford Sound and Rotorua: Pros and Cons

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


Is there more to do in Milford Sound or Rotorua?

Travelers will usually find more to do in Rotorua. Although Milford Sound and Rotorua are popular destinations, Rotorua has more sights and attractions for tourists. Rotorua is very popular for its museums, food, nightlife, and shopping, while Milford Sound attracts visitors for its skiing, hiking, and impressive beauty. Rotorua is more touristy than Milford Sound and is known for its geothermal activity, Maori cultural influence, and its role in the famous Lord of the Rings movies. It is also well known for Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Milford Sound is famous for its iconic hiking trails, stunning boat tours, and dramatic mountains.

How is Milford Sound different from Rotorua?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

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

Is Milford Sound or Rotorua Better for Skiing?

Milford Sound
Rotorua

Milford Sound is an excellent place to visit for skiing and snowboarding. However, Rotorua is not a skiing destination.

Milford Sound draws a large crowd in the winter for its impressive snow skiing opportunities. 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.

Rotorua is not a skiing destination.


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

Milford Sound
Rotorua

Rotorua is an excellent place to visit for its museums and history. However, Milford Sound does not have museums and landmarks.

Visitors can fill many days exploring the museums and attractions around Rotorua. The area is filled with opportunities to learn about the Maori culture. The Maori village of Whakarewarewa is a highlight and you should also visit Te Wairoa. Fans of Lord of the Rings won't want to miss Hobbiton either. Finally, Rotorua Museum well worth a visit.

Milford Sound does not have museums and landmarks.

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

Milford Sound
Rotorua

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

Rotorua has a number of nationally recognized food spots and restaurants. There's a wide selection of culinary options in the area that include steambox (food prepared with the geothermal heat), and hāngī, which is a traditional Maori cooking technique. Many restaurants also make use of the local fruit, vegetables, and meats.

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 Milford Sound or Rotorua Better for Nightlife?

Milford Sound
Rotorua

Rotorua 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 Rotorua. You'll find the best concentration of bars and restaurants around Tutankei Street, which is often referred to as "Eat Street".

Milford Sound is not a destination with noteworthy nightlife.


Is Milford Sound or Rotorua Better for Hiking?

Milford Sound
Rotorua

Milford Sound is an amazing fiord to visit for its hiking trails. Also, Rotorua is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its hiking experiences.

Around Milford Sound visitors will find world-class hiking trails. 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.

You'll find a nice variety of hiking trails around Rotorua. The area is filled with beautiful walking trails that take you by lakes, volcanoes, and geothermal hot springs. A favorite route in the area is Tarawera Trail, which is 15 kilometers long and ends at a natural hot water beach.

Is the Shopping Better in Milford Sound or Rotorua?

Milford Sound
Rotorua

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

Rotorua has a variety of shopping areas worth visiting. You'll find stores and galleries selling art and crafts around the main town center.

Milford Sound is not a noteworthy shopping destination.

Is Milford Sound or Rotorua Better for Families?

Milford Sound
Rotorua

Rotorua 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, Rotorua is very family-friendly. The geothermal activity is fascinating for kids and adults alike. There are also many activities that will teach kids about the Maori culture and for animal lovers, there are farms and wildlife tours. Lord of the Rings fans won't want to miss Hobbiton, and there are many thrilling activities in the area such as white water rafting.

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 Milford Sound or Rotorua Better for Couples?

Milford Sound
Rotorua

Rotorua is an amazing town to visit for couples. Also, Milford Sound is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for romance.

Rotorua is fantastic couple's destination with fun and romantic activities. The unique environment and beautiful natural setting make this a wonderful honeymoon destination. Couples will appreciate the geothermal activity, beautiful walking trails, and diverse outdoor activities. There's also horseback riding, hot springs, and helicopter rides.

Couples visit Milford Sound frequently as it offers plenty of romantic activities. 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 Milford Sound or Rotorua Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Milford Sound
Rotorua

Rotorua is an amazing town to visit for backpackers and budget travelers. Also, Milford Sound is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for backpackers.

A large number of backpackers visit Rotorua, as it is a very popular town for budget travelers. Well established on the backpacker trail, there are plenty of hostels in the area and tons of 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 Milford Sound or Rotorua Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Milford Sound
Rotorua

Rotorua is a good destination for times when you don't have a car. However, Milford Sound is lacking in options for its public transit.

Rotorua has some public transit options. There are buses and shuttles that travel around town and through the area.

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.


Is Milford Sound or Rotorua a more walkable city?

Milford Sound
Rotorua

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

Rotorua is a somewhat walkable town. The town itself is fairly walkable but if you want to get into the surrounding areas, having a vehicle provides the most flexibility.

Milford Sound is not a walkable fiord. 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 Milford Sound Worth Visiting? and Is Rotorua Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Rotorua or Milford Sound?

How long in Milford Sound or Rotorua?

Visitors can find plenty of fun things to do in both Milford Sound and Rotorua. With generally more activities and things to do, visitors tend to spend more time in Milford Sound than in Rotorua. Usually, 2-6 days is a good amount of time for Milford Sound, and 2-3 days is enough time in Rotorua.

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

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

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Rotorua 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 Rotorua.


  • How many days in Milford Sound or Rotorua? Ideal Length of Stay
    Milford Sound 2-6 
    Rotorua 2-3

One day in Milford Sound or Rotorua?

In Milford Sound, you'll find skiing. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. One reason most visitors come is for the hiking. This fiord offers something for everyone. One day is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do.

Many travelers enjoy the shopping and museums when visiting the natural destination of Rotorua. Many visitors also spend a good bit of time hiking. 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.

A weekend in Milford Sound or Rotorua?

In Milford Sound, you'll find skiing. The length of your trip often depends on your style of travel. A weekend here is typical. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. One reason most visitors come is for the hiking. A weekend is a great amount of time to relax and see the many things that Milford Sound has to offer.

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Rotorua. 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.


Five days in Milford Sound or Rotorua?

Milford Sound is a great place to explore. It is common to spend five days here. Hikers are also drawn to this area. Five days is a great amount of time to relax and see the many things that Milford Sound has to offer. Anyone can find something fun to do here.

Travelers enjoy the nightlife and food when visiting the natural destination of Rotorua. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in 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.

A week in Milford Sound or Rotorua?

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Milford Sound. Many people enjoy the skiing when visiting Milford Sound. One reason most visitors come is for the hiking. Many visitors also spend a good bit of time hiking. One week may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing.

You'll find food and shopping around the beautiful town of Rotorua. 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. The length of your ideal trip is an individual decision.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best 10-Day Tours in New Zealand, The Best One Week (7-Day) Tours in New Zealand, The Best 2-Week Tours in New Zealand, and The Best Bicycle Tours in New Zealand.


Which place is cheaper, Rotorua or Milford Sound?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in Milford Sound is $118, while the average daily cost in Rotorua is $94. 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 Milford Sound and Rotorua in more detail.



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

Looking for a hotel in Milford Sound or Rotorua? 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 Milford Sound


Hotels in Rotorua


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: Rotorua Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Milford Sound $14
    Rotorua $5.07

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Rotorua

Also for Rotorua, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Rotorua to Auckland Afternoon Transfer with Waitomo Glow Worms: $183

Is it cheaper to fly into Milford Sound or Rotorua?

Prices for flights to both Rotorua and Milford Sound 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
    Milford Sound $34
    Rotorua $29

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Rotorua

For Rotorua, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Mitai Maori Village: Cultural Experience and Dinner Buffet: $95
  • Te Pa Tu Māori Cultural Experience with Dinner: $160

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Milford Sound $39
    Rotorua $34

Typical Entertainment Prices in Rotorua

Below are a few sample prices from actual travelers for Rotorua's activities, tours, and tickets:


  • Lunch Out for Two
    $28

Tours and Activities in Rotorua

For Rotorua, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:

  • 4x4 Self Drive Yamaha Experience : $93
  • Agrodome Farm Experience including Farm Show and Farm Tour - Rotorua: $31
  • Cultural Experience & Seasonal Māori Cuisine at Te Pā Tū : $162
  • Explore The Lakes Tour: $74
  • From Hobbiton Movie Set Tour with Festive Lunch: $159
  • From Wai O Tapu & Waimangu Eco Thermal Morning Tour: $85
  • From Wai-O-Tapu, Waimangu and Te Puia Full-Day Tour: $150
  • Geothermal Adults Only Mineral Bathing - Pavilion Pools Bathing Ticket: $28
  • Geothermal Mineral Baths Experience: Pavilion Pools for 12+: $28
  • Hells Gate Mud Bath and Sulphur Spa Experience: $52
  • Hobbiton Day Tour from Rotorua with lunch at Hobbiton: $161
  • Kaituna River: 3.5-Hour White Water Sledging Experience: $79

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Milford Sound $13
    Rotorua $12

Typical Alcohol Prices in Rotorua

Below are a few samples from actual travelers for alcohol and nightlife costs in Rotorua:


  • Bottle of Wine
    $11


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Milford Sound and Rotorua, we can see that Milford Sound is more expensive. And not only is Rotorua much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Rotorua would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Rotorua and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Milford Sound would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Milford Sound than you might in Rotorua.

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


Which is Bigger, Milford Sound or Rotorua?

Rotorua has a larger population, and is about 150 times larger than the population of Milford Sound. When comparing the sizes of Milford Sound and Rotorua, 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.