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

Should you visit Nelson or Milford Sound?

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

Trying to figure out where to travel next? This travel comparison between Nelson and Milford Sound can help. It includes a travel cost comparison in addition to other factors. For many travelers, the cost of a destination is a primary consideration when choosing where to go.

Nelson

Nelson is a beautiful, outdoorsy, and adventure-filled city. With stunning beauty, it attracts visitors from all around. It's also popular because of the museums, nightlife, and food.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound is a breathtaking, world renowned, and remote fiord. You'll find world class beauty here as well. It's also known for skiing and hiking.

Nelson 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
  • Impressive beauty
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


Is there more to do in Nelson or Milford Sound?

Visitors will usually find more to do in Nelson than Milford Sound, as it offers more sights, attractions, and activities. Nelson is better known for its museums, food, nightlife, beaches, and shopping, while Milford Sound is more popular for its skiing and impressive beauty. Nelson is more touristy than Milford Sound and is popular for its stunning national parks, beautiful coastline, and outdoor adventures. Also, Nelson is famous for Abel Tasman National Park. Milford Sound is well known for its iconic hiking trails, stunning boat tours, and dramatic mountains.

How is Nelson different from Milford Sound?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

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

Is Nelson or Milford Sound Better for Skiing?

Nelson
Milford Sound

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

Milford Sound is an extremely popular place for snow skiing and other 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.

Nelson is not a skiing destination.


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

Nelson
Milford Sound

Nelson is a good destination for its museums and history. However, Milford Sound does not have museums and landmarks.

If you're looking for an educational opportunity, there are a decent number of museums and historical sights around Nelson. While most people spend their time enjoying the nature-oriented activities, there are several museums in the area as well. Founder's Heritage Park Museum is a village-like setting that you can explore. There's also the Nelson Classic Car Museum and local art and craft galleries that are fun to walk through.

Milford Sound does not have museums and landmarks.

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

Nelson
Milford Sound

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

Nelson has a number of nationally recognized food spots and restaurants. Local ingredients, vineyards, and craft breweries all make the foodie scene around town interesting. There are many great restaurants that offer seasonal menus that change with the season. Eating is an experience in town, and locals take pride in the food they produce.

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 Nelson or Milford Sound Better for Nightlife?

Nelson
Milford Sound

Nelson 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 Nelson. The city attracts a good tourist crowd, and there are bars and clubs that keep things interesting late into the evening.

Milford Sound is not a destination with noteworthy nightlife.


Is Nelson or Milford Sound Better for Beaches?

Nelson
Milford Sound

Nelson is an amazing city to visit for the beach. However, Milford Sound is not a beach destination.

Nelson offers stunning beaches that attract visitors from around the world. Beaches in the area are sandy and most are great for swimming. There are many water sports available as well such as kayaking, kite surfing, and paddleboarding. You'll find locals and tourists alike hanging out at the beach and enjoying a barbecue.

Milford Sound is not a beach destination.

Is Nelson or Milford Sound Better for Hiking?

Nelson
Milford Sound

Both Nelson and Milford Sound are destinations which offer fantastic hiking.

Around Nelson visitors will find world-class hiking trails. The area is filled with walking and hiking trails that wander along the coast and soak up the spectacular views. There are also three national parks in the area that are filled with trails. Abel Tasman National Park, Kahurangi National Park, and Nelson Lakes National Park each have their own environments and scenery to explore.

Milford Sound is well-known for its hiking and trekking. 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.

Is the Shopping Better in Nelson or Milford Sound?

Nelson
Milford Sound

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

Nelson has a variety of shopping areas worth visiting. There are weekly markets in the area and a variety of retail shops where you can pick up anything you might need.

Milford Sound is not a noteworthy shopping destination.


Is Nelson or Milford Sound Better for Families?

Nelson
Milford Sound

Nelson is an amazing city 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, Nelson is very family-friendly. Surrounded by family-friendly national parks, this city has a number of things for kids to do. In particularly, Abel Tasman National Park is a highlight for kids, with canoeing, sailing and other activities. Kids will also enjoy a visit to Cable Bay Adventure Park or seeing the historically themed Founders Park.

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 Nelson or Milford Sound Better for Couples?

Nelson
Milford Sound

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

Nelson is fantastic couple's destination with fun and romantic activities. Wilderness, national parks, beaches, and mountain scenery make this a wonderful couples destination. The area also has beautiful vineyards and gardens as well hiking and outdoor adventures.

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 Nelson or Milford Sound Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Nelson
Milford Sound

Nelson is an amazing city 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 Nelson, as it is a very popular city for budget travelers. There are many hostels in the area as well as outdoor activities and adventure sports that backpackers will love.

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

Nelson
Milford Sound

Both Nelson and Milford Sound offer respectable public transit options.

Public transit is generally limited in Nelson. The city has a local bus network, but to efficiently explore everything that the area has to offer, you'll want to have a car.

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

Is Nelson or Milford Sound a more walkable city?

Nelson
Milford Sound

Nelson is an excellent place to visit for its ease of walking around. However, Milford Sound is lacking in options for its walkability.

Nelson is a very walkable destination. There are many great walks in the area and its a wonderful way to get around.

Milford Sound is not a walkable city. 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 Nelson Worth Visiting? and Is Milford Sound Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Milford Sound or Nelson?

How long in Nelson or Milford Sound?

Nelson and Milford Sound both offer a nice selection of activities for visitors. Many travelers usually spend more of their time in Milford Sound than Nelson because of the number of activities and things to do in the area. Usually, 3-5 days is a good amount of time for Nelson, and 2-6 days is enough time in Milford Sound.

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

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

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


  • How many days in Nelson or Milford Sound? Ideal Length of Stay
    Nelson 3-5 
    Milford Sound 2-6

One day in Nelson or Milford Sound?

Many travelers enjoy the shopping and museums when visiting the outdoorsy destination of Nelson. 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.

Many travelers enjoy the skiing when visiting the destination of Milford Sound. Hikers are also drawn to this area. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than one day exploring.


A weekend in Nelson or Milford Sound?

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Nelson. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do. A weekend is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do.

Milford Sound is a great place to explore. It is common to spend a weekend here. Don't miss the hiking, as that's what most people do. With all of its activities, you can easily fill a weekend here. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

Five days in Nelson or Milford Sound?

Many travelers enjoy the nightlife and food when visiting the outdoorsy destination of Nelson. Many visitors spend time at the beach while visiting the area. This city offers a variety of activities to choose from. If you have five days, this is a great place to go. Five days is usually enough time to experience most activities.

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Milford Sound. Don't miss the hiking, as that's what most people do. For many, it makes a great getaway for five days. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. With all of its activities, you can easily fill five days here. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.

A week in Nelson or Milford Sound?

You'll find food and shopping around the beautiful city of Nelson. 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.

Travelers enjoy the skiing when visiting the world renowned destination of Milford Sound. This fiord offers a variety of activities to choose from. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. Most people find that one week is more than enough time to see everything.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best Family-Friendly Tours to New Zealand, The Best Wildlife Tours to New Zealand, The Best Hiking & Trekking Tours in New Zealand, and The Best 10-Day Tours in New Zealand.


Which place is cheaper, Milford Sound or Nelson?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in Nelson is $95, 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 Nelson and Milford Sound in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Nelson $41
    Milford Sound $68
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Nelson $82
    Milford Sound $136
Compare Hotels in Nelson and Milford Sound

Looking for a hotel in Nelson 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 Nelson


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: Nelson Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Nelson $29
    Milford Sound $14

Is it cheaper to fly into Nelson or Milford Sound?

Prices for flights to both Milford Sound and Nelson 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
    Nelson $28
    Milford Sound $34

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Nelson $24
    Milford Sound $39

Tours and Activities in Nelson

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

  • Cruise, Walk, and Sail in Abel Tasman National Park: $126
  • Full-Day Sailing Adventure in the Abel Tasman National Park: $165
  • Great Taste Beer Tour by Bicycle (Self-guided): $81
  • Magical Mapua Charms in off-summer Season Selfguided Cycle Tour: $78
  • Magical Mapua Self Guided One Day Cycle Tour: $78
  • Nelson City Walking Tour - Guided: $30
  • SKYWIRE Experience: $69
  • Self-Guided Nelson to Mapua Cycle Adventure: $74
  • Spooners Tunnel to Nelson One Day Cycle Self Guided Tour: $85

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Nelson $13
    Milford Sound $13

Sample the Local Flavors in Nelson

Some specific costs for nightlife related activities in Nelson:

  • Self-guided E-bike cycle tour with private wine tasting : $100


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Nelson and Milford Sound, we can see that Milford Sound is more expensive. And not only is Nelson much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Nelson would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Nelson 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 Nelson.

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


Which is Bigger, Nelson or Milford Sound?

Nelson has a larger population, and is about 140 times larger than the population of Milford Sound. When comparing the sizes of Nelson 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.