Please help me decide: Doubtful Sound or Catlins?

Aug 24th, 2005, 03:33 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 1,793
Please help me decide: Doubtful Sound or Catlins?

We have definitely decided to see Milford Sound because we really want to see the scenery on Milford Rd.
Right now this portion of our itinerary is:
Day 15: evening drive from Queenstown to Te Anau, Glow worm tour
Day 16: Overnight Milford Sound tour
Day 17: Drive from Te Anau to Catlins
Day 18: Drive from Catlins to Dunedin
Day 19: Otago Peninsula tour
Day 20: Fly from Dunedin to Fiji (3 flights)

What I am wondering is if we should skip the Catlins and instead:
Day 17: early bus or car trip to Milford Sound (before the Queenstown buses/crowd arrive)
Day 18: Doubtful Sound overnight cruise
Day 19: Return to Manapouri at noon and drive to Dunedin

Basically, should we see Doubtful Sound or the Catlins? Please help me decide as I keep going back and forth. Any opinions? Thanks!
Tim_and_Liz is offline  
Aug 24th, 2005, 07:26 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,521
I really like Doubtful Sound because it is more remote than Milford. You need to take a boat across Lake Manapouri, then a bus along an unsealed road, over a pass, then down to the Sound. Still, it isn't so terribly different from Milford Sound that it would definitely be worthwhile to do an overnight trip to both. Personally, I'd skip one of the Sounds and spend the time elsewhere.
ALF is offline  
Aug 25th, 2005, 12:50 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 424
Hi, Tim and Liz,
I must confess we have not been to Doubtful Sound yet (we are doing a daytime cruise there in January) but would suggest ALF's advice would be good. Perhaps another alternative could be to take a drive to Milford Sound, have a look around then do the overnight on Doubtful Sound, which from what I have read is the better of the two for wildlife. If at all possible I would try to visit the Catlins because of the wild beauty of Nugget Point, the Purekenui Falls, the petrified forest at Curio Bay, the Hector's dolphins at Porpoise Bay, Cathedral Cave, and many other points of interest on the way to Dunedin. Who knows, we may even see you around that area in January!
dotty is offline  
Aug 25th, 2005, 01:18 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 1,793
Thanks Alf and Dotty. To clarify, if we do decide to take an overnight on Doubtful Sound, we will not be taking the overnight cruise on Milford. We will drive up Milford Rd and possibly take a day cruise if one is available.
I am still confused!
Tim_and_Liz is offline  
Aug 25th, 2005, 01:34 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 470
If you google "doubtful sound photos" you can eventually find incredible, detailed photo albums from folks who cruised overnight. Same for Milford, and maybe Catlins. Skip over the ones that don't grab you, and you will soon find some that just put you there and let you decide.

Another approach that will only work well in the near future is to download viewer. You can then scan satellite photos in 3D, and fly around like a helicopter with view tilted 45 degrees for instance. Last I checked, fiordland was in blurry detail. But they are continually downloading better info where basically you can count the treetops and look down the valleys with realistic mt walls...
viking is offline  
Aug 25th, 2005, 05:35 PM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 17,569
I've been to all three locations (Doubtful once, Milford once on a day trip and once as an overnight after the track, and Catlins twice). I would not do both sounds on one trip, they are too much alike. If you are overnighting, Milford will seem remote enough. It's a good idea to check out photos, IMO, Milford's Mitre Peak makes it the more dramatic choice. If you have cash to burn, consider bussing out and flying back (or vice versa). My companions on the Milford track gave a huge thumbs up to a heliflight from Milford Sound, which took them low over the Sutherland Falls and other sights. Your enjoyment of either Sound will depend somewhat on the weather. You can see wildlife (including penguins) in the Catlins, and the vegetation and ocean views are different than Fiordland.
mlgb is offline  
Aug 25th, 2005, 05:36 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 424
Hi, Tim and Liz,
There are a couple or so daytime cruises in Milford Sound, which are worthwhile. I was intrigued to see the back of Mitre Peak, and several waterfalls, but not so much wildlife as I had hoped - only lovely old seals. We went with realjourneys, but there is another crowd, Red Boat Cruises under
Another site I have just found is
Hopefully these sites will answer some questions for you.
I have just found an interesting site for anyone travelling into Milford Sound area - This site gives uptodate info on the road.
dotty is offline  
Aug 25th, 2005, 09:26 PM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 235
Hi Tim & Liz.
Either the Milford or Doubtful overnight is a fabulous experience. As the previous posts say, you probably would not want to bo both, but you could well visit both sounds, one for an overnight, and one for a day trip.
If you decide on this I would recommend the overnight Doubtful tour as being the most cost effective.
A twin/double en suite cabin is NZ$364 per person DBB. For cOmparison the day trip in NZ$205 per person.
The Milford overnight isNZ$248 twin/double w/ensuite, and the day coach & cruise is NZ$128 PP.
The wildlife is probably better in Doubtful, but is both areas you can expect to see Dolphins and Seals. There are also Peguins, but they are usually off shore fishing during the day. You may see then coming home if you are on the overnight cruise.
THe wildlife in the Catlins is more hands on. You have to go and search it out. THere are NZ fur seals around most of the coast, and well as Elephant seals. THe Yellow eyed Penguins nest along the Catlins coast, but you will probably only see them if you take a guided tour. One place you may see them is the Cathedral Caves.
You would probably want to stay overnight somewhere on the Catlins coast. Papotawai, Owaka and Kaka Point have motels, and there are quite a few B&B's & farm stays.
To drive from Te Anau to Dunedin along the Southern Scenic Route takes about 8 hours, and this doesn't alow much time for stops.
You are right on the money with the Milford Road. THis is one fantastic highway. Allow at least 2 hours to drive it from Te Anau, more if you want to do some of the fine walks along the way. Try to avoid the lunch time cruises. They are usually jammed full. Go earlier, from 10.30am, or later, from 3pm.

have a great holiday.
vbca is offline  
Aug 29th, 2005, 12:29 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 469
I am a big fan of both sounds. I found this area to be so much different than anything I've seen in USA. I would do a day trip into an out of Milford,then an overnight on Doubtful. The Doubtful overnight trip includes the opportunity to go kayaking and a side trip on a jet boat launch to see early morning bird watching; all included in the price.

If you get a map specific to the road between Te Anau and Milford there are many side trips and roadside stops that are very interesting. Beware of the sand fleas in this area though. If you are susceptible to mosquito bites, they will be a problem all along the west coast and in Fiordland.

My advice, skip the Caitlins in favor of the sounds. I'd do your second itinerary for days 17-19. With that said, you will love your time in NZ almost no matter what you do.
Parrothead is offline  
Aug 29th, 2005, 01:03 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 1,793
Thanks again to everyone who replied. We have decided to skip the Catlins this trip as we will hopefully be seeing wildlife in Kaikoura, Doubtful Sound, and the Otago Peninsula among other places.
I am working on rearranging my reservations to spend an extra night in Te Anau (so we can spend a leisurely day on Milford Rd) and then the Doubtful Sound overnight the following night.
Tim_and_Liz is offline  
Aug 29th, 2005, 11:58 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 49
With your decisoin to skip the Caitlins, I suggest you take a look at Tunnel Beach while you are in Dunedin to get a feel of the ruggedness of this coastline. Tunnel Beach is just south of residential Dunedin. Despite what the sign says, it is a ten minute walk down and a 20 minute walk back up with stops to catch your breath - I'm not overly fit. An incredibly rugged bit of coast with a natural bridge/sea tunnel and also a man-made tunnel with steps cut into the rock which provides beach level access to an amazing cove with a cave. We came across a penguin here.
Just be aware that ther are no barriers and it is tempting to get close to the edge to appreciate the massive surf underneath. Take care. It is about 10 minutes drive south from Dunedin central and is marked as Tunnel Beach Road on the map. I would allow 1 & 1/2 hours for this trip.
Kiwis2 is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 06:39 AM.