The drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound is an epic experience with so much to see and do. This article outlines some of the best stops along the way with the majority being along the Milford Road!
The Milford Road is an out of this world experience. Imagine yourself situated in the middle of Lord of the Rings off on an adventure towards Mount Doom. Except better and not as daunting.
Once you have crossed through the Milford Sound tunnel it literally feels as though you have entered a new world. Words can’t describe this remarkable piece of landscape and pictures can’t really do the place justice. It’s one of those places that needs to be seen to be believed.
Below are some of the best stops on the way from Queenstown to Milford Sound.
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Where is Milford Sound?
In the Fiordland National Park in the Southland region of New Zealand. Located at the South-Western corner of the South Island. Fiordland is home to the biggest National Park in New Zealand and, the wettest!
Milford Sound is located 90 km or 2 hours drive (depending on bus tour traffic) from the small town Te Anau (starting point for the Kepler great walk). The road from Te Anau to Milford Sound is where all of the beauty begins.
Tip: The Milford Sound road is windy much like the rest of NZ. There are narrow and one-lane bridges throughout the trip. Take your time and be aware of the tour buses. During winter it is recommended to carry snow chains and check the road report on the NZ Transport Agency website (here). For more important things to note check out the bottom of this post!
How to get to Milford Sound from Queenstown
Milford Sound is located 2 hours drive from Te Anau and 5 hours drive from Queenstown. Access to Milford Sound is by car, bus or flight. The closest airport to Milford Sound is in Queenstown. It is possible to self-drive the Milford road or catch a tour bus from Queenstown to Milford Sound (via Te Anau). It is likely in Queenstown where you will find the best rental car options.
Follow State Highway 6 and State Hwy 94 to access Milford Sound.
Related: If you are looking at renting a campervan in New Zealand check out my related article on how to find cheap campervan rentals!
The best stops from Queenstown to Milford Sound
Driving the Milford Road in and of itself is a phenomenal experience and there are amazing spots to visit just off the road’s edge.
There are endless locations to stop for photos and to enjoy the incredible beauty surrounding you. Pretty much anywhere you stop will be amazing and leave you with a good taste of the Fiordland National Park. However, I have outlined a few of the best spots to stop by on your drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound (because there are many) and the side of the road the stop-offs are on.
1. Stop in Kingston
To enjoy a different perspective of Lake Wakatipu on the border of Southland and the Otago region. The stunning landscape is the reason to visit and take a photo! Drive down to the lakefront to see the view like above.
2. Stop in Te Anau
Te Anau is a gorgeous little town on the way to Milford Sound. It is an awesome place to base yourself when exploring the Fiordland area. A nice place to stop is by the lakefront and taking a walk down the lakefront walkway – Probably one of the most popular Te Anau attractions. It is also a good place to grab a bite to eat or any supplies you need.
3. Eglinton Valley
4. Mirror Lakes
5. Lake Marion
6. Homer Tunnel
7. Falls Creek
8. The Chasm
9. The Milford Swing
10. Key Summit
Key Summit is an epic day walk and probably one of the most popular things to do in Milford Sound. It is apart of the popular Routeburn track but is definitely doable while driving along the Milford Road.
It is a 3.4km return walk track that takes around 3 hours. The most iconic photo spot is above the Lake Marian bowl that you may have seen before!
Access Key Summit at a place called The Divide (85 kilometres along the Milford Road.)
Extra activities you may want to try in the Milford Sound:
Take a boat cruise!
Complete a Milford Sound hike!Since I had my pug puppy I did not do any of the Milford Sound walk options so I did a little digging for information on this front. Of course, there is the famous Milford Track but it looks as though Key Summit Track is a must-do! Pop on over to Milford-Sound website (here) to view the best walks.
Other things to do in Milford Sound:
Where to stay in Milford Sound
- Fancy a dash of luxury? Fiordland Lodge is for you! They have a restaurant, open architecture and are well known for their impeccable hospitality and it overlooks the stunning Lake Te Anau.
- Fiordland Lakeview Motel and apartments are located on the shores of Te Anau with beautiful gardens and only a 10-minute walk from the town centre.
- Te Anau lakefront backpackers is an awesome option for budget-friendly accommodation. Located on the lakefront and within a short walk to the town centre. They have glamping, camping and dorm bed options!
The road to Milford Sound conditions
Practical information about food/water/toilets:
- Water can be found in most campsites along the Milford Road however, some water may want to be boiled before use. There are drinking fountains in Milford Sound village and at the information centre and Wharf.
- Coffee carts are located at some stop-off points along the Milford Road. While we were travelling there were coffee carts located at The Chasm and Monkey Creek. There is also a cafe in Milford Sound village.
- There are many signs for toilets. You will be spoilt for choice along the Milford Road.
- Tip: This goes without saying but I seriously encourage you to plan your trip to Milford Sound around the weather. The Fiordland National Park is the wettest parts of the entire country and the rain can get you drenched within 2 minutes. When they say it rains down there they really mean it! This will hinder your view and make you and your photos miserable.
A few important things to note about Milford Sound:
- MAKE SURE TO BRING INSECT REPELLENT AS THE SANDFLIES ARE NUMEROUS. I wrote this in capitals because seriously, they are everywhere.
- Be careful driving to Milford Sound. The Milford Sound Road is windy much like those of the rest of NZ.
- The Milford Sound parking sucks. Sucks because it costs $10 per hour and, sucks because it is such a busy place you may be fighting for a park! I would suggest timing it after a cruise has come in so people leave and there is space for you.
- The weather in Milford Sound is usually wet. Go when the weather is good. I actually can not recommend this enough. If the weather forecast is for downpour and clouds I would suggest waiting (if you can) until a little more reliable forecast comes. This will enable you to see all of the incredible views and really enjoy what this part of the country has to offer. If, like us, you only have 1 day to spend in the sounds and can not work around the weather then still go. But bring a good rain jacket!!!!
- There is a cafe in Milford Sound.
- September, October, November and December are the wettest months in the Milford Sounds Consider visiting outside these periods if you want to avoid a torrential downpour!
- There is no cellphone reception along the Milford Road or in Milford Sound.
- Doing a Milford Sound day trip from Queenstown and then a cruise makes for a reeeeally long day. The Queenstown to Milford Sound drive is 3 hours 45 minutes one way. I wouldn’t recommend doing a Milford Sound day tour from Queenstown because I know how tiring travel can be. If possible try and stay in Te Anau or if you can, in Milford Sound itself. This way you can enjoy the sights refreshed and not hurry the trip because of tiredness.
- Check the Milford Sound Road conditions on the NZTA website (here).