A section of the road on the Te Anau to Milford Sound drive with a snowy mountain in the backdrop.
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12+ Stunning Stops on the Drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound (+ Free Map!)

te anau to milford sound drive

Summary of post: Discover the best stops on the Te Anau to Milford Sound drive, one of New Zealand’s most beautiful road trips! 

Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s most incredible natural treasures. Located in Fiordland National Park in the southwest corner of the South Island, this stunning attraction is well worth the journey it takes to get there. 

The thing is…the journey to Milford Sound is spectacular in its own right. Believe it or not, the drive to get to Milford Sound is just as impressive as the destination itself!

Seriously—the drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound (also known as the “Milford Road”) is one of the most beautiful road trips in the world. Packed with countless waterfalls, lush rainforests, snow-capped mountains, and pristine lakes and rivers, it’s honestly a bit difficult to keep your eyes on the road (and not the scenery…) as you make your way along this stunning highway.

In this guide, we’re sharing the 12+ best stops to make along the drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound. We’ve also included some helpful, honest tips for making the most of your drive. Trust us, there are some things you’ll want to know before you hit the road.

*Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through the link provided, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. We really appreciate your support!

Map of the Drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound

What to Expect from this Guide to the Te Anau-Milford Sound Drive

key summit track te anau to milford sound drive
We’ve included some awesome day hikes in this guide!
  • This guide contains suggestions for stops along the drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound—and all of the suggested stops are free outdoor activities (aside from any boat cruises or guided trips at Milford Sound itself). If you like road-tripping, hiking, and snapping pretty photos of outdoor attractions, then this is the guide for you!
  • You’re getting advice from locals in this guide, so expect up-to-date information. We live in Queenstown and regularly visit Te Anau and Milford Sound, so you can expect accurate details and insider tips from locals. 
  • Stops are listed in order from Te Anau to Milford Sound; however, some stops are easier to visit on the drive back to Te Anau from Milford Sound. If a particular place is best to visit on the drive back to Te Anau, we’ll note it in the write-up for that stop.
  • If you just have a day in the area, you probably won’t be able to stop at all of the places mentioned in this guide, and that’s okay! Pick and choose what appeals to you most, and plan your drive accordingly. For example, you probably won’t have time to do both the Key Summit and Marian Lake hikes, so pick one and go for it!
  • In addition to the best stops to make along the drive, we’ve also included the places we think you can skip. Your time is limited, so we’re here to help you make the most of it!

Tips for Driving from Te Anau to Milford Sound

kea milford sound highway
You’re almost sure to spot kea along this drive—but make sure not to feed them!
  • Take it slow: There are so many amazing stops on this road; give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the drive! It’s also worth noting that this is a windy, narrow road in parts, so make sure you’re paying attention to the road as you drive (it can be hard to do so when there is so much amazing scenery around).  
  • Use pullouts: If you’re wanting to snap photos on this drive (and you will!), make sure to pull over in designated pullouts/viewpoints—don’t be that person who stops in the middle of the road to take a photo; it’s not safe for you or others. Also, if you’re driving slowly, make sure to pull over in safe pullouts to allow faster vehicles to pass you.
  • Leave early, or leave after 11 am: Most tour buses leave Te Anau mid-morning (between 9 am and 10 am) to make it to Milford Sound in time for a 1 pm boat cruise. So, if you want to avoid masses of people along this drive, we recommend either leaving early in the morning, or after 11 am (when most buses will have already departed).
  • Fill your car with petrol (gas) before embarking on this drive. There are no petrol stations between Te Anau and Milford Sound, so make sure you leave Te Anau with a full tank!
  • You won’t get cell service along this drive. We recommend downloading an offline map from Google Maps before leaving Te Anau, so you don’t miss any stops you’d like to see.

  • Don’t feed the kea: Kea (New Zealand’s cheeky alpine parrot) are frequently spotted along the drive to Milford Sound. If you stop along the drive—especially near Homer Tunnel—they’ll likely approach your car. They’re such entertaining (and mischievous) birds, but make sure you don’t feed them; human food is not good for kea. We recommend keeping your car doors closed at stops, because kea will hop in and take anything that strikes their fancy!

Some FAQS for Driving from Te Anau to Milford Sound

milford road highway
How Long is the Drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound?

The drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound is 118km (73 miles) one-way. 

It technically takes just 1.5 hours to do the drive in one direction, if the road conditions are good and you don’t get stuck behind slow vehicles or stopped at roadwork sites. 

That being said, you’ll want to allocate an entire day (at least 8 hours) to do this drive if you’re planning to make any stops and do a boat cruise at Milford Sound.

Is the Drive to Milford Sound Worth It?

Yes! The drive to Milford Sound is 100% worth the effort it might take to get there—this is one of the most stunning scenic drives in all of New Zealand. 

If you like outdoor scenery, hiking, and waterfalls (or any of the above), then you will love this drive.

What is the Road to Milford Sound Like?

There’s one main road to get to Milford Sound—State Highway 94, otherwise known as the Milford Road.

The Milford Road is a paved two-lane road that’s regularly maintained by the NZ Transport Agency; they’ll keep you updated on the Milford Road status.

As for the scenery along this road—well, it’s second to none. You will get to experience tussock-covered glacial valleys, craggy mountain peaks overhead, reflective lakes, and waterfalls pouring down from almost every way you look. It’s mind-bogglingly gorgeous.

There are lots of well-signed stops along the road, including lookouts and hikes—and we’re sharing all of the best stops in this guide.

Is it Safe to Drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound?

The road from Te Anau to Milford Sound is a well-maintained road and it’s generally perfectly safe to drive—with some caveats.

First of all, we don’t recommend driving yourself to Milford Sound in winter or early spring (see more on this below). The risk of avalanches, snow, and ice is just too high. And if you’d like to visit Milford Sound as a winter day trip from Queenstown, definitely take a tour!

Keep in mind that this road is winding, and can be steep and narrow in places. 

If you are a confident driver, though, and plan to do this drive from November to April, then you should be just fine—remember to go slow, take breaks, and check up on road conditions before heading out.

Driving from Te Anau to Milford Sound in Winter

We don’t typically recommend driving yourself to Milford Sound in winter.

Winter and early spring (May to November) is avalanche season along this drive, and road conditions can be snowy and icy. The road will often close in winter. 

If you do choose to drive to Milford Sound in winter, make sure you are an experienced winter driver. Please also mind the following safety tips.

  • Carry snow chains (they’re required from May to November).
  • Only drive between the hours of 10 am and 5 pm (to avoid black ice).
  • Check road conditions before you leave.

In winter, it’s really a better option to book a coach (tour bus) rather than driving yourself. 

Here are some good options for coach (bus) tours from Te Anau:

Milford Sound Small Group Tour

Hiking & Cruise Milford Sound Tour

Driving from Queenstown to Milford Sound

devils staircase lake wakatipu
The “Devil’s Staircase” on the drive from Queenstown to Te Anau / Milford Sound

The drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound is approximately 287km (180 miles) and technically takes around 3.5-4 hours. That’s one-way, and without any stops. 

In reality, the one-way drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound will take you longer. Plan for 6-7 hours (or more) one-way if you want to stop anywhere and do a boat cruise at Milford Sound.

We’ve seen so many websites recommend a day trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound and back. In all honesty, it’s not good advice. It is too long for a day trip, and you won’t have any time to enjoy the sights along the way! You’re looking at a day trip of around 12-14 hours if you choose to do a return drive from Queenstown.

Instead, drive from Queenstown to Te Anau, and base yourself in Te Anau for a couple of nights.  Do a day trip from Te Anau to Milford Sound, rather than Queenstown to Milford Sound. It’s going to be so much more enjoyable that way.

Alternatively, if you’d like to visit Milford Sound as a day trip from Queenstown (which is a great option if you’re visiting Queenstown without a car!), we’d recommend booking a tour. Choose from a scenic flight-cruise-flight combo from Queenstown to Milford Sound (best option), or a couch (bus) tour from Queenstown (so you can rest up on the bus on the drive back!).

Fly-Cruise-Fly Queenstown to Milford Sound Tour

Award-Winning Tour from Queenstown to Milford Sound

Now that we’ve hopefully covered everything you’ll want to know about driving to Milford Sound, let’s get onto the fun stuff. Here are the best stops along the drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound!

Stops along the Drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound

1. Eglinton Valley 

  • Type of stop: Lookout/viewpoint
  • Time for stop: 5-10 minutes
eglinton valley te anau to milford sound drive

The Eglinton Valley is one of the first of many scenic stops after you enter Fiordland National Park.

After driving through beech forest, you’ll emerge into the wide-open expanse of glacier-carved Eglinton Valley. 

This tussock-covered meadow valley is simply stunning, with a backdrop of Fiordland’s bush-clad mountains providing a picturesque contrast to the golden fields in front of you.

There are signed parking areas at the Eglinton Valley Flats, so you can safely pull over, get out of the car, and enjoy the serene surroundings.

Location: Eglington Valley

2. Mirror Lakes

  • Type of stop: Short walk to reflective lakes
  • Time for stop: 5-10 minutes
  • Walk difficulty: Easy

On a calm, clear day, the Mirror Lakes reflect the surrounding Eglinton Mountains and the flax fringing the lakeshore. This is a must-see stop along the drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound!

To access Mirror Lakes, park your car at the signed parking area. From there, it’s just a quick walk (5 minutes round-trip) along a boardwalk to reach Mirror Lakes.

There are some things you should know to make your visit to Mirror Lakes enjoyable. 

First is that morning is usually the best time to visit this spot—when the wind picks up later in the day, you won’t be able to see reflections in the water.

The next thing to know is that this is a super popular stop along the Milford Road—every tour bus stops here. Most of the buses arrive at Mirror Lakes around 10:30 am. So, to avoid the crowds and also see Mirror Lakes at their finest, get there before 10:30 am!

Location: Mirror Lakes

3. Knobs Flat

Type of stop: Public bathrooms

eglington valley camp knobs flat
The Knob’s Flat rest stop is located at the same turnoff as the Eglinton Valley Camp (the campground itself is also a great place to stay)

Okay, so this isn’t really a required stop per se, but we think it’s worth mentioning that Knobs Flat is one of the only stops with flush toilets before you get to Milford Sound! Just good to know, we think…

To get to the public bathrooms, pull off the road at the sign for the Eglinton Valley Camp. Instead of heading to camp, though, turn left at the sign for the bathrooms.

Note: There are other (non-flush) toilets along the Milford Road at all of the DOC campsites, and there are also toilets at the Divide.

Location: Knobs Flat

4. Lake Gunn Nature Walk

  • Type of stop: Short forest walk
  • Time for stop: 45 minutes
  • Walk difficulty: Easy
lake gunn milford road

If you’re after a short, easy walk along the Milford Road, Lake Gunn is a worthy stop.

To access the track, pull into the turnoff for the Cascade Creek Campground. There is a signed parking area for the walking track along the road into the campground.

The track takes you through a red beech forest that’s alive with birdsong and dripping in emerald-green moss.

A side trail off the track will lead you to a pretty, peaceful beach on the shores of pristine Lake Gunn.

This is an easy, enchanting walk that’s great for most ages and fitness levels! If you’re craving some time in the forest, you’ll love it here.

Location: Lake Gunn Nature Walk

5. The Divide—Key Summit Track

  • Type of stop: Day hike
  • Time for stop: 3 hours
  • Walk difficulty: Moderate
key summit track te anau to milford sound

The Divide is the starting point (or ending point) for the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s multi-day Great Walks.

For day-trippers, though, there is an excellent day walk that starts at the Divide—the Key Summit Track! This out-and-back hike will give you a wonderful little taste of the Routeburn track.

If you’re an avid hiker and it’s a clear day, you can’t miss the Key Summit track. It’s truly one of the best hikes on the South Island.

The trail starts out in beech forest, and climbs up and up (and up!) to alpine tussock land.

The views from the summit are next-level gorgeous: you’ll get panoramic views over Fiordland National Park, including Lake Marian and the Hollyford, Eglinton, and Greenstone Valleys.

If you only have time for one hike along your drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound, it should probably be this one. That being said, if it’s a clouded-in day, you might want to skip this hike—it’s all about the views, so you do want to time it with clear conditions.

Tip: if you’re driving to Milford Sound to do a boat cruise, consider doing the cruise in the morning before most of the bus tours get in around 1 pm. Then, on the drive back to Te Anau, stop at the Key Summit Trail for a lovely afternoon hike. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy at the summit!

And one more tip: we’ve included another amazing day hike in this guide—the Marian Lake Track. See #6 below for more info on Marian Lake. If you’re planning to drive to Milford Sound to do a cruise, you will probably only have time for one of these hikes along the way, so plan accordingly!

Location: ​​Key Summit Track

6. Pop’s View (Hollyford Valley) Lookout

  • Type of stop: lookout/viewpoint
  • Time for stop: 5 minutes
pops view lookout milford road

For a gorgeous view over the Hollyford Valley, you’ve got to make the quick stop at Pop’s Lookout.

The views from the lookout are absolutely beautiful: you’ll get a bird’s-eye view of the Hollyford River and Valley, which was carved by glaciers many, many years ago.

Speaking of birds…keep your eyes (and ears) peeled for kea, New Zealand’s cheeky alpine parrot—they often fly overhead (and sometimes visit) this viewpoint. You’ll have more opportunities to spot kea on this drive, too—keep reading and you’ll find out where!

As Pop’s Lookout is on the right-hand side of the road, it’s probably easiest to stop here on your drive back to Te Anau from Milford Sound. On a low-visibility day, you won’t see much here, but if it’s clear enough for views, then don’t miss a quick stop at Pop’s.

Location: Pop’s View Lookout

7. Lake Marian Track

  • Type of stop: Short walk OR day hike
  • Time for stop: 20 minutes to 3 hours
  • Walk difficulty: Easy (short walk) to Moderate/Hard (day hike)

The Lake Marian Track is one of the best stops to make along the drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound, whether you want a short, easy walk or a longer day hike.

Basically, you have two options here, so let’s break them down!

Option 1 – Marian Falls (20 minutes return; easy) 
marian falls walk te anau to milford sound drive

To get to Marian Falls, you’ll first cross a swingbridge over the blue, blue Hollyford River and then walk for about 10 minutes to beautiful Marian Falls (the falls are really more of cascade than a true waterfall, but they’re stunning nonetheless).  When you reach the long wooden platform (or “gantry”), you’ll get an amazing overview of the falls. 

This will be your turnaround point, so make your way back to your car via the same track.

If you don’t have the time (or energy) for the full hike to Marian Lake, then definitely consider stopping for the short walk to Marian Falls—it’s a great little leg-stretch stop to break up the drive to Milford Sound.

Option 2 – Lake Marian (3 hours return; moderate/hard)
lake marian hike fiordland national park

Marian Lake is a pristine alpine lake in a hanging valley, carved out by glaciers many years ago.

With its gorgeous aquamarine water and ring of snow-dusted mountains, Marian Lake is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful day hike destinations in New Zealand.

That being said, this hike isn’t for everyone—it’s a hard tramping track, with lots of rocks and roots to maneuver. If you’re fit and nimble, though, then you will absolutely love this hike. 

If it’s a rainy day, then skip the hike to Lake Marian—the track would not be enjoyable in wet, muddy conditions. On a fine day though, this will be a day hike you’ll never forget.

Make sure you pack plenty of water and snacks before embarking on this hike, and just know that you’re probably going to want to swim when you get there!

Location: Marian Falls and Lake Marian Tracks

8. Christie Falls (Falls Creek Falls)

  • Type of stop: short walk to a waterfall
  • Time for stop: 5-10 minutes
christie falls falls creek falls

Christie Falls (also known as Falls Creek Falls) is a roadside waterfall with absolutely gorgeous blue water. 

You’ll catch a glimpse of the waterfall from the car, but it’s nice to stop and get a better look at it. 

We like to stop at Christie Falls on the drive back to Te Anau from Milford Sound—the parking area is on the right-hand side of the road (if you’re driving to Milford), so it’s easier to access on the return trip!

Location: Christie (Falls Creek) Falls

9. Monkey Creek

  • Type of stop: parking area next to a pristine creek
  • Time for stop: 5-10 minutes 
monkey creek te anau to milford sound
The water at Monkey Creek is so pure that people drink straight from it!

Monkey Creek is a beautiful glacier-fed spring with pure water that many people like to drink straight from the source. It’s a popular stop for tour buses—most tour bus drivers will stop here so their passengers can get out and fill up their water bottles. 

The large parking area at Monkey Creek is also a great spot for spotting kea—they often like to hang out here and will come right up to your car.

A note about the name: there are, of course, no monkeys in Fiordland—the name is attributed to an early European settler’s dog named Monkey.

Location: Monkey Creek

10. Homer Tunnel

  • Type of stop: Traffic light-monitored stop at the entrance to a one-way mountain tunnel
  • Time for stop: Up to 20 minutes, depending on traffic
kea homer tunnel
The Homer Tunnel is one of the best places to spot kea.

The Homer Tunnel is an impressive feat of engineering. This 1.2km-long (.75 mile) tunnel pierces the Darren mountain range to allow vehicles to get to and from Milford Sound—without it, you’d be limited to accessing Milford Sound on foot or in the air!

The tunnel only allows one-way traffic, which means you’ll need to wait at the stoplight until it’s your turn to drive through. Wait times can sometimes be up to 20 minutes long, depending on the time of year and how busy the road traffic is.

The thing is—you’ll want to have to wait at Homer Tunnel. It’s hard to imagine a more scenic place to be stopped at. You’ll be treated to a panoramic waterfall show, with countless falls trickling down from the mountains surrounding you. 

This is also one of the best places to see a kea. Kea love to visit cars waiting at the tunnel entrance, and they’ll likely hop on your vehicle and try to peel off every bit of plastic or shiny thing they can find (remember though—don’t feed them!).

When you do drive through the tunnel, make sure you take off sunglasses and turn your headlights on. There are no lights in the tunnel and there’s not a lot of room for error—the road is narrow in there.

After you drive through the Homer Tunnel, you’ll emerge to views over the Cleddau Valley. Expect your jaw to drop as you wind down the steep road, with gorgeous views of the valley and sky-piercing mountains ahead. Waterfalls pour down from almost every direction you look. 

If you thought the earlier bit of the Milford Road was stunning (as it is), well—wait till you get to this part!

Location: Homer Tunnel

11. 1855 Lookout

  • Type of stop: Lookout/viewpoint
  • Time for stop: 5 minutes (or more if you’re snapping lots of photos!)
1855 lookout milford sound road

This lookout is one of the best places to pull over after you exit the Homer Tunnel. It’s not signed, but there’s a gravel parking area on the left hand side of the road where you can safely pull over.

If it’s drizzly out, you’ll be treated to countless waterfalls pouring over the mountains around you. On a clear day, you’ll get the most amazing views over the Cleddau Valley.

Kea like to frequent this stop, too, so keep your eyes out for them!

Location: 1855 Lookout

12. Milford Sound (Piopiotahi)

milford sound foreshore walkway

So you’ve made it to Milford Sound—yay!

What to do now that you’re there?

First things first: let’s get the issue of parking out of the way. Here’s where you can park at Milford Sound:

Parking at Milford Sound

When you arrive at Milford Sound, you’ll have a couple of options for parking. Give yourself plenty of time to find a parking spot—especially if you’ve booked a cruise on Milford Sound. Most cruise operators require that you check in at least 20 minutes before departure, so keep that in mind.

Below are the parking options available at Milford Sound:

1. Milford Sound Public Carpark (at Freshwater Basin) – $25 for 5 hours

Unfortunately, you can’t pay by the hour at this carpark, so it’s going to cost you $25 no matter what. We prefer to get to Milford Sound early and park in the free carpark at Deepwater Basin—see more below.

Location: Milford Sound Public Carpark

2. Deepwater Basin – FREE

If you park at Deepwater Basin (which is what we always do), you’ll need to walk for 15-20 minutes along a gravel path to reach the Freshwater Basin boat terminal. This is well worth it if you plan ahead and have the time (unless you don’t mind paying $25 for parking…)

Location: Deepwater Basin Carpark

Things to do in Milford Sound

Now that you’ve got your parking options sorted, let’s get onto the good stuff—things to do in Milford Sound!

>> Take a boat cruise on Milford Sound

milford sound cruise boat

This is the #1 thing to do at Milford Sound—and there are tons of options for boat cruises. Whichever one you choose, we do recommend booking it ahead of time, to avoid any disappointment on arrival.

Here are some boat cruises we recommend:

The Cheapest (Most Budget-Friendly) Milford Sound Cruises

For the best deals on Milford Sound cruises, we absolutely love the budget website Bookme. You can often find Milford Sound Cruises for under NZ$70, which is such a bargain.

>>Check Cruises on Book Me

More Milford Sound Cruises

Another good website for comparing/booking Milford Sound Cruises is Viator.

Below are a couple of great options:

Milford Sound Scenic Cruise

Small Boutique Milford Sound Cruise

>> Kayak on Milford Sound

lady bowen falls milford sound
Lady Bowen Falls is one of the many gorgeous sights from the water at Milford Sound

If you’d rather explore Milford Sound in a more active way, then you should consider booking a kayak tour on Milford Sound. There are no freedom kayak rentals on Milford Sound, so unless you have your own in tow, you’ll need to go with a tour.

You could either book a Milford Sound kayak tour, or a cruise and kayak tour. Whichever you choose, kayaking is an amazing way to experience Milford Sound.

>> Walk the Milford Foreshore 

milford sound foreshore walk

Despite being the ending point for the Milford Track (Great Walk), there aren’t actually many options for day hikes at Milford Sound itself. The best walking option is the Milford Foreshore walk, which takes just around 20-30 minutes round-trip. You can look for the instagram-famous Milford Sound Swing while you’re at it.

The Foreshore Walk actually has one of the best views of Mitre Peak (one of Milford Sound’s most iconic mountains), so if it’s a clear day, don’t miss this short, easy walk!

Places to Skip Along the Drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound

lake mistletoe te anau to milford sound drive
Lake Mistletoe is lovely, but we don’t consider it a “must-do” on this drive

Instead of just naming every single possible stop in this post, we’ve tried to offer a curated selection of the absolute best places—you won’t have time for everything, so it pays to be a bit choosy! Here are some stops you might want to skip:

>> Te Anau Downs (unless you’re doing the Milford Track)

We’ve seen a lot of blogs that recommend stopping at Te Anau Downs, which is the starting point for the Milford Track. To be honest, it’s not really worth the time to stop if you’re driving to Milford Sound, unless you want a view of Lake Te Anau and photo of the pier (or, of course, if you’re starting the Milford Track!).

>> Lake Mistletoe Walk (unless you have lots of time)

The easy walk to Lake Mistletoe is pretty, but we think the other short walks along Milford Road offer a lot more. If you do choose to walk to Lake Mistletoe, we recommend doing the walk as an out-and-back rather than a loop—if you do a loop, you have to walk back on part of Milford Road, which isn’t that pleasant when it’s busy! 

>> The Chasm (because it’s closed!)

Normally, we would 100% recommend stopping at the Chasm—but unfortunately, it’s currently closed due to extensive storm damage. If that ever changes, we’ll update this post accordingly!

Accommodation and Camping along the Drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound

milford lodge accommodation
The gorgeous Milford Sound Lodge is nestled right next to the Cleddau River

Most of your accommodation options will be in Te Anau rather than at Milford Sound itself, unless you want to go camping! The camping options in this area are some of the best campsites on the South Island, if you ask us.

Here are our recommendations for accommodation and campsites in both Te Anau and Milford Sound—and in between.

Milford Sound Accommodation 

milford lodge milford sound
The cabins at Milford Sound Lodge

There is only one accommodation option at Milford Sound itself, and that’s the Milford Sound Lodge. 

If you’re up for a splurge and book well in advance, this is a stunning place to stay. Choose from one-bedroom riverside or mountain view chalets, or for more room, go for the 2-bedroom garden suites.

Milford Sound Lodge also has campsites for self-contained campervans; see more on that in the camping section below!

Check prices:

>>Milford Sound Lodge

Milford Sound Camping

milford lodge rainforest campervan park
The Rainforest Campervan Park at Milford Sound Lodge

There’s only one camping option at Milford Sound itself: the Rainforest Campervan Park at Milford Sound Lodge. 

The Rainforest Campervan Park is—as you might’ve guessed from the name—only for campervans; unfortunately, you can’t tent camp here. At $35 per person per night, it isn’t necessarily cheap camping—but you’ll get to camp in a beautiful setting with Milford Sound at your doorstep.

Make sure you book a campsite well in advance, is this is an extremely popular spot.

Book your campsite:

>>Rainforest Campervan Park

Milford Road Camping

If you’re planning to tent camp or can’t get a campervan spot at the Milford Lodge Rainforest Campervan Park, don’t worry—there are plenty of options for camping along Milford Road! 

Just note that you won’t be able to get a powered campsite along Milford Road. Also worth noting is that there is no freedom camping in the area. Make sure you bring a ton of insect repellant with you, as the sandflies are quite bad at all of these campsites. 

Here are the campsites we recommend on Milford Road:

Cascade Creek DOC Campsite

There are numerous DOC campsites along Milford Road, but we think this one is the best. It’s huge, in a gorgeous mountain-view setting, and is the closest DOC campground to Milford Sound. 

View campsite:

>>Cascade Creek Campsite

Deer Flat DOC Campsite

This is our other favorite DOC campsite on Milford Road. It’s smaller than Cascade Creek, but it’s in a beautiful spot next to a pristine river. If you’re looking for a more secluded site, drive all the way to the end of the campground, at the river bend—most people camp towards the front part of the campground.

View campsite:

>>Deer Flat Campsite

Eglinton Valley Camp

For a campground with more amenities than a DOC campsite, head to Eglington Valley Camp. They have sites for tents and campervans/motorhomes, along with cabins. There’s a communal kitchen and hot showers here, too—it’s a great spot to camp between Te Anau and Milford Sound!

View campsite:

>>Eglinton Valley Camp

Te Anau Accommodation

marakura wharf te anau
When in Te Anau, we recommend staying in accommodation by the lake.

Because of the limited accommodation options in Milford Sound, we normally recommend staying in Te Anau and day-tripping to Milford Sound. 

As a bonus, the sandflies are way less prolific in Te Anau (they’re honestly quite awful at Milford Sound). 

We’ve stayed in a LOT of places around Te Anau, and these are our picks of the bunch:

Budget: Te Anau Lakefront Backpackers

This awesome hostel has options to suit everyone, from rooms (shared or private) to cabins to glamping. Located just steps away from Lake Te Anau and within close walking distance to town, this spot is highly rated for good reason!

Check prices:

>>Te Anau Lakefront Backpackers

Mid-range: Lakefront Lodge Te Anau

The Lakefront Lodge is in an excellent location by the Te Anau township and lake. Choose from studio units and one-bedroom units—some of which have baths, which is always a treat after driving and hiking around Fiordland! All of the rooms have kitchenettes, so this is an excellent accommodation option if you want to self-cater.

Check prices:

>>Lakefront Lodge Te Anau

Higher-end: Radfords on the Lake

If you’re looking for a luxurious place to stay in Te Anau, book a room at Radfords on the Lake. This modern motel really stands out from the rest. 

The rooms all have beautiful views of lake Te Anau and come equipped with kitchenettes. To top things off, they have complementary mountain bikes for guests to use.

Check prices:

>>Radfords on the Lake

Camping in Te Anau

te anau lakeview holiday park
The grassy Te Anau Lakeview Holiday Park

There are great camping options in Te Anau, mostly holiday parks. You won’t find any freedom camping in Te Anau. Here are the campgrounds we recommend in Te Anau:

Te Anau Lakeview Holiday Park

Our favorite campground in Te Anau is the Te Anau Lakeview Holiday Park. It’s a spacious, well-run campground perched above Lake Te Anau. They have a modern bathroom block and clean, tidy camp kitchens.

Tip: When you camp here, make sure to head down to the Marakura Wharf for sunset, and get some frisbee golf discs to play disc golf in the park next door (the Ivon Wilson Recreational Reserve)! You can buy discs from Outside Sports in Te Anau if you don’t have your own—you’ll be able to use them at multiple disc golf courses around the South Island.

View campsite:

>>Te Anau Lakeview Holiday Park

Henry Creek DOC Campsite

If you’re looking for a DOC campsite near Te Anau, the closest one is Henry Creek, located about 20 minutes out of town on the way to Milford Sound.

Technically you can camp in a tent here, but we think it’s best for campervans/motorhomes/caravans as the ground is quite hard and rocky.

View campsite:

>>Henry Creek Campsite

Thanks for Reading our Guide to the Drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound!

We hope this guide has helped you plan an epic road trip to Milford Sound. As always, feel free to reach out in the comments if you have any questions for us—we’re happy to help with your NZ trip plans.

Want More South Island Adventures? 

bennets bluff lookout queenstown glenorchy drive
The Queenstown to Glenorchy Road is another iconic South Island drive
  • Looking for where to go after you visit Fiordland? Consider a trip to the Catlins—it’s a stunning, wildlife-filled area at the bottom of the South Island. Don’t miss the numerous waterfalls in the Catlins when you’re there!

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We Want to Hear from You!

Are you planning to drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound? What stop are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments!


  1. Hello!
    I booked the plane tickets for a trip to New Zealand from 25.10 – 07.11.2024.
    I’m thinking of staying 5 days in the North Island and the rest in the South Island.
    I am aware that I cannot include everything I would like these days!
    I have a principle route and after reading your article about Milford Sound I really want to get there too. But I have to give up something else…
    I propose to land in Christchurch and from there we go through Arthur Pass to Franz Joszef, then Fox Glacier and Queenstown (we stay 2 days with a road to Glenorchy).
    Then we continue with Aoraki (one day hiking in Hooker Valley) after which we return to Christchurch.
    We are hiking enthusiasts and we want to spend at least 3 days like this on the South Island.
    What do you think is more interesting: Milford Sound or Arthur Pass?
    Milford Sound or Hooker Valley? Arthur Pass or Hooker Valley?
    What to take and what to give up?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Marius!

      To do a loop from Christchurch to Christchurch, I’d recommend having a minimum of 10 days on the South Island. Could you take a day or two off the North Island portion of your trip?

      With 10 days on the South Island, you could do something like this:

      Day 1 – Christchurch to Hokitika (or Punakaiki) via Arthur’s Pass
      Day 2 – Hokitika or Punakaiki to Franz Josef (detour to the Hokitika Gorge on the way)
      Day 3 – Franz Josef to Wanaka via Haast Pass (detour to Lake Matheson on the way)
      Day 4 – Wanaka
      Day 5 – Wanaka to Te Anau
      Day 6 – Te Anau (day trip / drive to Milford Sound)
      Day 7 – Te Anau to Queenstown
      Day 8 – Queenstown (day trip / drive to Glenorchy)
      Day 9 – Queenstown to Mount Cook National Park
      Day 10 – Mount Cook National Park to Christchurch

      Alternatively, with 8-9 days on the South Island, I’d recommend doing a one-way drive from Christchurch to Queenstown (or Queenstown to Christchurch). While it’s hard to choose between Arthur’s Pass/the West Coast vs Mount Cook vs Milford Sound, I’d go with Mount Cook & Milford Sound. Here’s what I’d do (just reverse this if you fly into Queenstown instead) –

      Day 1: Christchurch to Mount Cook National Park (stop at Lake Tekapo on the way)
      Day 2: Mount Cook National Park to Wanaka
      Day 3: Wanaka
      Day 4: Wanaka to Te Anau
      Day 5: Te Anau (day trip / drive to Milford Sound)
      Day 6: Te Anau to Queenstown
      Day 7: Queenstown (day trip / drive to Glenorchy)
      Day 8: Depart Queenstown
      (If you have another day, I’d spend it in Mount Cook National Park or Queenstown)

      Hope that helps! 🙂


  2. Thank you for your kindness!
    It is very difficult for me to choose for the 9 days in the South Island.
    I have already given up the Tongarino Alpine Crossing for an extra day in the South.
    For the route you expect – departure from Christchurch and arrival in Queenstown or vice versa – you need to rent a car with drop-off/pick-up at various locations, which means a much higher price.
    Can you recommend a reliable car rental company with good prices? If I’m not asking too much…
    Also, to make a realistic budget, can you tell me the price of petrol and diesel?


    1. Hi Marius!

      I can recommend Jucy or Snap Rentals for a cheap car rental. Both have locations in Christchurch & Queenstown and they don’t usually charge extra one-way fees. Go Rentals is another excellent car rental company if you’re willing to spend a little bit more (it’s my top choice, but usually more expensive than Jucy or Snap). Have a look at a comparison site like rentalcars.com to compare prices for your dates.

      Currently, the average petrol price is $2.82 per litre, and diesel is $2.18 per litre.

      I completely understand how hard it is to choose between destinations in NZ. It’s really tough. The good news is that you’ll have a great time even if you can’t “see it all” – and you’ll have more time to enjoy hikes and sightseeing if you’re not just driving heaps every day!

      If you’re really keen on a loop from Christchurch to Christchurch, though, then you could do something like this, but the first few days will be quite a lot of driving with little time for stops.

      Day 1: Christchurch to Hokitika via Arthur’s Pass
      Day 2: Hokitika to Franz Josef or Fox Glacier
      Day 3: Franz Josef or Fox Glacier to Wanaka
      Day 4: Wanaka to Te Anau
      Day 5: Te Anau (day trip to Milford Sound)
      Day 6: Te Anau to Queenstown
      Day 7: Queenstown (day trip to Glenorchy)
      Day 8: Queenstown to Mount Cook National Park (Hooker Valley hike in the evening)
      Day 9: Mount Cook National Park to Christchurch


  3. Thank you for being very kind indeed!
    The last route you proposed is very similar to the one I did yesterday.
    I still need to find a car.
    If I still need some clarifications I hope I can ask you.

    Thank you very much!

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