15 Stops You Can’t Miss on the Road to Milford Sound
Essential pit stops on the Milford Sound Road
The Road to Milford Sound is probably one of the most popular in the country, but too often is it rushed in a desperate attempt to get to a Milford Sound cruise on time… After reading this list of hikes, sights and worthy pit stops, you’ll see that the road to Milford Sound deserves more of your time.
We recommend starting your day in Te Anau and even staying in Milford Sound or one of the Milford Road campsites for at least a night before returning on the Milford Road. There are so many hikes, lakes, waterfalls and photo opportunities that you will kick yourself if you have to miss most of them.
So starting with the stops from Te Anau and making our way down to Milford Sound, here are the 15 stops you can’t miss on the Road to Milford Sound.
1. Te Anau
The start of State Highway 94 is a must-visit in itself! Go on a boat ride across Lake Te Anau to the waterfall and whirpool-filled Te Anau Glowworm Caves, or take the lakeside walkway to the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary which is free for everybody. Make sure to fill up on gas and any other supplies that you may need for your Milford Sound trip as there is no fuel station along the Milford Road.
Location: The start of the Milford Road!
2. Lake Mistletoe
You’ve been driving for a good 10 minutes now, so Lake Mistletoe is a great place for your first rest break! Whether you need a rest or not (probably not), Lake Mistletoe offers a 45 minute return walk through the regenerating beech forest to this small glacial lake. Take your lunch! It’s a great picnic spot.
Location: 28km along the Milford Sound Road from Te Anau
3. Te Anau Downs
This is the departure point for the famous Milford Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. The Te Anau Downs also offers great views of the Murchison Mountains so is well worth stopping for a Kodak moment.
Location: 29km along the Milford Sound Road from Te Anau
4. Eglinton Valley
Just try not to stop along this huge stunning valley formed by a glacier. There are plenty of places to park on the side of the road, so park up and get snapping. The Eglinton Valley is between 0.5-2km wide with a shingle riverbed floor that is constantly changed by the Eglinton River.
Location: 53km along the Milford Sound Road from Te Anau
5. Mirror Lakes
This is possibly the most popular stop on the Milford Road. On a calm day, almost perfect reflections can be seen in these appropriately named Mirror Lakes. The 5-minute walk (yes, that’s 5 minutes, not the 15 minutes that the Department of Conservation sign says) takes you along a boardwalk and decking area overlooking the Mirror Lake with its reflection of the Earl Mountains.
Location: 57km along the Milford Sound Road from Te Anau
6. Knobs Flat
Need a pee? Well, this will probably be a pit-stop whether you like it or not. Knobs Flat has visitor amenities like toilets and a telephone only accepting card. (Oh by the way, there is no phone coverage on the Milford Road or Milford Sound). While you’re waiting for everyone to do their business, have a look at the information boards about the effects of avalanches on the Milford Road and wildlife in the Eglinton Valley.
Location: 63km along the Milford Sound Road from Te Anau
7. Lake Gunn
Discover some of the rainforest you have been driving through on this nature walk which takes you through a stunning red beech forest to the shores of Lake Gunn. It’s very likely that’s you’ll spot a few birds along the way. The easy walk is a 45-minute loop and is wheelchair accessible.
Location: 75km along the Milford Sound Road from Te Anau
8. The Divide
Want to start an epic multi-day hike (like these featured in 5 Multi-Day hIkes in Fiordland)? Then it’s likely that you will start it from The Divide. This is the lowest east-west pass in the Southern Alps at 513m. The Divide has toilet and shelter facilities.
Location: 84km along the Milford Sound Road from Te Anau
9. Key Summit
This is a hike definitely worth doing if you have the time and the stamina for a steep trek uphill. The Key Summit hike (3 hours return) starts at The Divide car park and follows the Routeburn Track, a New Zealand Great Walk, for about one hour. It then branches off on a 20-minute climb through native forest before emerging onto an open alpine shrub land with a lake and spectacular views of the Hollyford, Greenstone and Eglinton valleys.
Location: 84km along the Milford Sound Road from Te Anau
10. Hollyford Valley Lookout (Pop’s View)
Park up at this roadside lookout and soak up the views of the Hollyford Valley! It doesn’t take long, but it’s another great photo opportunity.
Location: 88km along the Milford Sound Road from Te Anau
11. Lower Hollyford Road
The only turn-off of the Milford Road leads to the Lake Marian walking track (see below), Gunns Camp (a unique place to stay with generator power), Humbolt Falls and the multi-day Hollyford Track. Turning down this road certainly leads to a whole new adventure.
Location: 87km along the Milford Sound Road from Te Anau
12. Lake Marian
Cross a swingbridge over the beautiful Marian Valley and ascend through a beech forest to this alpine lake situated in a hanging valley. The Lake Marian Track is 3 hours return.
Location: 1km down the Hollyford Road, which is 87km along the Milford Sound Road from Te Anau
13. Monkey Creek
If you are one of those people that had to use the toilet stops at Knobs Flat and The Divide, then it’s likely that you’ll need to fill your water bottle up at Monkey Creek. The pristine water from the creek is safe to drink and is a likely spot to see kea and whio/blue duck.
Location: 96km along the Milford Sound Road from Te Anau
14. Homer Tunnel
Driving through tunnels is always fun, right? The Homer Tunnel sits at 945 metres above sea level and stretches for 1.2km. With a traffic light control system, be prepared to wait for up to 20 minutes. In the meantime, have a look at the wonderful landscape around you!
Location: 102km along the Milford Sound Road from Te Anau
15. The Chasm
Take this 20-minute loop walk into the rainforest and to an impressive chasm. Floodwater from the Cleddau River has brought hard rock down the mountain to carve out this display of potholes and waterfalls.
Location: 110km along the Milford Sound Road from Te Anau
(Bonus) 16. Tutoko Valley Route
By now, you must be pretty exorsted exploring every stop on the Milford Road, but if you have a little bit of energy left then this is your last chance to lose it before hitting Milford Sound itself. Signposted next to the Tutoko River bridge seen from the Milford Road, the challenging hike goes through beech forest, alongside a river and open swamp land. The end of the route reaches a valley with stunning views of Mt Tutoko, Milford Sound’s highest mountain.
Location: 112km along the Milford Sound Road from Te Anau
Now that you have done every stop on the road to Milford Sound …
… You can check out all these fun things to do in Milford Sound!
Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas! So, you’re backpacking in New Zealand during [...]
Who doesn’t like a good waterfall? We don’t know why, but rapids [...]
A Complete Budget Travel guide to French Pass and D’Urville Island. It [...]
Find a job with a recruitment agency! Signing up to a New [...]
What multi-day hikes are there other than the New Zealand Great walks? […]