Plan 15 of the best stops to make on the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound with our self-drive itinerary.
The road to Milford Sound is breathtaking and makes for one of the best road trips in the South Island.
The drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound is 118km (73 miles) long and takes about 1.5 hours without stopping.
However, you’re going to want to stop a lot – trust us!
You should allow an absolute minimum of 3 hours for this drive, but we’d recommend even longer.
If you want to relax, enjoy the scenery, and tackle some of the hikes in the area, you want to allow between 6-9 hours.
Ideally though, we suggest taking a look over our suggested stops below and form a self-drive itinerary that really excites you.
The Best Places to Stop on the Drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound
To help you make the most out of your road trip, we’ve compiled a list of the must-see stops from Te Anau to Milford Sound.
With beautiful viewpoints, unique geological formations, and awesome hikes you’ll have lots of incredible options.
So without further ado, here are the sites you need to visit whilst driving along the road to Milford Sound in Fiordland.
We’ve listed them in order to make it easier, starting from Te Anau and working towards Milford Sound.
Of course, you’re also able to visit these locations in reverse… in fact, we recommend visiting some spots on your way in to Milford, whilst saving others for the return journey.
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1. Lake Te Anau Viewpoint (or Lake Te Anau Lions Lookout)
This viewpoint is the first site on your road trip and it’s only a 5-minute detour from the main road out of Te Anau.
The ‘Lake Te Anau Lions Lookout’ offers 360° views of the town, Lake Te Anau and the Southern Alps on a clear day.
You’ll find it along Ramparts Road, and although only a quick stop – it’s the perfect start to your trip.
The view is especially beautiful at sunrise which works perfectly…. we recommend you leave bright and early to ensure you have plenty of time to explore.
265 Ramparts Road, Te Anau 9679
2. Te Anau Downs
Te Anau Downs is the starting point for the Milford Track and is just 30km from Te Anau.
It’s a worthwhile stop whilst driving along the road to Milford Sound, as the scenery is beautiful.
If you head out onto the jetty on a calm day, you’ll witness something truly magical. Have your camera ready for stunning reflections off the lake, and incredible views of the mountains in the distance.
If you head to Te Anau Downs early enough, you might even get this place to yourself too!
3. Mirror Lakes
Mirror Lakes is one of the best spots when travelling from Te Anau to Milford Sound – and it’s also one of the most popular.
This stop is right on the side of Milford Road, about 55 km north of Te Anau, but there is a signpost for the pull-off.
Once you’ve parked up, you’ll walk 400m down a track before reaching the beautiful Mirror Lakes. The walk takes about 5-minutes and is well worth your time.
On a clear day, the reflections of the lake mirror the Earl mountains and offer the perfect photo opportunity.
Although only a short stop-off, Mirror Lakes is one of the must-see spots when driving along the road to Milford Sound.
4. Eglinton Valley & Knobs Flat
Eglinton Valley is only a short drive from Te Anau and is one of the only road-accessible valleys within Fiordland National Park.
The valley was carved out by glaciers thousands of years ago, and as you drive through you’ll be surrounded by towering peaks on each side. Some of these peaks were even in the Lord of the Ring films.
Eglinton Valley is also one of the only places in New Zealand that’s home to large areas of lowland beech forest.
Knobs Flat is found within the valley and provides amenities for road-trippers including toilets, a payphone (one of the few left!), and campervan sewage disposal.
5. Lake Gunn Nature Walk
The Lake Gunn Nature Walk is one of the best short hikes on the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound.
It’s a 45-minute loop track that takes you through a red beech forest before arriving at Lake Gunn.
Throughout the hike, you’ll be treated to scenic views, lush mossy trees, and native birdlife.
This hike is the perfect example of why you want to allow a good amount of time for the drive to Milford Sound. If you rush the journey, you won’t have time to visit beautiful places like this.
The trailhead is located at the Cascade Creek car park, which can get pretty busy so keep that in mind and aim to arrive early.
6. The Divide
The Divide is the lowest east to west pass in the Southern Alps at an elevation of 531m.
It marks the start of many trails within Fiordland National Park including the Routeburn, Greenstone and Cable Tracks.
Although there isn’t much to do here, the scenery is pretty special so it was worth including on this list.
Toilets and a shelter can also be found here.
7. Key Summit
The Key Summit Hike is part of the famous Routeburn Track, and is a 7.7 km hike that takes you through native forest, and over alpine tarns and shrubland.
The trail starts from the Divide Car park and can be quite challenging. However, you’ll reap the rewards once you reach the Key Summit viewpoint. From there you’ll get breathtaking views of the Eglinton and Hollyford valleys.
If you’re a keen tramper, you won’t want to miss out on this one when driving from Te Anau to Milford Sound, so allow at least 3 hours for the full hike.
As this hike takes a good amount of time you’ll probably have to choose between this trail and the Lake Marian Track.
8. Lake Marian Track
The Lake Marian Track isn’t as frequented as some of the other hikes in the area, but trust us, it’s spectacular! Many don’t know it but visiting this lake is one of the best things to do in Te Anau.
To reach the trailhead you’ll need to take the Hollyford Road turn-off — but don’t worry it’s well signposted.
From the parking lot, you’ll cross over a scenic suspension bridge and hike up through the forest until you reach Lake Marian.
This stunning alpine lake is surrounded by striking mountain peaks and is truly a beautiful sight. It’s definitely one you’ll need your camera for!
If you want to do this hike, you’ll need to allow around 3 hours from start to finish.
9. Hollyford Valley Lookout (Pops View)
Now, this is one of the must-see spots when driving from Te Anau to Milford Sound.
If you’re not a hiker, don’t worry as the Hollyford Valley lookout (which is also known as Pops View) doesn’t require any long treks. You can enjoy the views right from the car park!
Pops View offers striking views over Hollyford Valley — rain or shine.
However, it’s also one of the most popular spots along the road to Milford Sound so be prepared to share these views with plenty of other tourists.
The parking lot is also located on a sharp bend so make sure you’re careful when crossing as it’s a bit of a blind spot.
10. Monkey Creek
Monkey Creek is about an 8-minute drive from Hollyford Valley Lookout so don’t get too comfortable in your car as you continue on towards Milford.
The creek is glacier-fed so not only is it beautiful, but you can also fill up your water bottle here. The water is so pure you can drink it straight from the source. In fact, it’s probably the nicest water you’ll ever taste.
If you’re lucky you might even get to spot kea here, and the rare whio (blue duck).
With its beautiful scenery, delicious water, and the chance to see some of New Zealand’s native birdlife – this is a place you don’t want to miss.
Milford Sound State Highway 94, Milford Sound Highway, 9679
11. Gertrude Valley Lookout
Gertrude Valley Lookout is located just before Homer Tunnel and offers some of the most striking scenery within Fiordland National Park.
From this viewpoint, you’ll get to see the snow-covered peaks of the Darran Mountains, including Marian Peak.
This part of the drive in comes to life in the rain (which luckily, is a frequent occurrence in Fiordland) as countless waterfalls roar to life down the sharp mountainside.
These views will blow you away so allow yourself some time to simply relax and take in the scenery.
You can also take a short walk along the Gertrude Saddle route from the viewpoint if you fancy. However, the hike is pretty gruelling and takes about 6 hours so you probably won’t have time to do the full route.
12. Homer Tunnel
The Homer Tunnel is probably one of the most famous sites on the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound.
Construction of the tunnel took nearly 20 years due to its dangerous location, but it’s been open since the 1950s.
This tunnel is the only reason you can get to Milford Sound by road, as it’s built directly into the rock and allows you to drive through.
Although it’s not a place to stop as such, you might find yourself waiting here anyway as during the summer months the tunnel is only one-way. It’s operated by traffic lights and you’ll have to wait your turn.
During your wait keep a lookout for kea!
13. The Chasm [currently closed due to storm damage]
The Chasm is a unique geological formation that was created by the rushing waters of the Cleddau River.
A roaring waterfall drops into this rock formation — the water volume is pretty impressive!
To reach the Chasm it’s just a 10-minute walk through the forest before you’ll reach this unique spot.
If you want the best views, then you’ll need to walk along the two footbridges that are located over the Cleddau River. They give you the best perspective.
The Chasm is a must-see during this road trip, so make sure you allow enough time to visit. Do be sure to check if it has reopened though as at the time of writing this, it had been closed for a while due to storm damage.
14. Tutoko River
Near the end of your drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound, you’ll cross Tutoko River in your car.
This spectacular spot is worth keeping your eyes peeled for, whether you marvel at the river as you drive over the bridge, or choose to hop out.
If you’ve got a camera filter and tripod, this is a great opportunity for some long-exposure photography.
This is also your last stop before reaching Milford Sound – how exciting!
15. The Milford Sound Swing
The Milford Sound Swing is located right at the end of your road trip and is a rather new attraction.
It can be difficult to find but just head along the Milford Foreshore Walk, and out onto the sandy beach area, then follow it around to your right.
Sitting on the swing and admiring the beautiful Milford Sound is truly something you don’t want to miss.
Milford Foreshore Walk, Milford Sound 9679
Now that you’ve arrived in Milford, be sure to book discounted Milford Sound cruise tickets.
These are the must-see stops as you travel from Te Anau to Milford Sound.
As you can see there are plenty of incredible sights to see, so make sure you allow some time to explore during your road trip. After reaching Te Anau, be sure to book your accommodation so you can start exploring the beautiful spots in the area.
If you have time, check out the Doubtful Sound and tell us if it is as good (or just as better) as Milford Sound.
Have you ever driven the road to Milford Sound from Te Anau before?
If you have we’d love to hear about your experience!