The road journey from Te Anau to Milford Sound is one of the most scenic experiences you can have on four wheels.
How to travel safely
This is a busy, winding road and takes much longer to drive than the distance suggests. If you do decide to drive yourself, you will need to take extra care and ensure that you are familiar with driving in New Zealand.
- There are no shops or petrol stations between Te Anau and Milford Sound. Ensure you have ample food and drinks and your petrol tank is full.
- The Milford Road has limited cellphone coverage.
- We recommend using the restrooms in Te Anau before embarking on the long drive to Milford Sound. After Te Anau, there are public toilets on the Milford Road at Knobs Flat and The Divide.
- Be prepared for the weather to change drastically within a short period of time, even in summer, and dress appropriately.
- Carry snow chains in the winter months and ensure you know how to fit them to your vehicle.
- Always drive to the conditions, follow all road signs and stay well informed by regularly checking the NZTA road status page.
If you are an inexperienced driver, or are unfamiliar with find New Zealand’s road conditions, your trip will be much more enjoyable if you let someone else do the driving. Buses run regularly from Te Anau or Queenstown.
Scenic flights to and from Milford Sound offer breathtaking beauty and a unique way to see Fiordland National Park. - check out our Operators - for information on day trip package
There is car parking at Milford Sound. Please allow up to 45 minutes to park your vehicle and transfer to the Milford Sound Visitor Terminal, where you check in for your cruise.
The Journey & Points of Interest
The Milford Road cuts through ancient forests to picturesque lakes and panoramic views.
This road is much more than a way to get to Milford Sound; it's an unforgettable journey into the heart of Fiordland National Park and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage area.
Some of Fiordland's most striking and significant features are revealed along this route, so be sure to allow enough time to stop for photo opportunities and walks. In fact, with so much to see over the 4-hour drive, you should consider leaving your car and taking one of the many coaches that transport visitors in and out every day - this way you can relax and take in all the sights.
The first major highlight is the Eglinton Valley, which was once filled with glacier ice. The valley has steep rock sides and a flat, golden tussock floor - it's a surreal place. Further along the road are the Mirror Lakes - on a still day they display a perfect reflection of the Earl Mountains. Then you'll come to the Avenue of the Disappearing Mountain, where an optical illusion causes the approaching mountain to get smaller rather than larger. When you reach Lake Gunn, stretch your legs on the nature walk - an easy 45 minute loop track.
The Homer Tunnel signals your descent to Milford Sound. This tunnel, which is hewed from solid granite, took nearly 20 years to complete. From mouth to mouth it measures 1270 metres. Before you reach Milford, get some fresh air on the 20 minute walk that leads to The Chasm - a spectacular waterfall where the Cleddau River has scoured its way through solid rock.
Milford Road - Tips for Drivers
[Source: Department of Conservation NZ]
The following provides further information for your Milford Road journey to Milford Sound/Piopiotahi, including a map, driving times and distances, busy traffic times, winter road conditions and facilities including telephones.
Despite its remote location, many people travel along the Milford Road each year, particularly in the busy summer season (October to April). Drivers will be sharing the road with cars, coaches, campervans and minibuses. There is less traffic in winter months (May to September) but road conditions require more caution.
Planning Your Trip
Times and Distances
The journey from Te Anau to Milford and return (along the same route) is 240 km (144 miles). An eight hour day is needed if you plan to take in the many scenic sights and short walks along the way, and do a boat cruise on Milford Sound. From Queenstown the return trip is even longer - 600 km (360 miles) taking 12 to 14 hours. So, for your comfort and enjoyment, we suggest that you plan your return trip from Te Anau.
Over 400,000 people visit Milford Sound each year, most during the summer season. Many visitors plan their arrival in Milford to coincide with boat cruise departure times. This can result in congestion at some of the scenic stops along the Milford Road during peak times.
The majority of coaches depart from Te Anau between 9 am and 10 am, and arrive at Mirror Lakes around 10.30 am, Knobs Flat at 11 am, The Chasm at 12.30 pm and Milford Sound for the 1pm cruise. By avoiding this pulse of traffic, your Milford Road experience will be more relaxed, with less disturbance from the heavy coach traffic and high numbers of visitors. If you have limited time, a non-stop direct drive from Te Anau to Milford will take at least 2 hours.
To avoid traffic congestion during summer (October to April), either leave Te Anau early in the morning (before 8am) or later in the morning (11am onwards).
Before You Leave
There are no shops or fuel stations between Te Anau and Milford Sound. A limited selection of supplies is available at Milford Sound and at Gunns Camp (detour down the Hollyford Valley Road). Refreshments are also available on the boat cruises. Public toilets are only available at Te Anau, Knob’s Flat and at Milford.
Remember, dogs are not allowed in the National Park.
If you’re planning a relaxing day, taking time to stop and experience all that the Milford Road journey has to offer, make sure you have a full tank of fuel before leaving Te Anau, and take food and beverages with you. It is also recommended that you take insect repellent.
The Homer Tunnel
The Homer Tunnel was completed in 1953 and opened up Milford Sound to road access. The tunnel, at 945 m above sea level, is 1.2 km long and has a steep gradient down towards Milford.
There is no internal lighting in the tunnel, so remember to take off your sunglasses and turn your lights on before you drive in. The tunnel has two narrow lanes with a passing bay at either end for larger vehicles. Don’t forget to turn your lights off when you exit the tunnel.
During winter (May to September), driving conditions can be extremely challenging. The road can often be covered in snow and ice. Freezing temperatures cause the road to be icy in places. At this time of year the traffic numbers are low, so it’s advisable to leave later in the morning (9am onwards). Drive with extreme care, especially in areas where the road is in the shade.
You must carry snow chains for your vehicle during winter. (Snow chains are available for rent in Te Anau). Make sure you know how to fit them before starting your journey.
For current road conditions see the Transit NZ website (external site). Roadside information signs at Te Anau, Knobs Flat and Milford also advise current road conditions.
The section of road between the Hollyford Road junction and The Chasm is a Restricted No Stopping Zone as this is an avalanche area. For more detail on the avalanche hazard and winter driving, pick up a copy of Transit New Zealand’s Awareness of the Avalanche Hazard brochure or see the Transit NZ website (external site).
During winter you must carry snow chains for your car, bus or campervan. If you are not confident about driving in winter conditions take a coach, relax and enjoy the winter scenery.
Telephone services are available at Knobs Flat (card-phone), from the Homer Tunnel (satellite phone for emergency use only) and at Milford Sound (card-phone).
There is no mobile phone coverage between Te Anau Downs and Milford.
Te Anau has a population of 3,000. It has a wide range of accommodation providers with hotels, motels, backpackers' hostels, home stays and holiday parks, as well as many restaurants and cafes.
Accommodation is also available at Te Anau Downs, in the lower Hollyford Valley, at Milford and on overnight boat cruises on Milford Sound. There are several basic self-registration campsites along the Milford Road.
Campervan drivers note; there are dumping stations at Te Anau, Manapōuri, Knob’s Flat and Milford. There are no dumping stations at any of the camp sites on the Milford Road.
Do not discharge any waste along the road or into the National Park.
The towering mountain ranges of Fiordland National Park, seen as you drive through the broad Eglinton Valley, are a mighty sight
As you journey deep into the Mountain views of the Fiordland National Park, its easy to see why this is a World Heritage site.