IntroductionMilford Sound/Piopiotahi is in the northwest of Fiordland National Park. Milford Road from Te Anau to Milford Sound is one of New Zealand's most scenic drives.
Enjoy magnificent scenery on Milford Road - the U-shaped valleys open out to sheer, rugged basins and peaks. Once through the Homer Tunnel, you will see grand views down to sea level.
Iconic Mitre Peak - is one of the most recognised (and photographed) peaks in the world, with its sheer rock walls rising 1,692 m directly from the water. Enjoy some of the best views of Mitre Peak from the Milford Sound Foreshore Walk.
Walk the world famous Milford Track, or a half day walk on the Routeburn Track from The Divide, to enjoy unbelievable views from Key Summit.
Mountain climbing peaks - the Darran Mountains, accessed via the Gertrude Saddle and the Hollyford Valley, are well known for their exciting mountain climbing opportunities.
A Coastal Gem - Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) Marine Reserve is one of 10 marine reserves in Fiordland.
This is one of the wettest areas in the country (up to 7 m of rain per year) and has an incredibly rugged landscape carved by glacial ice. Under the water the mountains continue to depths of up to 265 m.
Find things to do and places to stay Milford Road/Milford Sound area
Walking in beech forest at many of the short walks in the Eglinton Valley (e.g. Lake Gunn Nature Walk), you might commonly see small bush birds like tomtits, grey warblers, fantails, riflemen, NZ robins, chaffinches and brown creepers. If you are keen you may spot rarer birds like the endangered mohua/yellowhead or native parakeet/kakariki. Whio/ Blue Duck are also being successfully managed in the area and numbers have grown to the point where they are regularly seen at Monkey Creek and the lower Cleddau river.
The kea alpine parrots, are often seen around the Homer Tunnel - watch your belongings though as they are very cheeky and curious! Occasionally on the East Homer Nature Walk you may hear or glimpse a rare rock wren too - they live amongst the large boulders.
Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) Marine Reserve is one of the most popular places in Fiordland to dive and see the black corals for which the fiords are famous. The reserve covers an area of 690 hectares along the northern side of Milford Sound, from the head of the Sound to Dale Point.
The Milford Road offers access to the Eglinton & Cleddau Rivers, both of which offer scenic and well stocked fishing holes. Fly fishing only.
Milford Sound is a very steep sided fiord with striking beauty, but busy with boat traffic. The southern side is more sheltered from the prevailing westerly winds, in particular the afternoon day breeze during summer.
For camping there are two spots – Harrison Cove and Anita Bay.
Access is by boat ramp off Deepwater Basin Road in Milford Sound.
We recommend going with a guided company unless you have a high skill & experience level.
The road from Te Anau to Milford Sound is one of New Zealand's most scenic drives.
Around every corner the vistas become even more dramatic - the U-shaped valleys open out then up to sheer, rugged basins and peaks as you near the road’s highest point. Once through the Homer Tunnel, the road begins dropping and you will see grand views down to sea level.
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.
Check road status
Plan your trip
Te Anau to Milford
Te Anau to Milford and back 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.
Queenstown to Milford
Queenstown to Milford and back is 600 km (360 miles) taking 12 to 14 hours. 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
- Milford Sound for the 1 pm 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 8 am or later in the morning, 11 am onwards.
Before you leave
Dogs are not allowed in the National Park.
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. Gunns Camp is on a 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.
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.
Milford Sound/Piopiotahu and Freshwater Basin/Milford Foreshore Area
DOC does not charge for parking. Milford Sound Tourism Limited manages the car parking at Milford Sound/Piopiotahi and there is a charge at Freshwater Basin/Milford Foreshore Area, which is close to the ferry terminal.
Car parking at Deepwater Basin is free. You can either walk to the Freshwater Basin Terminal or take the free shuttle that collects visitors every 15–20 minutes from this location.
On the road
Milford Road is a scenic highway and everyone will travel at different speeds. If you are holding up other travellers be courteous, pull over at a safe site and allow queued traffic to pass. When parking at a scenic spot along the road, be sure to make the best use of the sometimes limited space available, so as not to inconvenience other travellers wishing to stop at the same site. Always be aware of pedestrians.
The road, although tarsealed and maintained to state highway standards is nevertheless a challenging and, in places, narrow and winding drive. The scenery can be distracting – take your time, be aware of other road users and if you wish to enjoy the views pull over with plenty of warning.
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 from 9 am 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.
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.
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.
Factsheet and app
Useful resources for drivers:
- Te Anau - Milford Highway map and factsheet (PDF, 3,281K) - map with points of interest
- Te Anau - Milford Highway STQRY app - free to download, available ‘offline’ if downloaded prior to leaving cell coverage area, automatically downloads in the language of the phone user (over 60 languages), rich content - audio (including bird calls), video, text and imagery
The Milford Road (part of SH94) starts from Te Anau, and heads north towards Milford Sound/Piopiotahi (120 km).
The nearest town with facilities is Te Anau, and there are limited facilities at Milford Sound/Piopiotahi.
Allow about 2 hours to drive the whole Milford Road, without stops. There are many enjoyable short walks and viewpoints along the way, as well as DOC campsites should you wish to take more time.
Book Milford Road campsites online before your visit
Fibre internet has been installed along the Milford Road but mobile phone reception is limited. These Milford Road stopping points and campsites now have reception:
- Te Anau Downs
- Totara Campsite
- Mackay Creek Campsite
- The Divide
- Milford Sound
Milford Road travel advice
See Milford Road tips for drivers to find out about planning your trip up the Milford Road and to Milford Sound/Piopiotahi, how to get there, tips and a map for your drive, information on winter conditions and more.
Expect road closures and traffic delays due to weather conditions, rock falls, and snow/avalanche in winter.
Freedom camping (within 200 m of the road) is not allowed on the Milford Road. Find out more about freedom camping in New Zealand.
Enjoyr plants, animals and geology along the Milford Road and in Milford Sound/Piopiotahi. Read about nature and conservation in Milford Road/Milford Sound area.
Early Māori gathered greenstone here
There are two principal trails linking the Fiordland coast with the rest of Te Wai Pounamu (the South Island).
A sea route was the main route used by early Māori to transport the kokotakiwai (greenstone) to Murihiku (Southland). The inland route lay over what is now known as the Milford Track, over Omanui (McKinnon Pass), down the Waitawai (Clinton River) to the head of Te Ana-au (Lake Te Anau) then towards Te Ara a Kiwa (Foveaux Strait).
The Māori name for Milford Sound is Piopiotahi, after the native thrush - piopio - now probably extinct.
Permanent Māori settlements were located in the Hollyford Valley and around lakes Manapouri and Te Anau, linked by well-worn routes through territory rich with eels and forest resources.
The first European settlers, explorers and tourism
Milford Sound was named by a Welsh sealing captain John Grono after his birth place, Milford Haven.
Donald Sutherland, a Scottish sealer, soldier and gold prospector, was the first European resident. When he saw Milford Sound for the first time, he declared, “If ever I come to anchor it will be here.” He kept his word and in 1878 built three thatched huts, which he called the City of Milford. A fiord and waterfall are named after him.
A dozen years later, the Milford Track was cut between Te Anau and Milford by Sutherland and Quintin Mackinnon, establishing a land link with the interior and a tourist route. Sutherland’s wife Elizabeth opened a boarding house for “asphalters” - cityfolk who came to enjoy Fiordland’s grandeur.
In 1889 William Homer discovered the saddle now named after him. The section of road from Te Anau to the Divide was completed by government work scheme gangs in the 1930s. Work on the Homer Tunnel began in 1935 but difficult conditions and interruption by the Second World War delayed its completion until 1954.
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Fiordland National Park
Te Anau 9600
PO Box 29
Te Anau 9640
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