Milford Road tips for drivers
IntroductionFind information for your Milford Road journey to Milford Sound/Piopiotahi.
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
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.
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.
On the road
Milford Road is a scenic highway and everyone will travel at different speeds. If you are holding up other travellers pull over at a safe site and allow queued traffic to pass. When parking at a scenic spot along the road do not inconvenience other travellers wishing to stop at the same site. Always be aware of pedestrians.
The road is 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. It's around 3.81 m tall.
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. 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 details on the avalanche hazard and winter driving 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.
There are several basic self-registration campsites along the Milford Road.
There are dumping stations for campservans at Te Anau, Manapōuri, Knob’s Flat and Milford. There are no dumping stations at any of the campsites on the Milford Road.
Do not discharge any waste along the road or into the national park.