Located on the South Island of New Zealand, Milford Sound is known (unofficially) as the 8th wonder of the world!
If you don’t know what Milford Sound is, it’s a fjord in the southwest of the South Island, home to rainforests, waterfalls, and spectacular marine life. It’s one of the most famous attractions in the country, and the drive there from Queenstown is one of the most popular road trips in New Zealand.
In fact, the Te Anau to Milford Sound Highway has been named one of the most scenic drives in the world, so if that doesn’t get you excited about this road trip, we don’t know what will!
Queenstown to Milford Sound Road Trip
Although it may look like getting to Milford Sound from Queenstown is easy on a map, it’s not the case, but that’s part of the fun!
While Queenstown and Milford Sound are only 65km apart, the driving route is just under 300 kilometers long. If you drove that all in one go, it would take you four hours. However, the best part about the drive is stopping off at the beautiful sights along the way, so it’s best to drive it over a period of days.
By spending a night or two in Te Anau or Milford Sound, you’ll be able to take your time and see the jaw-dropping sights, such as lakes, mountains, and even a few hiking trails!
What to Know Before You Go
There are a few things you should know before embarking on your Queenstown to Milford Sound bucket list, including:
- No shops or petrol stations exist between Te Anau and Milford Sound, so pack plenty of food and drinks and ensure your petrol tank is full.
- Spending at least one night in Te Anau is recommended to break down the driving time and explore the different sights.
- Milford Road has limited cellphone coverage.
- Be prepared for the weather to change drastically within a short period, so pack a range of different clothes and hiking boots.
- Carry snow chains in the winter months (and know how to fit them).
- Milford Sound is one of the wettest places in the world, so drive to the conditions.
Related: New Zealand (and Milford Sound) is a great place to visit in February!
Best Places to See on the Queenstown to Milford Sound Road Trip
Now that we’ve covered the things you need to know before embarking on the road trip, here are some of the best places to see and do along the way.
Devil’s Staircase Lookout
The Devil’s Staircase Lookout is one of the best places to stop along the way to Milford Sound.
This is a fantastic place for stunning views across Lake Wakatipu and the windy road along the lake.
There is only one small parking lot, and the road is full of bends and turns, so be careful when pulling over. The Devil’s Staircase Lookout is located about halfway between Queenstown and Kingston.
Lake Te Anau
Te Anau is a beautiful town and a great place to spend the night to break up the drive.
While you’re there, one of the best things to do is visit Lake Te Anau, whether that be by hopping on a boat cruise or admiring it from the jetty.
The South Island is home to many beautiful lakes, and Lake Gunn is one of them.
One of the best short walks to stretch your legs along the drive from Queenstown to Milford sound is the Lake Gunn Nature Walk.
This 45-minute walk takes you past mossy trees, stony beaches and unique wildlife. It’s definitely worth doing on the way to Milford Sound!
If you love hikes, then Lake Marian is one of the best places to stop off on your way to Milford Sound.
Depending on how much time you have, you can walk the 20-minute track that takes you to the waterfalls or the three-hour Lake Marian Hike loop track that takes you through incredible landscapes to the lake.
The Key Summit hike is another one worth doing on your Queenstown to Milford Sound road trip because of the spectacular views.
The Key Summit Hike takes around three hours to complete and is at the southern end of the Routeburn Track.
This hike is one of the most beautiful in the region as it combines the beauty of the rainforest and Southern Alps. Once you reach the peak, no matter what season you’re there, you’ll be rewarded with jaw-dropping views of the region.
Within the Hollyford Valley is where you’ll find Monkey Creek (and no, there are no monkeys), one of the best places to stop from Queenstown to Milford Sound.
The best part about Monkey Creek? If you’ve run out of water, bring your drink bottle with you because the glacier-fed spring has water so pure you can drink it!
The last place you have to stop off on your Queenstown to Milford Sound road trip is Hundred Falls.
Why is it called Hundred Falls? Because it’s made up of hundreds of vein waterfalls gushing down the side of a rock face! If you’re lucky enough to be there after a storm, you’ll be blown away by the power of the falls.
If it’s not raining or hasn’t been, there won’t be much to see. Fortunately, Milford Sound is in the wettest region of New Zealand, so you’ll more than likely see the falls in full force!
And finally, once you reach Milford Sound, the best thing to do is hop on a cruise through the fjord to really soak in its beauty. From waterfalls to seals and penguins, experiencing Milford Sound must be on everyone’s bucket list.
Whether you drive along the road in winter past snowcapped mountains or in the summer with wildflowers blooming along the hiking trails, the Queenstown to Milford Sound road trip is beautiful any time of year.
From waterfalls to glacier-fed creeks and stunning lakes, there is so much to see on the drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound.