What to See and Do on the Road to Milford Sound

What to See and Do on the Road to Milford Sound

Driving a motorhome to Milford Sound


One of the most amazing roads you can drive, in New Zealand and across the globe, is State Highway 94 (SH94) — the Te Anau Milford Highway.


It can be tempting to drive directly to Milford Sound, then directly back to your base in Te Anau or Queenstown in one long day. However, by doing so, you’ll miss out on a lot of the spectacular scenery, wildlife and walking trails along the way.


In this blog, we highlight everything that deserves your attention on the road to Milford — from the Mirror Lakes to Key Summit and Monkey Creek to Lake Marian. Plan to take your time so you can drive less and see more.





Lake Mistletoe Track

This very short loop trail to Lake Mistletoe mostly through forest, then back to the car park via the highway, is worth stretching your legs. You’ll find a viewing point by the lake which can be an idyllic spot to devour your Miles Better Pies lunch picked up in Te Anau.


Find out more about Lake Mistletoe Track.



Eglinton Valley

A couple at Eglinton Valley


One of the most amazing views you can come across while hiking through the New Zealand mountains is the site of a flat. More commonly known as a valley, these flats are full of tussock for miles with snow-peaked mountains in the distance.


The beauty of the Eglinton Valley, and its huge expanse of flats, is that it’s accessible to anyone with a vehicle. See where best to park up in the Eglinton Valley.


Take a look at our top ten rest stops on New Zealand roads.



Mirror Lakes Walk

Mirror Lakes, Fiordland, credit to Great South

Image by Great South 


The Earl Mountains are located to the west of the Mirror Lakes. What makes this short ten minute walk a magical one is that you don’t need to look up to see them. The lakes are so clear that by looking down at the reflective surface of the water, you’ll see the Earl Mountains in absolute clarity.


However, on a poor weather day, you may not see much reflecting off the surface. Instead, look for longfin eels while enjoying the Mirror Lakes Walk.



Lake Gunn Nature Walk

Lake Gunn Nature Walk, credit to Great South

Image by Great South


For mossy forest magic that feels like it’s from another world, don’t miss pulling over at Cascade Creek. This location features a campsite along with a stunning short walk through the bush to a lakeside viewing spot.


You’ll feel like you’re wandering through the wilds of Fiordland — yet, you’re only a couple of hundred metres from the main road.


Take a driving break and wander the 1.4km Lake Gunn Nature Walk.



Lake Gunn North Viewpoint

Just north of Lake Gunn is an obscure turnoff to the west — take it if you enjoy serene lake views and don’t mind pesky sandflies too much. You can also swim in Lake Gunn, though the water is cold and eels have made their home here.


For a different perspective on this mountainous area, stop at Lake Gunn North Viewpoint.




Lake Fergus Lookouts

Relatively smaller Lake Fergus has two lookout points on the eastern side of the Te Anau Milford Highway — making them easier to access on your return drive from Milford Sound. The area around the lake can get windy so be prepared for that if you decide to pull over and take some photos of Lake Fergus.



Key Summit

Key Summit Track,  credit to Great South

Image by Great South


If you’ve planned your driving day to Milford well, you may have some spare hours to hike up to Key Summit.


You’ll find the trailhead at The Divide — the lowest pass in the Southern Alps at 513m above sea level. Follow the Routeburn Track for about an hour before turning towards the summit. After another 20 minutes, you’ll reach alpine scrubland, a beautiful tarn and panoramic views over the Darran and Humboldt mountains.


At roughly three hours return, the Key Summit Track is worth it on a fine day.


Check out our safe hiking tips for the New Zealand backcountry.



Hollyford Valley Lookout

For superb views up the Hollyford Valley on a clear day, pull into this little roadside stop. Like Lake Fergus, the viewing platform is on the other side of the road when driving to Milford — so consider saving this view for your return journey.


You’ll also find an information board here with details on what mountains, valleys and lakes you’re looking at. With Mount Christina towering above at 2,602m in the foreground, this lookout is one of the best vantage points on the road to Milford.


The Hollyford Valley Lookout is worth five minutes of your time.



Lake Marian Track

Lake Marian Track, credit to Great South

Image by Great South


As the road to Milford bends around to the west, you’ll see a turnoff on your right. Here, the Lower Hollyford Road will take you to the trailhead of Lake Marian Track.


For a fun hike filled with wooden bridges to traverse, fallen trees to navigate under and small streams to cross, make time for ascending to Lake Marian. Once you reach the lake, you’ll be amazed at the peacefulness of this sub-alpine location.


Make the most of your adventure to Milford Sound with a hike up the Lake Marian Track. But before you go, learn about hiking etiquette in New Zealand.


Marian Falls

If you don’t have the time (or the stamina) to hike all the way to Lake Marian, opt for the next best thing — a short stroll through the bush to Marian Falls. After some rain, you may even see a series of falls as you take this 20 minute return walk.


Consider Lake Marian Falls Track and you won’t be disappointed.



Christie Falls

A few hundred metres up the road on your left is the trailhead to the Falls Creek Route. Although it’s a demanding and challenging route, Christie Falls is very close to the road. Snow melt from above helps deliver a crystal clear waterfall — though it can also be flooded after heavy rain.


You’ll find side-of-the-road parking for these waterfalls just west of the trailhead. It’s worthwhile stopping at Christie Falls when there aren’t any tour buses parked up nearby.



Monkey Creek

Monkey Creek, credit to Great South

Image by Great South


As you get closer to the Homer Tunnel, you’ll begin to have more encounters with native kea birds. Monkey Creek is one of their favourite hangouts — as it is for endemic blue ducks (whio).


Pristine glaciers, up the valley where snow-capped mountains dominate the landscape, feed this high-altitude creek making Monkey Creek a spectacular resting place.



Gertrude Valley Lookout

Breathtaking is the only word to describe this location. Looking up Gertrude Valley, the magnificence of the mountains in this part of the world is truly on show.


Gertrude Saddle, credit Liz Carlson

Image by Liz Carlson


This location is also the trailhead to the Gertrude Saddle Route — a challenging expert route that should only be attempted in good conditions by experienced hikers. It’s estimated to take four to six hours to walk the 7km return journey. The main reward is a view from the top of the saddle over to Milford Sound.


The scenery rarely gets better than at the Gertrude Valley Lookout.



Homer Tunnel

Homer Tunnel,  credit to  Great South

Image by Great South


An engineering marvel of its time, the Homer Tunnel still feels otherworldly. As you drive through it, you may feel like you’re travelling through time — and when you come out the west exit, somehow the terrain is even more mind-blowing.


Before passing through the 1,240m Homer Tunnel, you’ll have to wait in line at the Homer Tunnel parking area. This is because the tunnel works on a one-way traffic light system so it’s common to have to wait a few minutes before driving through.


Admire the sheer cliff faces but be sure to keep an eye on cheeky kea that linger here. Given half an opportunity, they’ll steal anything shiny — like your phone, camera, jewellery and even your vehicle’s windowsill lining.


Find out more about how constructing the Homer Tunnel was done by hand.


A wall of waterfalls

If you arrive in Milford Sound during or after heavy rain, you’re in for a real treat. The nature of these mountains and their sheer cliffs are ideal for water run-off.  This particular viewing spot lets you witness waterfalls everywhere — given the right conditions.


Be sure to pull over at Hundred Falls or the 1855 lookout to take in the magic of this place.



The Chasm

The Chasm, credit to Great South

Image by Great South


This return walk will take you to the edge of the Cleddau River after wandering through some native forest — where you’ll be able to view The Chasm.


In the past, you could view rushing water sculpting these rock formations from overhead. That was before a storm destroyed two bridges on this walk in 2020.


Check the Department of Conservation (DOC) for up-to-date details on The Chasm Walk — and read our blog on exploring New Zealand’s best hikes and walks.



Tūtoko Valley Route

This lush trail with a huge array of ferns and trees covered in moss will feel like wandering through an untouched rainforest. If you have a few spare hours, plus clothing and footwear suitable for wet weather, consider exploring this marked but challenging route.


Get more information on the Tūtoko Valley Route.


Te Anau Milford Highway SH94 driving tips

  1. Get up early — and hit the road so you can take your time exploring as much as SH94 has to offer
  2. Check the road conditions of SH94 — on the New Zealand Transport Agency website
  3. Fill up your tank in Te Anau — where you’ll find the last gas station before reaching Milford Sound
  4. Take provisions — like water, snacks and even lunch
  5. Fill a daypack — with your provisions, wet weather gear, a warm layer, hat, sunscreen and insect repellent
  6. Let faster drivers pass — particularly if you’re driving a campervan hire or motorhome rental
  7. Only pull over in places where it is safe to do so — and there’s sufficient space to get your vehicle completely off the highway



Consider staying overnight in Milford Sound where campervan rentals and motorhome hires can park up at the Rainforest Campervan Park at Milford Sound Lodge.


As with other motorhome travel days, you’ll want to get to your nightly destination well before it gets dark. Driving to Milford Sound is no different. If you intend to travel from Te Anau and back on the same day, aim to return before nightfall. This way, you won’t miss the Homer Tunnel’s closing time and the highway will be safer to navigate.


A motorhome parked up at night near Milford Sound


Plan your adventure to Milford Sound with the help of our Christchurch to Milford Sound road trip itinerary.


where to go & what to do