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Driving the Road to Milford Sound

State Highway 94 from Te Anau to Milford Sound: A journey you don’t want to rush

The Milford Road emerging between the Fiordland mountains on the way to Milford Sound Lodge.

The drive to Milford Sound from Te Anau takes around two hours, but we recommend you take all day. Not far out of Te Anau Downs, Fiordland’s dense, lush bush descends upon the landscape and signs appear along the roadside directing you to stop and explore the many scenic spots and walks. 

Rather than rushing to your Milford Sound cruise, schedule in time for the Milford road. It is an experience in itself, offering remarkable and easily-accessible Fiordland gems like the vast Eglinton Valley or the picture-perfect Mirror Lakes. 

Book a night or two at Milford Sound Lodge, and you can take all the time you need to explore this smorgasbord of sights, and one of most scenic road trips in New Zealand.

The Homer Tunnel

The Homer Tunnel is considered one of New Zealand’s most impressive pieces of roading infrastructure. Completed in 1954, the Homer Tunnel was 19 years in the making before eventually forming the vital road link between Milford Sound and the outside world. Carved through the solid granite rock of the Darren Mountain Range, this 1.2 km (.75 mile) stretch of the Milford road is one of the journey’s highlights.

Tunnelling through solid granite rock was an ambitious and technically-challenging undertaking in the 1950s so it‘s no surprise the project took nearly two decades. All the hard work paid off, and soon put Milford Sound tourism on the world map - and contributed to the expansion of nearby towns like Te Anau and Manapouri.

Eglinton Valley Find a place to pull over near the start of Fiordland National Park

It’s not hard to miss the Eglinton Valley and those with a keen interest in geology will notice its distinctive u-shape. Once carved by a mighty glacier, this beautiful wide valley is now home to the braided Eglinton River. Plenty of room to pull over on the side of the road for photos.

Mirror Lakes An easy, 400-metre boardwalk walk

One of the most popular stops along the Milford road and for good reason. On a still day, these small tarns (mountain lakes) create a perfect reflection of the adjacent Earl Mountains. The lakes are often full of birdlife and are accessible by an easy walk along a boardwalk.

The Chasm An easy, 15-minute loop track

A short and easy walk with car parking directly off the main road. Follow the walking track as it weaves its way over the Cleddau River and a series of small, but spectacular waterfalls. The powerful action of these waterfalls has created a beautiful display of smooth rocks and deep pools.


Stay the night and see it all

Staying safe; What you need to know about State Highway 94

State Highway 94, known as the Milford road, is no ordinary Sunday drive.

If you decide to drive yourself to Milford Sound, we strongly suggest you check the road conditions and are familiar with New Zealand road rules before you head off. The Milford road offers spectacular scenery but the route is often steep, windy and single-lane. It’s important to stay alert and safe at all times.

Because of its location within a mountainous area, the Milford road is prone to slips or avalanches and road closures because of snowfall. It is vital to check the status of the road before embarking on your journey, particularly in winter. The Milford road sits within an avalanche risk area. But it is monitored year-round by a contracting team for Transit NZ. The many systems in place have ensured that although 1,000 cars and buses can travel this route every day, no drivers have been injured by an avalanche for more than a decade.

The safest way to travel the Milford road is to always check the road conditions. Get the latest information from the New Zealand Transport Authority here.

Longer day walks on the Milford road

Walk through lush rainforest. Hike alpine tracks to stunning waterfalls, ice fields and mountain lakes. Stop for a while and take one of the many day walks accessible from the road.  For detailed information on the hikes below click here.

  • Gertrude Valley – 4-5 Hours – Summer / Autumn – Climb to Gertrude Saddle; an exciting and hard to forget alpine hiking experience offering stunning mountain views, waterfalls and ice fields.
  • Grave Talbot – 3-4 Hours – Upper Track: Summer / Autumn – Follow raging Fiordland rives to the Esperance River Grasslands or simply stroll alongside the Gulliver River.
  • Key Summit – 3 Hours – All year – Walk to Key Summit, along a well-formed track suitable for all, for unforgettable 360-degree lake to sea views of Fiordland.
  • Lake Marian – 3-4 Hours – All year –Climb to a beautiful alpine lake alongside raging mountain rivers or take an easy 20-minute stroll along Marian Creek for exceptional views.
  • Tutoko – 5-6 Hours – All year – Walk through enchanting rainforest and enjoy views of Fiordland’s highest peak and witness the Herbert Icefields dropping into the Leader Creek.

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