Road Trip from Te Anau to Milford Sound (NZ)

Iconic and pristine- Come along on our road trip from Te Anau to Milford Sound in New Zealand…


Highlights

  • Camping at Lake Te Anau
  • Cruising through a breathtaking fiord
  • Visiting ‘The Chasm’
  • Epic mountain scenery
  • Endless photo opportunities
  • Wildlife

One thing I love the most about multi-day road trips are the small adventures that merge together to make up one epic journey. My girlfriend and I found ourselves on New Zealand’s South Island for a week late last year, and one of the places we were both dying to visit was Milford Sound. There are so many activities on offer at this prehistoric playground, however this article focuses specifically on the drive from Lake Te Anau and seeing the fiord by boat.

Te Anau is small town located 170km South West of Queenstown with plenty of shops and facilities. It’s the last town you’ll pass through on your way to Milford Sound, so stock up with supplies and a FULL tank of petrol before you leave! It’s also your last chance to have a hot shower if you’re sleeping in a camper van, but expect to pay a few dollars for such a luxury.

Once you hit the road from Te Anau you’ll pass by quite a few DOC campgrounds. My personal favourite is Henry Creek Campsite, only 23km from the town. This is a great spot to camp out at if you don’t want to pay for accommodation in Te Anau, plus you get a crystal-clear lake right at your doorstep! Camping fees for this site are $13/night for adults and $6.50/night for kids.

I’m not overstating when I say that this is one of the most breathtaking drives in the world.

You’ll pass through grassy valleys, enchanting forests and snake your way up and down epic mountains. The drive gets more and more intense as you approach your destination. If there’s ever an appropriate time to blast the Lord of The Rings theme song, this has got to be it. Zero orcs have been sighted in the area so far, but beware of the pesky Kea birds. They’ll pick apart the rubber seals on your car without mercy.

When you arrive at the visitors centre make sure you book in for a cruise as soon as you can. Hundreds of visitors pass through every day so seats are filled quickly! Early morning or late afternoon are the best times to go but make sure you check timetables in advance. From memory, the last boat of the day departs around 4:30pm.

Your cruise will last for a couple of hours, taking you through the magnificent fiord with towering mountains and pumping waterfalls. There’s a very good chance that you’ll see wild fur seals hanging out on their favourite rock, and if you’re lucky you might even spot some dolphins. Most of the cruise boats will take you right up to the base of Stirling Falls for a drenching – I recommend standing on the open deck for this. You’ve got to have some fun now and then!

This has got to be the easiest way to experience the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ – anyone can do it! If you’re feeling up to more of a challenge, there are some fantastic hiking trails around Milford Sound. Check out Tiffany Hulm’s Milford Microadventure for a great starting point!

Essential Gear

  • Water bottle
  • Food / snacks
  • Camera
  • Poncho or waterproof jacket
  • Cash for camping fees

Activities

  • Photography
  • Multiple cruise boat options starting at approximately $65 per adult
  • Kayaking
  • Camping at multiple DOC sites
  • Hiking
  • Scenic flights available

Skill Level

Beginner – the drive is the most challenging part!

Getting There

Follow the Te Anau-Milford Highway north from Te Anau for 118km / 2 hours.


Heading to NZ? Check out some of these trips. If you visit NZ and you have any trips you’d like to share with the WAE community, send them through to [email protected] and we’ll make it happen!