Home > The Road Trips > Queenstown - Milford Sound

Queenstown - Milford Sound

There's something truly magical about the road from Queenstown to Milford Sound. Weave through stunning scenery and explore one of the most pristine natural destinations on earth.

Queenstown to Milford Sound
Total Distance 394 Km
Approx driving time 5 hours
Today Queenstown20°
Milford Sound18°

Queenstown

Your journey begins in a town built on natural beauty and adrenalin. When you're in Queenstown, the world is your oyster. With everything under the sun for the adrenalin junkie in us all - not to mention the skiing, fishing, hiking, camping and amazing luxury escapes - Queenstown is truly a magnificent area to spend time in.

Visit the beautiful township of Glenorchy. Proof of this beauty can be found in the pioneering town's Lord of the Rings link: many of the movies' scenes were shot in and around here. Set among towering mountains, beech forest and rivers, this is also the starting point for many walking tracks. Take the time to head to Kinloch, located at the head of Lake Wakatipu, 72km due north of Queenstown across the lake from Glenorchy. It's a breathtaking 1-hour journey meandering through some truly magical vistas. Stay for a night or three and explore the area, enjoy a short or long walk on the Routeburn Track, a scenic flight to Milford Sound or jet boat ride on Lake Wakatipu.

Set among towering mountains, beech forest and rivers, this is also the starting point for many walking tracks.

Once back in Queenstown, head towards the township of Kingston. Located at the southern tip of Lake Wakatipu, south of Queenstown, lakeside Kingston features several walking tracks and a golf course.

Kinloch: As part of Kinloch lodge located at the foot of the Humbolt Mountains, you can take a guided kayak trip or head off at either sunset or sunrise, either way you'll wish you could stay longer

Te Anau/Wakatipu: Take in the views from high-country stations (4WD)

Lumsden: Enjoy freshwater fly-fishing

The Routeburn Track: 33km (three days) of stunning alpine scenery; bookings are required

Dart River by jetboat

Milford Sound and Mitre Peak: take a cruise to get up close and personal with dramatic scenery

Glenorchy: Lord of the Rings film location

Queenstown's calendar is jam-packed with fantastic events all year round - the most popular being the Winter Festival in June/July.

Take advantage of the Remarkables' and Coronet Peak ski areas. Both offer full ski hire and an international ski school is available. For experienced skiers with an urge to explore, there's also heli-skiing. Check for latest snow and ski conditions and opening dates for the fields to ensure their availability.

Check out Athol, a farming locality near the junction of the Mataura River - it holds plenty of appeal for anglers of all experience levels. Head here for the ultimate in fly-fishing experiences and catch large numbers of free-rising trout to take home for tea.

Take plenty of time to explore the Milford Road, pick up local information on attractions and weather before heading off. Stop for walks, photo opportunities and sightseeing to absorb this wondrous place.

Mitre Peak & Milford Sound

Magnificent Milford

Fill a tumbler full of water from a waterfall cascading from rocks hun...

Doubtful Sound

Waking up in a fiord

To wake up to the absolute silence of Doubtful Sound aboard an overnig...

Fiordland National Park

Great Walks

Where on earth can you soar above mountains, wake up to the smell of h...

Camping Country

Every nook and cranny hides a camping spot

In the days before easy air travel, summer camping was a national past...

Glenorchy and Dart River

Venture into the wilderness

It's a landscape of snow-capped outcrops, sheer cliffs, ancient beech ...

Lumsden - Mossburn

Enjoy a beautiful drive down to Lumsden, taking in wide-open views of Southland pastures and rivers full of fish. It's a great place to have a break from driving. From Lumsden make your way to Mossburn - the deer capital of New Zealand. It was here in Mossburn that the country's first Drysdale stock was developed in the 1950s; and don't you worry, there are still plenty of sheep to be seen. Yes, this is the best of rural New Zealand. After checking out Mossburn, you're now on the road to Te Anau.

Talk about scenery beyond imagination. With vistas so beautiful you'd easily believe life imitates art, the road to Te Anau is an adventure in itself. No matter your travel style, you're bound to discover something to capture your imagination and your memory. A side trip to Mavora Lakes will have you marvelling and planning the next camping trip for an extended stay.

With vistas so beautiful you'd easily believe life imitates art, the road to Te Anau is an adventure in itself.

Te Anau

Te Anau itself is on the edge of New Zealand's second-largest lake and is the main visitor base for Fiordland National Park. Stop in at the Department of Conservation (DOC) Visitor Information Centre to make plans to walk the Milford, Routeburn or Kepler tracks. There's quite an array of places to stay while in Te Anau, but booking ahead in the busy season is always a wise thing to do. Take advantage of the natural beauty here, the interesting locals and enjoy the food and wine in the evening at a local restaurant - life's about discovery!

Take advantage of the natural beauty here, the interesting locals and enjoy the food and wine in the evening at a local restaurant.

Milford Sound

After a stay in Te Anau, your journey now leads you to Milford Sound, a place that exists solely to look after travellers who come to see Milford Sound, the fiord. This is where the term 'roughing it' comes to life as facilities and services can be limited in the area. That said, there's a cafe and a tavern - so staying well fed and well caffeinated is guaranteed!

This glacier-carved fiord is incredibly grand. Sheer granite cliffs tower into the sky and plunge into the depths of clear water, while Mitre Peak stands like a massive sentinel, guarding the amazing landscape.

Bottlenose dolphins, New Zealand fur seals and Fiordland crested penguins are resident in the fiord and can be viewed up close from the launch cruises or kayak trips. The wharf at Milford Sound is usually buzzing with activity, as cruises on Milford Sound are a popular way to see the stunning vistas. There's nothing else on earth to prepare you for the awesomeness of the huge peaks, waterfalls and sheer rock faces you'll discover at Milford Sound.

Visit the underwater observatory to get a sneak peek at what's happening under the water. If you're keen to lace up your hiking boots, hit the Milford Track. It is one of the most famous walks in New Zealand and is 54km long and takes 4 days, starting at the northern end of Lake Te Anau, finishing with a ferry trip from Sandfly Point to the Milford Sound wharf.

Every New Zealander likely knows of Milford Sound, but not everyone knows that the 119km road connecting Milford Sound to the rest of New Zealand is a destination in itself. This stunning alpine drive is heaped with spectacular scenery and provides access to some beautiful valleys and high alpine walks. Coming down the Cleddau Valley to Milford is an entrancing, jaw-dropping drive.

This stunning alpine drive is heaped with spectacular scenery and provides access to some beautiful valleys and high alpine walks.

Allow 2-2.5 hours as a minimum, plus extra time for scenic stops and walks. Have sufficient fuel before you leave Te Anau for the round trip of 240km. Between May and November, all travellers on the Milford Road are legally required to carry snow chains at all times; you need to be equipped to travel the steep alpine sections of this road. Chains can be hired in Te Anau.

If you have any concerns about travelling this road, choose a tour option that allows you to view the scenery without the hassle of driving.

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You've finally plucked up the courage to take a leap of faith at the birthplace of commercial bungy jumping - Queenstown. Butterflies churn in your stomach as you, and the bungy operators, prepare for one heck of a mind-blowing experience.

The rope is tied, you shuffle towards the edge and suddenly fear overtakes excitement with a simple glance downwards - way, way down to the earth below. With an overwhelming feeling of isolation, you're suddenly not sure why you signed up for this. After seconds or minutes (or even longer), courage prevails and you throw caution - and yourself - to the wind.

The sensation of falling towards earth is surprisingly calming and the elation as you're soon dangling from your bungy compares to the highest of highs.

Your sense of achievement creates a feeling akin to that of being superhuman - from here on out you can take on whatever the world throws your way. Beyond that, your smile won't leave your face for some time.

Whether it's from a ledge, bridge or high wire, bungy jumping Queenstown-style provides the ultimate thrill!

Get your walking shoes on and head to the so-called Walking Capital of the World - yes that's right, the world - Te Anau. Our own picture-perfect southern town has definitely earned this impressive catchphrase, with an array of both short and long walks to choose from. The famous Milford, Hollyford, Routeburn, Greenstone, Caples, Kepler and the remote and difficult Dusky Track (as well as several other excellent walks) are all nearby.

But it's not just the tracks that makes Te Anau a walker's dream. It's the scenery, too. You'll see what we mean when you stand mesmerised looking over the sparkling blue waters of Lake Te Anau, with reflections of the surrounding snow-capped mountains glistening on its mirror-like surface. Then there's the pretty lakefront, lush virgin forests and glowworm caves.

With a visit to a spectacular wine cave incorporated into a tour - on top of the chance to sample highly acclaimed wines - a stop at Gibbston Valley Winery pays handsome dividends.

Found within the Queenstown region in the heart of Central Otago, Gibbston Valley Winery is a boutique offering that excels with several grape varieties. But it's a trip 76 metres underground to the wine cave - the largest in New Zealand - that ensures this is a wine tour to remember. See for yourself why this is a fantastic environment to mature wines. A tour will also provide a worthy insight into the region's history.

You'll also have the experience to taste some of Gibbston Valley Winery's award-winning offerings and, afterwards, you can choose to dine in the restaurant.

Fiordland's beauty is of epic proportions but its indulgence of the spectacular is not just limited to above-water features.

The Milford Deep Underwater Observatory extends the theme by offering you a trip 10 metres below the sea's surface to a viewing area - complete with huge windows - where you can discover a remarkable collection of aquatic life.

The likes of black and coloured coral, sea stars, sponges, snakestars and anemones mix with various species of fish to make for a marine ecosystem that will blow your mind.

As it's the reversal of an aquarium setup - here it's the humans who are 'captive' - this is a rare chance to view marine life going about their business in a natural habitat, oblivious to the peering eyes of onlookers.

The observatory is nestled in the centre of the Piopiotahi Marine Reserve, which was established to protect underwater marine life.

It is believed that Maori discovered Milford Sound more than 1000 years ago when they would trek to the fiord to collect prized pounamu (greenstone). They named the area Piopiotahi after the now-extinct piopio bird. Piopiotahi means 'a single piopio' and relates to the Maori legend in which Maui tries to win immortality for mankind. When Maui died after his attempt, the legend says that a piopio flew to Milford Sound in mourning.

The fiord remained undiscovered by Europeans until John Grono landed there in 1812 and named the sound after Milford Haven in Wales. The earliest settlements were formed by sealers and whalers but the difficult terrain, dampness, isolation and remoteness means this area largely remained uninhabited.

Nowhere is the wild beauty of New Zealand displayed with more effect than in the stunning landscapes of Fiordland. The power of nature and unsurpassed beauty of this area stuns and enthralls, inspiring awe and leaving lasting memories.

This self-styled 'walking capital of the world contains New Zealand's Great Walks - the Milford, Routeburn, Hollyford, Greenstone and Caples, Kepler and Hump Ridge tracks. These multi-day hikes take trampers through beech forests with fern-covered floors, up steep slopes onto alpine topsoil to experience overwhelming views of this vast, untouched terrain.

Milford Sound is probably the most famous and most photographed tourist location in the country. Easily accessible by road, sea and air, it should be at the top of every Kiwis 'to- do list. Sheer granite cliffs tower into the sky and plunge into the depths of clear water amid vibrant native rainforest.

Iconic Mitre Peak looms silently at the head of the fiord, a massive sentinel guarding this amazing place. Doubtful Sound is a haven of nature with ancient rainforest, abundant wildlife and superb physical grandeur. Practically untouched by man, the fiord has a deep stillness; a sense of solitude and serenity; and is quite simply breathtaking.

 
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