9 Must-see sights on the road to Milford Sound

9 Must-see sights on the road to Milford Sound

The road to Milford Sound - Kea time!This time last year we were having the most amaaaaazing trip around New Zealand. I wrote a bunch of posts about it, but I never got around to writing about all the things we did on the road to Milford Sound. So, here is a full account of all the things we managed to squish into our time in the Fiordland. I have already written about some of these, so just click on the links if you’d like to read more.

We visited all these places over 2 days, but even if you are only planning a single day trip to Milford Sound, you can easily fit in a couple of walks and a boat tour.

Glowworm Caves

120km to Milford Sound
The Te Anau Glowworm Caves was one of the most interesting things we did near Te Anau. We went on a tour around the caves so got to see the thousands of glowworms (well, fungus gnats) light up the cave’s ceiling like the night’s sky. One of the great things about the tour is it also involves a mini cruise over Lake Te Anau. If you plan on making this (awesome) stop on the way to Milford Sound, then you will probably need more than one day in the area.

Lake Mistletoe

91km to Milford Sound
Lake Mistletoe is a lovely spot to stretch your legs on the road to Milford Sound. There is a pretty forest walk and then a boardwalk out around the lake. The walk takes less than 30 minutes.

Boyd Creek Track

75km to Milford Sound
This hike is less famous (I couldn’t find it on many of the lists from the local tourist office.) BUT the Boyd Creek Track is SUCH a cool place to explore. We loved the moss-covered forest and the wildlife. We saw birds of prey as well as cute, round, fluffy little bird dudes. The entire walk takes a several hours, but it is fun to stop, even just to see the first part of the trail.

Mirror Lakes

61km to Milford Sound
Mirror Lakes must be insta famous. There is plenty of parking, so almost everyone stops here on their visit to Milford Sound. This stop won’t really give your legs much of a workout, as you only need to walk for a few meters. Still, the lake is surrounded by misty mountains and it is a gorgeous sight! The lake’s sign is even posted upside down so you can only see it properly when it is reflected in the lake.

Key Summit

34km to Milford Sound
Fancy a few steps on one of New Zealand’s Great Hikes? Key Summit is a fantastic option if the weather is fine. When we visited, the weather *was not* fine, and it was still a lovely walk through the silver beech forest. You can tramp from the divide up to Key Summit and back in 2-3 hours. The path is super easy to follow, and there are plenty of switchbacks, rather than steep walkways. You’ll be treated to some stunning views at the top!

Lake Marian

32km to Milford Sound
If Key Summit sounds too touristy for you, another fantastic option is the hike up to Lake Marian. You can actually see Lake Marian from Key summit (in my photo above.) It is surrounded by gorgeous mountains and forest. It is a glacial lake, so you can expect to see ridiculously pretty coloured water, even when the mist comes in.

We did both Key Summit and Lake Marian on the same day, after our boat tour in Milford Sound.

Watch out for Kea at Homer Tunnel

18km to Milford Sound
twenty minutes before you arrive at Milford Sound, you’ll reach the famous Homer Tunnel that goes straight through the Darran Mountain range. There is a car park right before the tunnel which I would like to mention because we met some Kea there!

Kea are New Zealand’s alpine parrots. They are pretty big, about half a meter tall, with olive green to burnt umber coloured feathers. If you see one fly, they’ll flash crazility bright, beautiful wing feathers at you. Just DON’T FEED THEM!

Once you emerge from the tunnel, look up! The cliffs are covered in hundreds of teeny waterfalls when it is raining. This view took our breath away.

The Chasm

10km to Milford Sound
The Chasm is a waterfall (or group of several waterfalls) that have carved massive chasms into the surrounding rocks. The water really thunders through these holes in the rocks so they are great fun to see (and hear!)

Milford Foreshore Walk

You’ve arrived in Milford Sound
Once you make it to Milford sound, don’t jump straight onto your boat trip! There is a pleasant trail on the foreshore, just before you reach the harbour.

Milford Sound Boat trip

You will definitely want to finish your trip to Milford Sound with one of the many mini cruises or boat tours. Our Milford Sound Boat Tour was easily one of the highlights of our trip to Kiwiland. It’s also one of the few places in the world when you WANT to visit in the rain! Seriously, the views are spectacular in soggy weather as that is the only time you’ll be able to see the temporary waterfalls.

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I hope you like the look of these stop-offs on the road to Milford Sound! Stopping so many times might make your journey a little longer, but it’ll be even more enjoyable.

The road to Milford Sound - Foreshore  The road to Milford Sound - Mirror Lake  The road to Milford Sound - Kea time!

58 thoughts on “9 Must-see sights on the road to Milford Sound

  1. We did Doubtful rather than Milford. Apparently it’s bigger but not as picturesque. Next time we’ll do Milford so I can compare. Those crazy parrots though. We saw them at Frank Joseph when we climbed onto the glacier. Daft things.

    1. I love the Kea! They have such cheeky faces!
      I just googled Doubtful Sound, that looks gorgeous too. Does it have just as many waterfalls?

    1. Oooh a ride in a helicopter would be amaaaazing! Do you have a post about it Draco? I’d love to see your photos if you do!

    1. Thank you lovely!

      I think NZ is having a heat wave at the moment, but it’s still raining in Milford Sound! It must almost always look misty and lush!

  2. What a beautiful area! You fit a lot in two days. Funny how it is better in the rain. I guess it rains fairly often there? Or do you have to be lucky?

    1. Nah, it rains a LOT! I think it is NZs wettest area! I guess it would still count as lucky to see it in the sun…but then you’d miss all those beautiful waterfalls.

  3. This was the best drive I’ve ever done although now I realise there’s so many stops I missed out! The keas are so cheeky we loved having a wee speak with them and your photos captured the charm of this beautiful area perfectly!

    1. Yay! I blooming loved meeting those Keas! One of them decided to hitch a list on a tourist’s car, so as they drove off, he sat on their roof!

      Which stop offs did you do Lauren? 🙂

    1. Everything we did in Kiwiland seemed like an epic adventure! I totally agree though, I loved the misty rain forests!

  4. The Chasm is incredibl!! So stunning. I can only imagine how cool it would be to see in person! Great article and photos.

    1. It’s funny, normally I’d be up for a long hike just to see that…but there was so much to see near Milford Sound that the Chasm was just one of the many sights!! 😀

  5. We have been there as well and seen all these things. Only the weather was not nice but we were still satisfied with our visiting as only a few days of a year there is sunshine.

  6. This looks like a gorgeous road trip to Milford Sound. I hadn’t heard of it before but New Zealand is definitely on my travel wish list. Those Kea are so cute, it would be really neat to see them. I love how the waterfall at Homer Tunnel looks, it looks like it takes up the entire cliff side. Boyd Creek Track looks like my kind of hike, I love mossy forests! There are so many amazing places on this list I would want to see them all!

    1. Yay! I’m glad you’re heard of it now Brianna! Once you start planning a Kiwi trip, it’ll pop up as one of the must-see spots.

      The Kea were so fun, in fact I loved all the wildlife we saw in NZ! I hope when you get there it’ll be similarly epic!

  7. I had no idea that there were other glow worm caves apart from Waitomo. Such an interesting guide of places you must see and for me they are all places you may not see anywhere else but New Zealand.

    1. My friend went to both, and she said the caves at Waitomo are older, so they are even better (more stalactites etc.) The caves in Te Anau were still amazing to me though as I’d never seen glowworms before!

  8. Oh my gosh how is there so much to see just around Milford Sound?? I’m going to NZ later this year and am trying to figure out how I’m going to squeeze everything I want to see into a 2 week trip. The glow worms are a must, and the photos you included of the cliffs and chasm are just breathtaking. I can’t wait to experience all of this in person!

    1. Diana you are going to have SUCH a blast! Are you going to both the North and South Island? It’s just I have heard the other glowworm caves on the North Island are even more impressive!!

  9. Wow so impressed with how much you were able to do in your time there. What a wonderful adventure. The mountains with all the clouds looks so peaceful to me for some reason!

    1. I LOVE mossy trees. I am not sure what it is that makes them seem so pretty, but I always end up with way too many mossy photos. It’s the same here in Canada too! <3

  10. Josy, you managed to cram a lot into your road trip! I had never heard a alpine parrots, they sound a bit intimidating. Do they beg for food?

    1. Yes, at least I think they must have been hanging around all us humans hoping for food! The Kiwi government have put up lots of signs asking tourists not to feed them, so hopefully most people don’t.

      They are like giant, friendly parrots. They don’t look colourful in my photos, but the underside of their wings are beautiful, bright colours!

  11. Beautiful pictures!! I was there 2 years ago, but it was a way too short visit… Reading posts like this makes me so inspired to book a new trip to this beautiful country!

    1. I feel the same way about so many places in NZ. It’s like how ever much time you have, you need more! <3

      It's a shame it is so pricey to fly that far away!

    1. Oooh I hope the weather holds. It is a gorgeous place to explore! Plus, hopefully they’ll be fewer tourists at this time of year.

  12. Such beautiful pictures! I visited Auckland way back when I was in high school but can’t wait to go back to New Zealand.

    1. That is a pretty epic trip for High school! What kind of things did you do there on a school trip? We only had a day in Auckland, but I’d love to go back as the food was sooo good there. 🙂

  13. New Zealand and Oceania are on our list, but it will be several more years until we do that trip. The glowworms are definitely on my list.

  14. The pictures are lovely! New Zealand is so calm and what a pretty country! I want to see the Kea and the falls. The chasm trip sounds good to me too. It looks like you had a wonderful trip in New Zealand.

    1. I loved seeing the Kea, they have such cheeky personalities (kea-alities!?) One of them rode around on top of a tourist’s car when it couldn’t be bothered to walk!!

    1. As you’re into hiking and nature, I am very sure you would love it! If you go, I would love to see your photos. 😀

  15. We did a trip to New Zealand about a year back too, however for us making it to Milford Sound was jinxed! The day of our booking, it got cancelled due to bad weather. Thankfully we were in Queenstown for a few more days so we got another chance to go. But when we got there, our designated boat broke down and we had to come back! Such a pity since I was really looking forward to it. The drive there though was absolutely gorgeous – we stopped at a few places you mentioned and loved them, especially the chasm – such a wonder of nature!

    1. Oh no!! What a shame. I guess you got to see the edge of the Sound, but it must have been sooo annoying to have the boat break down! Did they not offer you a place on a different boat?

  16. This makes me look forward to visiting New Zealand so much. I planned to take a bus to Milford Sound, but I guess I should reconsider!

    1. Oooh Steph when are you going? You will have sooo much fun!

      A bus is a good option too as it’s cheaper and then you won’t have to drive yourself. It just means you’ll have fewer chances to stop-off, and then you stop and the famous sights, you’ll always be in a big group of people.

      It’ll still be awesome, just harder to find solitude. (You might just have to practice persuading the driver to stop for things like kea birds!!)

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