The BEST road trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound
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Most visitors make the trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound during a vacation in New Zealand. This blog will outline an ideal Milford Sound itinerary on a trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound, including where to stop and what to do!
The Perfect Trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound
One of the most visited places from Queenstown is Milford Sound. In fact, some might even say it is more popular than Queenstown itself. However, regardless of this, it’s safe to say that a trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound is high on everyone’s list of things to do in New Zealand.
I have been lucky enough to visit Milford Sound three times from Queenstown and during these visits have explored many of the different places along the way – some that took my breath away and others not so much.
Most visitors, however, only get one chance. So I decided to write this guide to the perfect trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound.
This blog will help you plan your own trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound by outlining what I consider to be an ideal Milford Sound itinerary!
Staying in Milford Sound
In my opinion, the only way to truly explore the spectacular stops in Fiordland National Park on your way from Queenstown to Milford Sound is to spend a night in Milford. Without stopping, the journey to Milford Sound is 4 hours.
That makes a round trip 8 hours (maybe more depending on weather and road conditions)! Staying the night will give you plenty of time to stop and check out the places mentioned in this blog and properly explore Milford Sound.
One of only two accommodation options in Milford Sound is the Milford Sound Lodge. The Milford Sound Lodge is located only 2 minutes from Milford Sound. Rooms here are not cheap, so instead, I recommend taking your car or campervan and getting a powered site. On my last trip to Milford, this is what Bailey and I did and found it to be the most affordable, but still comfortable, option.
The second accommodation option is on an overnight cruise. I can’t recommend this enough, however, I understand it may be out of some visitors price range as they certainly aren’t cheep. You can check prices here on Booking.com or on Viator here!
Road Trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound Ideal Itinerary
The times mentioned below are just guides and you can fit in lunch or snack breaks anywhere you choose. This day still gives you plenty of time to make it to Milford Sound before sunset.
1. 6:30 am – Leave Queenstown.
For this journey, it is important to leave before 7 am. Not only does this give you more time to explore but it will ensure you beat some 20 buses that leave Queenstown every morning. Getting stuck behind them could slow your journey down a lot.
2. 8 am – Stop in Mossburn for fuel
This is a rather funny place to see spectacular things, but Mossburn may surprise you! This place is always around 20-30 cents per liter of fuel cheaper than Te Anau and Queenstown.
If you live in Queenstown (like I do), cheap fuel is a pretty spectacular site to see! This is the best place to fuel up before heading to Milford Sound. On a full tank, you will be able to make it from Mossburn to Milford Sound and back again (fuel up again on your way out!)
3. 10 am – Visit Mirror Lakes
After another 2 hours of driving through Te Anau and into Fiordland National Park, you will drive by (on your left) Mirror Lakes. On a calm day, the lakes here reflect the mountains that surround them almost flawlessly. Even if it’s cloudy this is still a great stop and it only takes 15 minutes!
Mirror Lakes is very clearly signposted and you can’t miss it!
4. 11 am – Lake Marian
There are two options for the 11 am slot so read below for the other hike you can do on the road to Milford Sound.
Only a short 30 km drive from Mirror Lakes is the Lake Marian Track carpark. The carpark is actually located off Hollyford Road so you will need to turn off here to get to the carpark. The turnoff is really well signposted so you won’t miss it. Once you have turned off the car park is 2 minutes up the road and again is signposted.
Lake Marian is one of the most beautiful alpine lakes I have seen in New Zealand. For this reason, I find this to be a must-see place during your trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound.
The trail is not short and if you’re reasonably fit I would allow 3 hours to walk there, relax, and then walk back. This may sound like a lot of effort, but trust me, it’s so worth it!
11 am – Key Summit
The Key Summit track starts from the Routeburn Trail carpark around a 20 minutes’ drive from Mirror Lakes. There is a small carpark on the side of the main road where the track begins and it is well signposted.
The Key Summit is actually part of the Routeburn Track and takes you high above the Southern Alps for a 360-degree view of Fiordland National Park.
The hike is also around 3 hours return but this activity is only good on a clear or semi-clear day. If Fiordland National Park is covered in clouds you won’t see much from the top, but if it is clear you will be rewarded with incredible views!
I would still say Lake Marian is my preferred option, but this is also another choice. If you really love hiking and have the time and energy, do both!
5. 3 pm – The Chasm
The Chasm is located only 10km from Milford Sound and is the closest attraction. The Chasm is a waterfall that has carved its way through thick rock and left a rather neat rock formation behind. At the waterfall, there is a bridge that allows you to walk right over the top of the falls and get an amazing view from above.
The walk to the waterfall is only 5 minutes and there is plenty of parking. The car park is well signposted too.
6. 4 pm – Arrive at the Milford Sound Lodge
If you want to make your experience even better then book a Milford Sound overnight cruise to finish off this epic day the best way we know how!
Any time after 4 pm you will arrive at Milford Sound. You may arrive much later if you stopped for lunch or at additional places, but don’t worry, in the summer it doesn’t get dark until after 8 pm! Now you can check into the Milford Sound Lodge, have a bite to eat and head to the foreshore for sunset.
Sunset is one of the most peaceful times at Milford Sound as all the tourists have left you will almost have the place to yourself!
The next day you will have the whole day the explore Milford Sound. Some of the best ways are on a scenic or nature boat cruise as well as a kayaking trip. There are also a few hikes around Milford Sound as well as a water taxi that takes you to Lady Bowen Falls.
Since you have already stopped at many of the best stops on the way to Milford, on this day you can spend most of the day at Milford Soun! If you leave for Queenstown in the afternoon you will be back before dark. Allow 4 hours to drive from Milford Sound to Queenstown without any stops.
November 4, 2019