Give yourself enough time to get there
Queenstown to Milford Sound takes four hours with no stops.
Te Anau to Milford Sound takes two and a half hours with no stops.
On top of these travel times, allow plenty of time for scenic photo stops and the occasional delay. Most people plan to arrive in Milford Sound around the time their cruise boat departs, which means some of the scenic stops along the Milford Road can get congested around the same time.
During summer, traffic on the road is heavier. Leave Queenstown before 6am or after 10am (or from Te Anau before 8am and after 11am) to avoid the busiest time on the road.
In the winter months, there isn’t as much traffic on the road so you can leave later in the morning.
One place in particular to be prepared for delays is at the Homer Tunnel. The one-way tunnel stretches for 1.2 kilometres, and with a steady flow of traffic, you may need to wait for up to 20 minutes.
Fuel up in Te Anau
There are no petrol stations or fuel stops between Te Anau and Milford Sound. If you're driving make sure you have a full tank as you leave Te Anau!
There is no cell phone coverage on the Milford Road, so if you run out of petrol you might have trouble calling for help!
Petrol and diesel are both available in Milford Sound, but payment is limited to certain credit cards and supply is limited.
The lack of reception also means it's also a good idea to download any maps or information you need beforehand.
Be prepared for winter travel
In winter, snow, ice and risk of avalanches make the road to Milford much more treacherous, and safe driving becomes critical.
Between May and November, all vehicles driving to Milford Sound must have snow chains.
When possible, leave later in the morning to give ice on the road a chance to melt, and take extra care driving in areas of shade.
Stay alert and take note of signposted avalanche areas - for example, there is a No Stopping Zone between the Hollyford Road Junction and The Chasm, as this is an avalanche area.
For up to date information on road conditions, check the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) website.
Be considerate of space - it's a narrow road!
If you're driving the Milford Sound road and other cars are following behind you, be courteous and find a safe place to pull over and let the other vehicles pass.
Parking is also limited at scenic stops, so be sure to make the best use of the space available, so other travellers can stop there also.
It's a long drive, so take breaks when you need them.
You’ll need to focus on the narrow and winding road if you’re driving – if you want to admire the view, pull over.
If you want to have rest stops along the way, public toilets are available in Te Anau, Knob’s Flat, and at Milford.
Think about taking a coach
The safest way to get to Milford Sound is onboard a coach. If you're not a confident driver, we recommend taking this option.
Your driver will stop at all the best sights along the way, so you still get to enjoy the splendour of the Milford Sound road. However, it makes travelling the windy and narrow road easier - it can be challenging to navigate, especially if you're not a Milford Sound local.
A coach tour means you don't have to deal with the stress of driving, you can enjoy the scenery properly, and you are guaranteed to make your cruise connection on time. After your tour, you don't need to worry about driving back to Te Anau or Queenstown tired or in the dark.
You also won't need to deal with the limited parking once you arrive at Milford Sound.
Overall, a day trip to Milford Sound on a coach is a safer and more convenient experience.