1. Te Anau
Te Anau is where your Milford Sound journey really begins. It's worth stopping over here to stock up on supplies and petrol, visit the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre, and get updates on the condition on the rest of the road in winter. It's a great place to camp overnight if you want to break up the journey from Queenstown to Milford Sound, or you can catch a coach from here if you don't want to drive the rest of the way.
Stop by Lake Te Anau, visit the Te Anau Glowworm Caves, take a jet boat trip with Fiordland Jet, or wander through the Te Anau Bird Sanctuary - there's plenty to keep you occupied if you stay here overnight.
2. Eglinton Valley
This glacier-carved valley is surrounded by rocky mountains and carpeted with golden tussock grass. The Milford road winds along the valley floor alongside the Eglinton River. Endangered species such as short-tailed bats, kaka, and kakariki call the valley home, thanks to the work of DOC. Stopping here gives you a chance to appreciate views of the mountains in one of the few open spaces along the road to Milford.
3. Mirror Lakes
Set on the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound, the Mirror Lakes are yet another photogenic beauty spot. The small mountain lakes (called tarns) perfectly reflect the Earl Mountains. A short 400-metre boardwalk around the Mirror Lakes gives you the chance to stretch your legs and breathe pure Fiordland air.
4. Knobs Flat
Knobs Flat is a famous pit stop on the Milford Sound road for an unlikely reason - it's the last place to use a flushing toilet before you reach the sound. There's another hour to go until you reach the cruise departure point, so it's a good idea to pull over and use the bathroom, especially because people using native bush as a toilet is a massive conservation problem.
There are also handy DOC signs that provide information on Eglinton Valley wildlife, so you'll have something to read while waiting your turn in the bathroom.
5. Lake Gunn
A gentle 45-minute walk, The Lake Gunn hike is one of the best short walks in Fiordland. The trail will take you through red beech forest and moss-covered trees to the stony shores of Lake Gunn. Along the way, you might see native birds such as yellowheads and kaka.
6. Hollyford Valley Lookout
Also known as Pop's View, this lookout point is a nice spot to stop, take a break, and absorb your beautiful surrounds. It's also another great photo stop, so make sure you have your camera at the ready.
7. Lake Marian
If you're drawing out the road trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound and are craving a longer walk, Lake Marian is an excellent spot. The climb to the lake only takes one hour, but you should allow three hours return to complete the whole track.
The trail passes a series of spectacular waterfalls and culminates in Lake Marian itself, a glorious alpine lake. It is set in a hanging valley, which is just as picturesque as it sounds.
You should have at least moderate fitness for this hike.
8. Humboldt Falls
Humboldt is one of the most impressive waterfalls in Milford Sound. To get there, you'll need to detour off the main road to Milford Sound and take the Hollyford Track. At the very end of the road, you'll find the Hollyford Track trailhead. From there the falls are only a 15-minute walk (30 minutes return) through a rainforest.
9. Monkey Creek
Monkey Creek is more than just a pretty place - it's a great spot to see kea! If you do see the cheeky parrots, keep a safe distance and don't feed them.
You can also fill up your water bottle from the creek. The water here is pristine and safe to drink. Plus, it tastes delicious!
10. Gertrude Valley
The Gertrude Valley Saddle walk starts out one kilometre before the Homer Tunnel on your way to Milford Sound. The whole walk is about four to six hours return, but the first 800 metres makes a great stroll and pit stop on the way to Milford Sound. The track starts out along a riverbed at the end of Gertrude Valley. This easy walk gives you great views of the surrounding mountains.