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Where to Stay Near Milford Sound: The Closest Hotels & Campgrounds

Where to Stay Near Milford Sound: The Closest Hotels & Campgrounds

Tucked away in Fiordland National Park on the west coast of South Island is one of New Zealand’s must-see destinations – the stunning Milford Sound. I adore this part of the country because there are natural spectacles everywhere you look! It’s home to towering mountains like Mitre Peak and cascading waterfalls including Stirling and Bowen Falls.

Its amazing local wildlife is also worth discovering with dolphins, penguins, and seals calling this place home. I’ve even spotted the rare Fiordland Crested penguins while kayaking! If you happen to do some diving here, you’ll also see rare black coral (which is actually white).

Some of the top activities on the South Island can be found in this magnificent place including hiking, kayaking, cruises, snorkeling, diving, and scenic flights. The weather here is generally rainy (it rains an average of 182 days per year!) and the temperature is cool all year round. So, no matter what time of year you visit New Zealand, remember to wear warm clothes and bring raincoats or umbrellas if you’re going to Milford Sound.

For centuries, Milford Sound could only be explored on foot or by boat. Luckily, easy access to this remote and unspoiled location from Queenstown and Te Anau has been created, making anyone’s visit more convenient. In fact, the drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound is one of my favorites on the South Island!

However, there are things you should know before visiting Milford Sound. For one, you’ll need to book accommodations, preferably ahead of time to get the best options!

That’s why I’ve created the ultimate guide on where to stay near Milford Sound including the closest campgrounds and hotels. Keep reading for all the info!

Where are the Best Places to Stay Near Milford Sound? 

View of Mitre Peak and Milford Sound from the Milford foreshore in New Zealand
View from the Milford Sound foreshore!

Now that you know you’re going to visit one of the best places on the South Island, it’s time to figure out where to stay. While there are plenty of places to stay near Milford Sound, each is a completely different experience. So, if you’re debating between a traditional hotel, camping, or a cruise, I’ll outline all the top options!

There’s only one public accommodation provider near the fiord, and that’s Milford Sound Lodge. I recommend staying here if you want to be near the fiord, as it’s the only accommodation that’s within walking distance. Here, you can find rooms that suit all budgets.

If you want to sleep and explore the fiord in style, book an overnight cruise in Milford Sound. Groups are small so you can enjoy a private, calm experience while you take in the scenery. This also isn’t your average cruise so expect luxury with an on-board hot tub, private heated cabins with ensuite bathrooms, and full breakfasts and 3-course dinners included.

You’ll spend one night aboard a ship that will cruise the beautiful fiord at a slow pace, giving you lots of time to take in fascinating waterfalls, rainforests, mountains, and wildlife. You can check out underwater footage as you cruise along, or even rent kayaks. It’s great for everyone including couples, friends, and families, and you can book online here with prices starting at $1,146 NZD.

Another option you have is to stay in one of the campgrounds near Milford Sound, which are just along the road. If you’re road-tripping on a budget and want to reconnect with nature, then this is the perfect base for you.

Now, in case every Milford Sound accommodation is booked or if you just opt to stay at a hotel close to public facilities, then the best idea would be to stay in the town of Te Anau or stay in Queenstown.

Stay at the Milford Sound Lodge

A room at the Milford Sound Lodge
The Milford Sound Lodge is the closest you can get!
  • Location: Within Fiordland National Park; surrounded by mountains, rivers, and rainforest; less than 1.5 km (1 mile) from the fiord
  • Price range: Room rates start at $695 NZD per night; camping starts at $70 per night
  • Types of rooms: Premium Riverside Chalets, 2-Bedroom Garden Chalet Suites, Mountain View Chalets, and Campervan Park
  • Parking: Free private parking
  • Pet-friendly: No, pets aren’t permitted
  • Best for: Couples, families, friends, nature lovers

Only a few buildings stand in Milford Sound and one of them is Milford Sound Lodge, the only accommodation provider in the area. It gives travelers a rare chance to experience staying in a World Heritage Site, which is teeming with natural beauty. I love this secluded and stylish chalet because it’s a comfy place to stay and the views are stellar with waterfalls, cascading rivers, and towering peaks nearby.

Four types of accommodation are available for booking at the lodge. First, there are Premium Riverside Chalets, which would appeal to couples and nature lovers. The luxurious, studio chalets overlook the Cleddau River and also offer views of the rainforest and mountains.

Its unique amenities include underfloor heating, a sofa bed, parking at your door, and a kitchenette. The Premium Riverside Chalet is always the first to book up, so I recommend reserving one chalet months before your scheduled vacation. Rates start at $875 NZD per night.

A view out the window of a room at the Milford Sound Lodge in New Zealand
Photo credit: Milford Sound Lodge
Food at the Milford Sound Lodge
Photo credit: Milford Sound Lodge

The second option you have are 2 Bedroom Garden Chalet Suites, which are suitable for up to four people. Each one is spacious and relaxing and features a kitchenette set within forest gardens. These chalets have stunning views of surrounding mountains and rainforests, feature an outdoor deck, two separate bedrooms, and radiator heating. Prices start at $975 NZD per night.

Aside from the two-bedroom chalets, Milford Sound Lodge also houses Mountain View Chalets, which, of course, have views of the mountains as well as the rainforest. These chalets don’t have their own kitchenette, however, but they come with parking, underfloor heating, a fridge, and tea and coffee. A one-night stay costs $695 NZD.

If you’re visiting Milford Sound Lodge with a campervan, then the best spot for you will be Rainforest Campervan Park, the only place to park for the night in the area. It is a powered campervan site that is situated just beside it. Guests staying at the park have access to a 24-hour kitchen, guest lounge, and laundry. Wi-Fi is available for a surcharge. You can stay here for as low as $70 NZD per night.

Related read: If you’re hoping to travel in a camper, here is everything you need to know about campervan rentals in Queenstown including the best rental options!

Milford Sound Lodge room
Photo credit: Milford Sound Lodge

Onsite facilities at the lodge include a coin-operated laundry room, a guest kitchen, an array of board games, and a guest lounge with internet access and super comfy sofas. There’s also a restaurant, called Pio Pio Restaurant, which offers delicious New Zealand food, craft beers, and wine. It is open every day for lunch, snacks, and dinner, and delivers continental breakfast to rooms daily.

Need transportation? Milford Sound Lodge provides guests with a shuttle service to and from a bus stop or a boat terminal at scheduled times.

Pros of staying at the Milford Sound Lodge:

  • Breathtaking views
  • Splendid location
  • Clean and comfortable accommodations
  • Excellent staff
  • Variety of rooms and campgrounds

Cons of staying at the Milford Sound Lodge:

  • Expensive
  • Need to book well in advance
  • Only one restaurant on site
  • Limited choices at the restaurant

You can check availability and book rooms for the Milford Sound Lodge online here. Make sure to book in advance so you can get your ideal room and the best rates right in Milford Sound!

Overnight Cruise in Milford Sound

Looking out the back of a Milford Sound cruise
Photo credit: RealNZ
  • Location: In Milford Sound
  • Price range: Rates for a one-night stay start at $1,146 NZD
  • Types of rooms: Deluxe quadruple room, deluxe twin room
  • Parking: None
  • Pet-friendly: No
  • Best for: People looking for an ultimate Milford Sound experience

A Milford Sound Overnight Cruise is the best way to experience Milford Sound as you actually get to stay overnight on a boat in the fiord. I think this is the coolest place to stay in Milford Sound because you’re right on the water!

This is the perfect opportunity to get closer to towering peaks and magnificent waterfalls, as well as to spot local wildlife from the ship, including seals and penguins.

During the journey, you can soak in the onboard hot tub or spend time relaxing in your private heated cabin. You can take advantage of the complimentary tea or coffee throughout the cruise or find additional beverages in the cash bar.

Make sure you also check out the beautiful world beneath the surface with underwater footage captured by a Remote Operating Vehicle (ROV).

Since the cruise is only overnight, you’re just served breakfast and dinner, specifically continental or cooked breakfasts and a three-course dinner. Meanwhile, the luxury cabins onboard vary from quadruple rooms to deluxe twin rooms. Each cabin is complete with an ensuite bathroom and is climate controlled with both air conditioning and heating.

Rates start at approximately $1,146 NZD per night. Although pricey, this cruise is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that’s worth its price tag. Groups are limited to 18 people so you can have a relaxing, intimate trip like no other. There are also windows overlooking the water everywhere from the dining quarters to your bed so you can feel as close as possible to the Milford Sound.

If you need transportation, roundtrip land transfers from Te Anau or Queenstown are available for an additional fee.

Pros:

  • See more wildlife
  • Sunset and sunrise on the water
  • Spectacular sights
  • Spacious and comfortable cabins
  • Friendly and helpful crew
  • Delicious breakfasts and 3-course dinners

Cons:

  • Limited availability
  • Super expensive
  • Small bathrooms

To reserve your spot for this spectacular experience, book the Milford Sound Cruise online here!

Stay on the Road to Milford

Bailey stands in the middle of the road in the mountains between Te Anau and Milford Sound
Driving yourself gives you more freedom!

Most accommodations on the road to Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park are campgrounds. Only a couple of actual hotels are available in the area. Nevertheless, camping is one of the best ways to fully experience the national parks of New Zealand.

Not only does camping help you save money, but I found there’s nothing quite like waking up surrounded by picturesque mountains, fresh air, wild rivers, lush rainforest, and more.

However, take note that freedom camping is strictly prohibited in Milford Sound due to its location within a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This means you only get to pitch a tent or park your vehicle such as a campervan in designated campsites.

Pros of staying on the road to Milford:

  • Closer than other towns
  • Cheaper
  • In nature
  • Scenic and peaceful

Cons:

  • Mostly only camping
  • Limited services like WiFi and electricity
  • Limited camping availability

Related read: Camping is a great option if you love hiking! Check out the best hikes in Milford Sound to enjoy this area to its fullest.

Campgrounds Near Milford Sound

Bailey and her mum at a campsite on the West Coast of New Zealand
Camping is an affordable option!

Fiordland National Park is a World Heritage Site that hosts some family-friendly campgrounds that are good for pitching tents or parking cars, campervans, and caravans. Since booking a room for the whole family can get expensive, especially during peak season, camping is a cost-effective and excellent alternative to discover the great outdoors of New Zealand.

All campgrounds near Milford Sound are managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and are located in different terrains, from lakeshores and river banks to forests. Being surrounded by nature, the campsites allow campers to engage in activities such as fishing, hiking, strolls along the lake or river, nature walks, and stargazing, among others.

There are only a few facilities in the campsites including non-flush toilets, picnic tables, and BBQ grills. There are also fire pits but take note that fires are only permitted when there is no fire ban. Also, make sure to bring your own drinking water.

Each campsite requires tourists to book online first before occupying a site. All bookings are on a first-come-first-served basis. Phone and in-person bookings are also available, but there’s a service charge of $10 NZD. You can contact the Fiordland National Park Visitor Center by phone at +64 3 249 7924 or by email at fiordlandvc@doc.govt.nz.

Serviced campsites have flush toilets, hot showers, tap water, and garbage collection. However, you may still need to treat water before drinking it. Rates per serviced campsite depend on the camper’s age and whether or not you have a powered or unpowered site. They range from $10-$23 NZD per head per night.

Unserviced campsites are more basic and will have toilets and a water supply, but amenities like showers, BBQs, cooking shelters, and garbage bins may vary from site to site. Prices range from $5-$18 NZD per night.

Below are eight campsites near the fiord you can choose from.

1. Cascade Creek Campsite

  • Location: Set in northern Fiordland, close to the Eglinton and Cascade rivers
  • Price range: Starting rates are $7.50 NZD for children and $15 NZD for adults
  • Types of campsites: Tents, campervans, caravans
  • Parking: Yes
  • Pet-friendly: No
  • Best for: People who love nature walks and fishing

Set in northern Fiordland, Cascade Creek Campsite is a popular, scenic campground near Cascade Creek at Lake Gunn’s southern end. It is near the Eglinton and Cascade rivers, sitting 43.3 km (26.9 miles) away from Milford Sound. 

Offering spectacular views of Fiordland, this vast campsite is suitable for larger vehicles, as it has plenty of pull-ins to park campervans and caravans. Cars can also access the place.

Activities to enjoy at Cascade Creek Campsite are fishing, swimming, and BBQing. You can also go for an easy 45-minute nature walk from the campsite to the edge of Lake Gunn while enjoying the tranquil surroundings.

It has a large grassy area with 120 non-powered/tent sites. The fees are $15 NZD per night for adults and $7.50 NZD per night for children (5-17 years), and infants are free. However, dogs are not permitted on these grounds.

Besides the tent sites, there are a few facilities available such as two non-flush toilets (one wheelchair accessible and the other with assistance), a cooking shelter, picnic tables, tap water, and creek water. There are fire pits as well.

2. Upper Eglinton Conservation Campsite 

  • Location: Situated in northern Fiordland, close to the Eglinton River and Eglinton Valley
  • Price Range: A one-night stay for a child costs $7.50 NZD, while its $15 NZD for an adult
  • Types of campsites: Tents, campervans
  • Parking: Yes
  • Pet-friendly: No
  • Best for: Campers who love fishing, tramping, and nature walk

A small and scenic campsite in northern Fiordland, beside the Eglinton River, Upper Eglinton Campsite is accessible to cars and campervans. From here, Milford Sound lies 49 km (30.5 miles) away.

Before you reach it, you will encounter a tight turn that is not suitable for large vehicles. On one side of the campsite, there are a few trees and shelter, along with a picnic table, fire pits, and non-flush toilets.

Moreover, there are only three non-powered tent sites available. Dogs are also not allowed here. The fees per night are $15 NZD for adults and $7.50 NZD for children (5-17 years), and kids under 5 are free. Your booking will be for a site, which will be assigned or selected on arrival.

Upper Eglinton Campsite puts campers close to walking trails, including the Earl Mountain Tracks. You can also fly fish in the river or simply appreciate the breathtaking views of the Eglinton Valley.

3. Kiosk Creek Conservation Campsite

  • Location: Situated in northern Fiordland, within walking distance of Eglinton River
  • Price range: Rates for children start at $7.50 NZD per night, while it’s $15 NZD per night for adults
  • Types of campsites: Tents, campervans, caravans
  • Parking: Yes
  • Pet-friendly: No
  • Best for: Travelers looking for a scenic campground with sites sheltered by trees and near a river

Kiosk Creek Campsite is among the campgrounds near Milford Sound that is nestled in northern Fiordland, just a few meters from Eglinton River. The distance between this campground and the fiord is 54.8 km (34 miles).

The campsite got its name from a kiosk that once stood here and was managed by the wife of a road worker on this site. Here, you will be rewarded with fascinating views, particularly views of glacial moraine deposits.

Cars, campervans, and caravans can access the place. Campers are provided with a few facilities like non-flush toilets, fire pits, BBQ areas, and picnic tables. 

Sheltered by lush trees, 15 non-powered/tent sites can be reserved through online booking or through phone and in-person booking (with a service fee of $10 NZD). It’s $15 NZD per night for adults, $7.50 NZD per night for children, and infants are free.

Kiosk Creek Campsite doesn’t permit dogs.

4. Knobs Flat Accommodation and Campground

  • Location: Situated in the heart of the Eglinton Valley
  • Price range: One campsite per night costs $25 NZD
  • Types of campsites: Tents, campervans
  • Parking: Yes
  • Pet-friendly: No
  • Best for: People who need a place to stop along the way to Milford Sound; those who are into walking/hiking, fishing, and bird watching

Located within the magnificent Eglinton Valley, Knobs Flat Accommodation and Campgrounds have an interesting history. It served as a campsite for the workers constructing the road to Milford Sound, together with the Homer Tunnel, until the 1980s.

At present, Knobs Flat (also called Eglinton Valley Camp) offers information, accommodation, and facilities to travelers who need a place to stop to rest before resuming their journey to Milford Sound, which lies 55 km (34 miles) away from the property. Notably, this is where you’ll find the last flush toilets until you arrive at the fiord.

In case you need to make a call, there’s a public telephone at the campsite. You can also obtain interesting information regarding the wildlife of the Eglinton Valley here, as well as about the avalanches in the area.

About the accommodations on offer here, choose one site from its campground on the forest edge. You can reserve one for as low as $25 NZD per night and will have free access to a shared kitchen, toilets, hot showers, as well as picnic tables, and coin-operated laundry facilities.

At Knobs Flat, there’s a range of activities you can try during your stay. The accommodation is actually the starting point of many renowned walking trails in the area such as Key Summit, Gertrude Saddle, and Lake Marian.

Other than walking, fishing and bird-watching can also be enjoyed. I find it’s even nice to sit on the grass here and admire the series of small hills across the road. Those mounds are the result of the last glaciers making their way through the Eglinton Valley over the years.

Make sure to check availability and book ahead for Knob’s Flat Campground online here.

5. Deer Flat Campsite 

  • Location: Located in northern Fiordland, on the banks of the Eglinton River
  • Price range: Starting price for kids is $7.50 NZD per night and $15 NZD for adults per night
  • Types of campsites: Tents, campervans, caravans
  • Parking: Yes
  • Pet-friendly: No
  • Best for: The site would appeal to fishing and swimming enthusiasts

Deer Flat Campsite is a scenic and standard campground sitting on the banks of the Eglinton River in northern Fiordland. It is set in a grassy area with small patches of beech forest surrounding it. The place’s distance from Milford Sound is 58.1 km (36.1 miles).

Vehicles with access to the site include cars, campervans, and caravans. Campers are required to do an online booking to reserve one of the 15 non-powered campsites. Phone and in-person bookings are also available but a $10 NZD service fee applies.

Campers aged from 5 to 17 years old are charged $7.50 NZD per night, while adults 18 years old and above are charged $15 NZD per night. Infants and toddlers are free of charge. 

The main activities you can enjoy at Deer Flat Campsite are fishing and swimming, thanks to its proximity to the river. You can also go for a stroll along the river, or relax underneath a tree.

Meanwhile, a few of the onsite facilities are fire pits, non-flush toilets, and picnic tables. However, dogs are not allowed on the site so avoid this spot if you have furry friends!

6. Mackay Creek Campsite

  • Location: Situated in northern Fiordland, near the Eglinton Valley and beside the Eglinton River
  • Price Range: Rates start at $7.50 NZD per head per night
  • Types of campsites: Tents, campervans, caravans
  • Parking: Yes
  • Pet-friendly: No
  • Best for: People who are into fishing and those seeking a laid-back vacation

Mackay Creek Campsite is a scenic campsite located in the northern part of Fiordland, 66 km (41 miles) away from Milford Sound. Every morning, campers will wake up with majestic views of the Eglinton Valley.

This campsite is one of the tranquil campgrounds near Milford Sound, as well as one of those that require a booking to reserve a site, which will be selected on arrival. Phone and in-person bookings are also available though, but they come with a service charge of $10 NZD.

There are a total of 20 non-powered tent sites available. The fees are $15 NZD per night for adults and $7.50 NZD per night for children. Infants are free of charge. The site is ideal for tents, campervans, and caravans. Cars can also access the campground.

Things to do here include fishing, walking along the Eglinton river, and just simply enjoying the peaceful atmosphere and fascinating views of the valley. Meanwhile, on-site facilities are non-flush toilets, fire pits, and picnic tables with BBQ grills. The water supply is from a stream.

7. Totara Campsite

  • Location: Next to Eglinton River, just off the Te-Anau-Milford highway
  • Price range: Fees range from $7.50-$15 NZD per head per night
  • Types of campsite: Tents, campervans, caravans
  • Parking: Yes
  • Pet-friendly: No
  • Best for: People looking for a large campsite sheltered by trees and close to a river

Located next to Eglinton River, Totara Campsite lies 67 km (41.5 miles) from Milford Sound. It provides access to larger vehicles such as cars, campervans, and caravans. The area is dominated by a lush beech forest that provides lots of shade to the campgrounds.

There are 20 non-powered campsites you can choose from, and facilities include fire pits, non-flush toilets, picnic tables, and BBQ grills. You can get water from a stream. However, this isn’t a great option for travelers bringing their dogs, as dogs aren’t allowed.

A one-night stay costs $7.50-$15 NZD per head. Bookings are done online, but travelers can reserve a campsite through phone and in-person booking as well with a service fee of $10 NZD.

8. Walker Creek Campsite

  • Location: Located in northern Fiordland, beside Eglinton River
  • Price range: Fees per head for a one-night stay vary from $7.50-$15 NZD
  • Types of campsites: Tents, campervans
  • Parking: Yes
  • Pet-friendly: No
  • Best for: Couples, families, and friends wanting to stay somewhere quiet and on the riverbanks

Walker Creek Campsite is also one of the campgrounds near Milford Sound that is located in northern Fiordland and beside the Eglinton River. Sitting 70.5 km (43.5 miles) away from Milford Sound, it is accessible to cars and campervans.

Walker Creek Campsite is a small yet scenic campground with five non-powered sites surrounded by trees. Starting price of sites is $7.50 NZD for children and $15 NZD for adults. Bookings can be done online, as well as through phone and in-person with a $10 NZD service charge.

There are fire pits, non-flush toilets, and picnic tables scattered in the area. Dogs are also not allowed on these grounds.

Related read: If you’re debating which fiord to visit in New Zealand, read my unbiased comparison of Milford Sound versus Doubtful Sound!

Hotels on the Milford Sound Road

1. Eglinton Valley Camp

Cabins at Eglinton Valley Camp
Photo credit: Eglinton Valley Camp
View out the window of a room at Eglinton Valley Camp
Photo credit: Eglinton Valley Camp
  • Location: Situated in Te Anau Downs, in the heart of the Fiordland National Park
  • Price range: Rates start at $190 NZD for cabins and $25 NZD for campsites per night
  • Types of accommodations: Cabins, campgrounds
  • Parking: Yes
  • Pet-friendly: No
  • Best for: Couples or small groups looking for an alternative to Milford Sound Lodge; those who love walking/hiking, fishing, and bird watching

While there’s no other Milford Sound accommodation provider aside from Milford Sound Lodge, there’s still another lodge where you can stay near the fiord and that’s Eglinton Valley Camp.

Eglinton Valley Camp is in Te Anau Downs, lying 55 km (34 miles) from Milford Sound, in the heart of Fiordland National Park. It offers five luxurious cabins that are a perfect home away from home.

Cabins vary in size but they all feature a seating area, a dining area, a bathroom with a shower, and a terrace with mountain views. Although the camp doesn’t have a restaurant on site, each cabin has a fully-equipped kitchenette complete with a toaster, a stovetop, a tea/coffee maker, a fridge, two gas cooking tops, a small gas grill, a range of pots/pans, cutlery, utensils, a coffee plunger, and wine glasses. All linen and towels are also provided.

Two people staying at one cabin for a night will cost $190-$220 NZD depending on the type of cabin. There’s an additional cost for extra guests.

Apart from the cabins, Eglinton Valley Camp also offers campsites for $25 NZD per night, making it the only serviced campground on the road to Milford. The sites are non-powered, so be sure to charge up your gadgets before you come.

Campers can make use of various facilities such as a shared kitchen, shared toilets, hot showers, picnic tables, and coin-operated laundry facilities. One unpowered tent or campervan site starts at $25 NZD per night.

Take note that there’s no internet access available at Eglinton Valley Camp, but there are plenty of hiking and cycling trails, bird-watching, or fishing to be done.

After a day full of exciting activities, guests can relax in the shared lounge area or in the garden. Another available amenity onsite is free private parking.

Book your stay at Eglinton Valley Camp online here to enjoy everything these cozy cabins and campsites offer!

Stay in Te Anau

A boat cruises Lake Te Anau
On the cruise it’s so quiet – I love it!

Sitting on the edge of Lake Te Anau, the largest lake on the South Island and the second biggest in New Zealand, Te Anau is the gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound. Because of this, it’s a go-to vacation destination for locals and tourists.

It’s 118 km (73 miles) from Milford Sound, so the drive is only 1.5 hours and its spectacular views along the way make this one of my favorite road trips on the South Island!

But this small town is more than just the entrance to the park and fiord, it also has everything you need for an awesome visit.

There are so many things you can do in Te Anau that boredom will never strike. It’s one of the many places you can see a glow worm cave in New Zealand. You can also hike up the Kepler Track, join a floatplane tour, and take to the air on a helicopter flight over Milford Sound.

Moreover, this little town hosts an array of fantastic options for accommodations suitable for all budgets. There are also lots of restaurants in Te Anau that specialize in different cuisines such as Italian, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, and more.

Pros of staying in Te Anau:

  • Lots of accommodation options in all budget categories
  • Other things to do besides visiting Milford
  • Pretty lake
  • Restaurants, grocery stores, and gas stations are plentiful
  • Can join day tours to Milford

Cons of staying in Te Anau:

  • Still a fair way from Milford
  • Can be busy
  • Not in nature

The Best Hotels in Te Anau

Breathtaking lakeside aerial photo of Te Anau Lakeview Kiwi Holiday Park & Motels in Te Anau, New Zealand
Photo credit: Te Anau Lakeview Kiwi Holiday Park & Motels

Although only a small town, Te Anau boasts lots of amazing places to stay. I almost always stay here when exploring Milford Sound. The reason? Well, I like to take my time on the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound stopping along to way to enjoy hikes and viewpoints. The only way to do this is to stay in Te Anau or Milford Sound itself (which is much more expensive!)

For budget travelers, you can’t beat staying at the Te Anau Lakeview Kiwi Holiday Park & Motels. It’s perfect for those on a road trip in a campervan or motorhome and has budget rooms available. If you’re a social traveler, the Lakefront Backpackers is another good budget option and they have dorm beds and private rooms.

If you can spend a little more I love to stay at the Aden Motel. They have studio, 1-bedroom, and 2-bedroom apartments that are absolutely beautiful. For the price, it’s the best value place in town. Of course, if you have a larger budget then check out the Fiordland Lakeview Motel and Apartments. They also specialize in apartments but some of their rooms have magnificent views of the lake.

If you’re traveling in a larger group or just want a more local experience consider booking a holiday home in Te Anau. There are lots to choose from all the way from large houses to smaller apartments. The best part is they work out cheaper for the luxuries you get!

Related read: If you’re planning to get here from the North Island, make sure you read up on catching the ferry to the South Island.

The Best Day Trips from Te Anau to Milford Sound

If you choose to stay in Te Anau, you can easily join one of the below tours to visit Milford Sound. These tours make visiting Milford Sound a breeze, with no planning required on your part!

Small-Group Tour (with transport from Te Anau)

A boat cruise up to a waterfall in Milford Sound
You need to pick the correct cruise if you want to get close to the waterfalls like above!

This premium small-group tour ticks most of the boxes for tourists to Milford Sound, that’s because it includes transport to and from Te Anau, a 2-hour boat cruise, and a picnic lunch – plus, it’s limited to just 30 guests. 

Your day starts in Te Anau, and your driver will stop several times on the 1.5-hour drive into Milford Sound, which a lot of the larger group tours don’t do. Some of the most notable stops include the Lord of the Rings-esque Eglinton Valley, the aptly named Mirror Lakes (thanks to the lake’s reflective surface), and the peaceful Lake Gunn. 

Perhaps, the best stop on the road into Milford is the Homer Tunnel which is a feat of engineering and is literally carved through a mountain. It’s 1.2 kilometers (0.75 miles) in length and took almost 20 years to build due to the dangerous nature of its location.

From the Homer Tunnel, it’s a picturesque drive down the valley to Milford Sound Visitor Center, where you will catch your boat. The cruise is 2 hours and is a smaller boat meaning it’s a much more personalized experience. The ratings of this cruise operator are exceptional too.

The smaller boat also gets you up super close to the magnificent waterfalls and like the small cruise above, you’ll get really close to the action and may even get wet!

Lunch will be served on the boat and is picnic-style. So, sit back and enjoy your meal but be sure to keep one eye out the window in case you see some of the wildlife that is abundant in these waters, like dolphins, fur seals, and penguins!

After the cruise, you will board the bus for the 1.5-hour-long journey back to Te Anau. Your driver will break up the journey with a few more stops like The Chasm and Pop’s View Lookout. These stops are spectacular and not visited on most tours.

This particular tour is $199 NZD per adult, which is surprisingly reasonable when you consider all that it includes!

If you want to join this cruise, check availability and book it online here!

Milford Sound Coach, Cruise, and Underwater Observatory with Lunch (with transport from Te Anau)

Lady Bowen Falls a seen on Milford Sound tour from Queenstown
The stunning Lady Bowen Falls!

This particular Milford Sound tour is a firm favorite with families because it includes access to the Underwater Observatory at Milford Sound, which kids love! 

The tour departs from Te Anau (tour options are also available from Queenstown) and includes several stops en route to your boat cruise, including Eglinton Valley, Mirror Lakes, and Lake Gunn. It’s also a small group tour – so the smaller coach and smaller boat mean you’re getting a more personalized experience. Plus, as I’ve mentioned, the smaller boats can get super close to the waterfalls in Milford as well as the wildlife there.

The scenic cruise included in this tour is 2-hours long and comes with commentary from your captain and a visit to Seal Rock where you can see fur seals sunbaking. Keep your eyes peeled for the native dusky dolphins and the tiny Fiordland Crested Penguin, which tends to be the “star of the show” for kids.

After your cruise, you will visit the Underwater Observatory at Milford Sound, which is, in fact, the only floating underwater observatory in the world. Here, at 10 meters (33 feet) below sea level, you can get up close to the unique sea life of the area without getting wet! See various species of fish, fur seals, as well as the very interesting black coral, which is usually only seen at depths of 500 meters (1,640 feet) or more.

A picnic lunch is included, which is typically enjoyed onboard your 2-hour boat cruise. You can purchase alcoholic drinks on board for an additional charge too.

The tour costs $189 per adult and includes transport from Te Anau, a 2-hour boat cruise, entry to the Underwater Observatory, plus a picnic lunch! It’s one of the most inclusive Milford Sound tours from Te Anau.

If you’re interested in this cruise from Te Anau, pick a date and book your spot online here.

Stay in Queenstown

The view from the top of the Queenstown gondola
Queenstown is so beautiful!

Queenstown is set on the shore of the majestic Lake Wakatipu among the marvelous Southern Alps. It is a perfect holiday spot all year round because of the many exciting activities it offers no matter what the season is. I love Queenstown so much, I moved here!

Queenstown has plenty of things to do from adventure sports such as skydiving, jet boating, bungee jumping, canyon swinging, river rafting, and horse trekking available at any time of the year. Whereas, skiing is the perfect winter activity in Queenstown (and you can enjoy it right through to spring).

Queenstown is also a great biking destination in New Zealand, which makes it ideal for cyclists. It hosts a variety of easy scenic tracks, backcountry trails, and even heli-biking. It is also home to the only gondola-accessed downhill mountain biking in the Southern Hemisphere.

But the resort town is not only about hardcore adventure, there are also tons of relaxing activities in Queenstown. Join sightseeing tours, traverse walking and hiking trails, or treat yourself to spa treatments. The area is also excellent for boutique shopping and indulging in tasty food and wine, as well as exploring the region’s vineyards and historic mining towns.

From Milford Sound, Queenstown is more than three hours away by car. So we don’t recommend driving yourself to Milford and back in one day as it is A LOT of driving and a big day. Instead, if you want to visit Milford on a day trip from Queenstown, book a tour so you can relax in the coach. Also, scenic flights to Milford from Queenstown are popular and a good option.

Pros:

  • Lots of day trips to Milford available
  • Tons of accommodations
  • Lots of other things to do and see
  • A range of restaurants and bars
  • Activities all year round

Cons:

  • Makes for a very long day for a day trip to Milford
  • Busy town; traffic; loud in areas
  • Accommodation can be expensive and book up quickly

The Best Hotels in Queenstown

the view from lakeview room at Kamana Soak in Queenstown, New Zealand
Photo credit: Kamana Lakehouse
great views at Kamana Soak in Queenstown, New Zealand
Photo credit: Kamana Lakehouse

Finding the right place to stay in Queenstown can be hard. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of awesome choices but things book up fast! For that reason, I highly suggest booking your accommodation well in advance. It’s not that you won’t find something later on, but that all the really good places go first!

To get you started, here are a few places I personally love and that would make an awesome place to stay in Queenstown.

The first is for budget travelers and that’s Absoloot Hostel Queenstown. This small hostel has dorm rooms and private rooms and it’s really clean and comfortable. The location is in the heart of Queenstown – the window from the kitchen looks out over Lake Wakatipu! It is easily one of the top cheap hostels in Queenstown.

If you have a little more money to spend then you should seriously consider Chalet Queenstown. I’m a supporter of smaller hotels because I feel you get better service. Based on recommendations, I stayed at Chalet Queenstown when I first arrived. It’s a beautiful hotel in a quiet but close location and the views are amazing (although you won’t find me recommending a place without great views!)

If you’re one of the lucky ones, you know the luxury travelers, then you’re going to be spoiled for choice in Queenstown. I’ve personally stayed at the Hilton Resort and Spa on my anniversary and loved it. If you want an even more luxurious stay, look at Kamana Lakehouse. This hotel has the most beautiful spa overlooking the lake and is definitely one of the best hotels in Queenstown.

The Best Tours from Queenstown to Milford

Staying in Queenstown? Choose one of the below highly-rated tours from Queenstown to Milford Sound!

Coach to Milford, Cruise, and Coach Return to Queenstown

Mirror Lakes on the road to Milford Sound
The stunning reflections of Mirror Lakes on the road to Milford Sound!

This tour involves a coach ride from Queenstown to Milford Sound, a cruise in Milford, and then a return back to Queenstown via coach.

This is the most popular tour from Queenstown to Milford Sound as it is the most cost-friendly option, costing on average only $247 NZD per person. On the journey to Milford via coach (a large comfortable bus) you will get to see the spectacular scenery of Fiordland National Park including photo stops in Te Anau, Eglinton Valley, and Mirror Lakes.

Worth noting is the drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound takes a minimum of 3.5 hours each way so it’s a long travel day. However, the journey there is split up with plenty of stops to stretch your legs.

Once you reach Milford Sound you will board your boat for a 1 hr 45 min nature cruise. Spot waterfalls and wildlife like seals, Fiordland penguins, and if you’re lucky, dolphins. You’ll also be offered a picnic-style lunch on board the boat as well as complimentary tea and coffee. On top of that, you can buy some other snacks onboard (check the daily soup, it’s usually delicious!).

What I love about this specific tour is it includes a nature cruise. This is my favorite cruise in Milford because it’s on a smaller boat so you get as close as possible to the action. That includes the famous “glacial facial” from the 15,000-year-old Stirling Falls.

The whole day is 12.5 hours in total with an early 7 am departure from Queenstown and arriving back in town in the late evening around 7:30 pm. Thus, if you get travel sick or are traveling with young kids this may not be the ideal tour for you. It’s a long day – trust me!

You should book this tour in advance online here since it is one of the best and most popular tours in Queenstown!

Coach to Milford, Cruise, and Fly Back to Queenstown

A lady stands on the side of a boat by a waterfall on a cruise through Milford Sound
Getting so close to the waterfalls you get wet (if you want of course!)

This Flight Sightseeing Tour is a very popular option as it combines a coach tour that takes the scenic road from Queenstown to Milford, a cruise in Milford, and then you return to Queenstown with a scenic flight. Basically, it’s the entire package in one!

This is a 9 to 10-hour tour in total, so not as long as the other tour I just mentioned (which lasts a whopping 12.5 hours.) You literally cut the driving time in half on this tour!

Your coach will depart Queenstown in the morning to take you into Milford. As with the other tours, it’s a long journey but it includes lots of photo stops along the way. When you reach Milford you will board for your 2-hour scenic cruise through the fiord. You will be given a packed picnic lunch as part of the tour package which I advise enjoying on the cruise.

At the end of your cruise, you will be taken to the Milford Sound airstrip to board your small fixed-wing plane for the 40-minute scenic flight back into Queenstown. You’ll enjoy uninterrupted views of Fiordland National Park while your pilot points out hidden lakes and tall mountain peaks.

This tour, in my opinion, is one of the best options because it gives you the chance to see Milford Sound from all angles – by bus, on the water, and from the sky! It’s perfect for anybody who suffers from FOMO (like me) because you really get to experience it all!

At 10 hours in duration, it is classed as a full-day tour but you will make it back to Queenstown with plenty of time for dinner at one of its fantastic restaurants. The only issue with this tour is the scenic cruise. Because it’s on a larger vessel you won’t get as close to the waterfalls, but with that said, many people prefer the amenities on these larger boats.

Prices for this tour start from $618 NZD per person and you can book the tour in advance here!

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

A motorhome by the beach
Me and my trusty campervan!

Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!

You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:

  • Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to book a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
  • Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It is what most budget backpackers get for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping! You can easily compare campervans, prices, and book on the website Motorhome Republic. We also have a 5% discount code (DTRAVEL5) with Mad Campers, which you can use at checkout.
  • Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one, you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. Motorhome Republic is my suggested website for booking a motorhome in New Zealand simply because they are a reliable company and the website is super easy to use! We are also partnered with Kiwi Motorhomes, which is well known as the top motorhome rental company in New Zealand. You can get 5% off using the code Queen5. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey smiles at the camera while kayaking in Milford Sound
Thanks for reading!

I’m so glad you’re planning a trip to Milford Sound! I hope all the information above helped you decide on where to stay in Milford Sound. If you’re still undecided, just remember that the accommodation you choose depends on how you want to spend your vacation here. You really can’t go wrong though – this place is beautiful no matter where you stay.

Check out my other blogs about Milford Sound for more useful info for your trip. I’ve also picked out a few articles that will come in handy when traveling to New Zealand. Thanks for reading!

55 Awesome Things to do in New Zealand

One Week Queenstown Itinerary: How to Spend 7 Days in Queenstown

40 Best Hikes on the South Island of New Zealand