Monkey Creek: BEST Stop On The Way To Milford Sound

If you are driving to Milford Sound one of the best stops to make a long the way is the hidden secret called Monkey Creek. Come see why it’s worth visiting, why it’s even called that, what to do there, and more!


Okay I will be honest, Monkey Creek is a little obscure spot on the way to Milford Sound which I just happened to come across by chance, however was one of my favorite places in Fiordland National Park!

Unable to capture much out of a moving vehicle of the stunning surrounding landscapes, and with most of the road shoulder closed due to winter weather, this place provided a safe place to stop to truly admire what makes this undoubtedly the best drive in New Zealand.

Now I am going to assume you don’t know much about Monkey Creek, and neither did I. I mean there are a few reviews on Google, and that’s basically it, so information can be hard to find.

Surrounded by towering cliffs, a quaint stream, and just along the roadside it is super accessible throughout the year making it a must visit. Some of my favorite photos in the South Island were taken here, as well as some cheeky feathered friends.

So, let’s get into exactly what you need to know about Monkey Creek, such as where is it located, what is it, what’s up with the weird name (I thought we didn’t have monkeys in New Zealand?), and more!


A couple poses together at Monkey Creek, New Zealand, with the woman wearing a rust-colored sweater and beanie and the man in a grey hoodie. They stand in front of a dramatic landscape of mist-covered mountains and a lush valley. A sign in the foreground advises against feeding the local kea birds, adding a touch of local wildlife awareness to the scene.
of course have to get the shot with the kea sign

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What Is Monkey Creek

I remember sitting at home on Google Maps and slowly moving the screen to see what pops up that may be of interest for a little pit stop. A few places popped up, Monkey Creek being one of about 10+ I highlighted.

However on the day, in the middle of winter, with the road barely open and snow falling, most places were closed. Though with gorgeous landscapes around us, I was hoping for the perfect place to pull over, with all others being closed, then, thankfully, enter Monkey Creek.

The main highlight of Monkey Creek is a picturesque freshwater stream, about 5 minutes before the much more well known, Homer Tunnel. The creek is fed by glacial runoff from the surrounding mountains which seem to just tower above you.

As a result of water being from a glacier runoff, you will find it is exceptionally clear and known for being some of the cleanest and purest in the world!

But yeah it’s a stream, I understand if you might not be sold on why it’s a must do. Well, look up from the stream, and gaze around you.

The incredible mountains, especially beautiful in a snowcapped winter, are literally 360 all around you. If you are especially lucky to drive this route in the rain you will get your first glimpse as to why the Milford Sound Highway is known as the Road of A Thousand Waterfalls

tasha amy wearing a rust-colored sweater and black pants stands near a winding road in Monkey Creek. The road leads towards dramatic, mist-covered mountains that tower in the background. The cloudy sky and rugged landscape create a sense of solitude and natural beauty.
looking across the road to the dramatic landscapes
A man in a grey hoodie stands on a grassy, rocky path at Monkey Creek, New Zealand. Behind him, a winding road disappears into the misty, mountainous background. The dark, imposing mountains are partially obscured by low-hanging clouds, creating a mysterious and atmospheric scene.
waterfalls starting you form on the surrounding mountain sides
A close-up shot of the rocky mountainside with waterfalls forming on a rainy day. The steep slope is streaked with white, indicating recent snow or water runoff. The overcast sky and misty atmosphere create a dramatic and moody scene, emphasizing the rugged beauty of the landscape.
waterfalls forming on the surrounding mountainsides

Where Is Monkey Creek Located?

You can find Monkey Creek in Fiordland National Park, within the Southland region of New Zealand’s South Island. This picturesque spot is found along State Highway 94, commonly known as the Milford Road.

Monkey Creek is situated in the Eglinton Valley, approximately halfway between Te Anau and Milford Sound, making it an ideal place for a rest break.

The location is well-signposted along Milford Road, making it easy for visitors to find.

A scenic road through to Milford Sound in New Zealand, winds through a mountainous landscape with towering, snow-capped peaks. Bright orange traffic cones line the roadside, adding a splash of color to the natural setting. The mountains' rugged surfaces are partially covered in snow, and the sky is filled with thick, low-lying clouds, creating a dramatic backdrop.
the incredible Milford Sound highway in New Zealand

Why Is It Called Monkey Creek?

I know Monkey Creek is a weird name, and the only monkeys you will find in New Zealand will be in Zoos. Which leaves a lot of lingering questions.

Well, Monkey Creek was named in the 19th century by William H. Homer, who discovered the nearby Homer Saddle in 1889. According to local lore, the area was named after Williams’s dog, aptly named Monkey.

A winding road cuts through the rugged landscape of Monkey Creek, New Zealand, bordered by golden grasses and green shrubs. The road leads towards mist-shrouded mountains that loom overhead, their rocky surfaces streaked with white snow. The cloudy sky adds to the dramatic and remote feel of the scene.
looking across the road with low lying clouds
tasha amy dressed in a rust-colored sweater, black pants, and a beanie stands in the foreground of Monkey Creek. She is surrounded by rugged terrain and mist-covered mountains that rise sharply behind her. The dark, overcast sky and low clouds enhance the wild and untamed beauty of the landscape.
braving the weather for a quick photo op

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Wildlife To See At Monkey Creek

Now Monkey Creek isn’t just known for its crystal clear stream and incredible landscapes. You can also interact with and appreciate the local wildlife who call this spot home.

Highlights of wildlife you may be able to spot at Monkey Creek include:

Kea: Known as the world’s only alpine parrot. They are recognizable by their olive-green feathers and bright orange underwings. Though being highly intelligent and curious, often approaching visitors, they can be quite cheeky and are known for chewing up cars!

New Zealand Falcon (Kārearea): They are a native bird of prey with keen eyesight and swift flight. You can often spot them soaring above the valleys and ridges.

Fantail (Pīwakawaka): This small, agile bird is known for its distinctive fan-shaped tail. It is commonly spotted fluttering around, catching insects in mid-air.

Brown Trout: These fish are found in the clear, cold waters of the creek. They are a popular catch among anglers for recreational fishing.

Three kea birds are seen interacting on a paved road on the way to milford sound New Zealand. The kea on the left is standing upright with its head turned slightly, while the other two kea are sitting closer together. One of the sitting kea has its beak open, appearing to call out or squawk. The birds' plumage displays a mix of olive-green and brown, with intricate feather patterns highlighted by the overcast light.
a family of keas on the road, you have got to love the squawking baby

Checking Out Monkey Creek: Self Drive Or Tour?

Now if you are absolutely sold on Monkey Creek and have decided yes, I need to check it out on the way to Milford Sound, then you need to know that depending on your transport method, visiting may not be an option.

I mean there are PLENTY of incredible spots to explore on the way to Milford Sound, but you will only be able to stop wherever you like if you have your own vehicle.

This means, unfortunately, if you have decided to book a tour, they will have a fixed itinerary and certain stops they visit for X amount of time. Generally, highlights include Eglinton Valley, Knobs Flat and Mirror Lakes.

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However, you will find yourself, at least in my opinion, driving past some of the best scenery on the way. The last portion of the road is the best with ragging rivers, sheer cliffs, and snowcapped mountains.

However, the twisted and tight roads can make it difficult for bigger vehicles, such as tour buses to park at non-designated spots.

Therefore to see the best of Milford Sound and not miss any of the incredible stops along the way is driving it yourself, just like I did!

Honestly hiring a car gives you so much freedom, and will really allow you to experience the real New Zealand. You can find car hires quite widely around the South Island where you can easily travel from Queenstown, Wanaka, Christchurch, or Dunedin to Milford Sound.

The roads to Milford can be windy, and weather a bit chaotic, however, if it is too dangerous the authorities will close the road, or simply just the road shoulder, like in my case.

A white camper van with "Maui" branding is parked on a gravel surface in front of a dark, mist-covered mountainous landscape at Monkey Creek, New Zealand. The rugged mountain is partially obscured by low-hanging clouds and mist, creating an atmospheric, moody scene. The van, with curtains drawn on the windows, stands in stark contrast to the dark, natural surroundings.
parked up in our wonderful maui camper
A close-up view of a white "Maui" camper van parked up on the side of the road to milford sound. The van is set against the backdrop of towering, mist-covered mountains. The dark, rocky peaks and overcast sky create a striking contrast with the bright, white van, highlighting the ruggedness of the natural environment.
exploring by campervan is a great way to see new zealand

Other Stops On The Way To Milford Sound

Now as you well and truly know by this point, there are numerous spots worth checking out along the Milford Road Highway, and Monkey Creek is just one of them.

A lone hiker walks along a rocky path at Monkey Creek, New Zealand, surrounded by a dense forest and steep, snow-capped mountains. The person, wearing a dark jacket and yellow beanie, appears small against the vast, dramatic landscape. The sky above is filled with clouds, adding to the sense of solitude and wilderness.
walking up the rocky sides of monkey creek to explore some of the surrounding landscapes

Te Anau

Te Anau is the last major town before Milford Sound and serves as the gateway to Fiordland. It has various amenities, including accommodations, restaurants, and shops, as well as your last spot to grab petrol so make sure to fuel up!

A highlight is the Te Anau Glowworm Caves, where guided tours take you across Lake Te Anau to limestone passages illuminated by glowworms. The lake itself is perfect for scenic cruises, kayaking, and exploring the Kepler Track, a popular hiking trail if you have extra time.


Mirror Lakes

Located about 56 km from Te Anau along the Milford Road, Mirror Lakes are known for their stunning reflections of the Earl Mountains.

A short boardwalk leads to the lakes, where on a calm day, you can see the mountains mirrored perfectly in the water.

Unfortunately when I visited it was raining, so any hopes of a reflection were gone with the raindrops disturbing the water. Just something to keep in mind.


Eglinton Valley

Next up we have Eglinton Valley is renowned for its wide, open valley floor surrounded by beech forest and towering mountains. Visitors can experience the “Avenue of the Disappearing Mountain” effect, where a mountain appears to shrink as you approach it.

To me, this place really is the quintessential New Zealand landscape that you often see in films or television shows.

Nevertheless its a cool spot, and a good place to take some frolicking in the meadow photos.


Knobs Flat

Midway between Te Anau and Milford Sound, Knobs Flat is a convenient rest area before you get into the more difficult part of the drive.

It’s an ideal spot for a break, offering facilities and impressive views of rolling hills and native forest. Plus there is a public toilet in case you need a bathroom stop.


The Chasm

On the otherside of the Homer Tunnel you will find The Chasm.

Here, a 20-minute walk through the native forest brings you to a powerful waterfall that have sculpted unique shapes in the rock.

There are also boardwalks and viewing platforms providing perfect lookout spots are making the track accessible.


Homer Tunnel

The literal you cant miss highlight, because you actually drive right through it, is the famous Homer Tunnel.

It was opened in 1954 and was quite a feat of engineering for this time as it is a 1.2 km passage carved through solid rock.

The approach to the tunnel offers breathtaking views of the Darran Mountains, and the descent into the tunnel is quite dramatic, especially if it has been raining.

Be prepared for traffic lights as it is a one lane tunnel, and you generally have to wait 5 to 10 minutes at either side for your turn. Although it has been known to take 20 minutes in the busy summer period.

While you wait you will no doubt come across some cheeky Keas as this is one of their favorite spots to target unaware tourists cars. Just make sure not to feed them, regardless of how cute they look!


Lake Gunn

Lake Gunn offers a serene setting and also offers a viewpoint which is beautiful on a clear day.

You can also find the Lake Gunn Nature Walk. This 45-minute loop track takes you through a beech tree forest and has plenty of lake views.

If you are traveling on a nice day this is an excellent spot for a short hike and picnic.


Pop’s View Lookout

Pop’s View Lookout, also known as the Hollyford Lookout is a great viewpoint offering sweeping views of the Hollyford Valley and surrounding mountains. No doubt this is one of the top spots to admire the surrounding landscapes.

Unfortunately during my visit it was bucketing down with rain so hard and completely covered in clouds. We could barely see 10 meters in front of us, let alone any mountain views.

Luckily enough Milford Sound is known as one place that is amazing irregardless of weather. No matter if you visit during rain or sunshine it will put on an incredible show.

A panoramic view of Monkey Creek, New Zealand, featuring a wide valley framed by towering, snow-capped peaks. The rocky terrain and lush greenery stretch out towards the mountains, which rise steeply into the cloudy sky. The scene captures the rugged and pristine beauty of this remote location, showcasing its dramatic natural features.
incredible view over to the mountains around monkey creek

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Where To Stay In Milford Sound

Unfortunately accommodation in Milford Sound is limited, extremely limited, to one singular option.

This is Milford Sound Lodge, and it can be super difficult to get a booking here, especially in the high season. The amenities are absolutely incredible and although they are a bit pricey do provide breakfast and dinner with their bookings. It is also in such a beautiful location, surrounded by the magicalness of Milford Sound.

Luckily we traveled in a campervan during the middle of winter so was able to get a booking at their onsite campground, known as Rainforest Campervan Park. I was pleasantly surprised with the excellent facilities and it was a nice private campground surrounded by nature.

In terms of cheaper options you will be looking closer to Te Anau, the closest township to Milford Sound, but still nearly a 2 hour drive away.

Milford Sound Lodge

Milford Sound Lodge

THE place to stay here in Milford Sound. They have incredible rooms in an equally incredible location. Prices start from $370.00 in winter and $620 in summer this breakfast and dinner included.

BOOK NOW
Eglinton Valley Camp

Eglinton Valley Camp

Located halfway between Te Anau and Milford Sound, this is a great option for those wanting to be surrounded by nature. Rooms here start from $140.00 per night which is great considering the location!

BOOK NOW
Te Anau Lakefront Backpackers

Te Anau Lakefront Backpackers

Your budget friendly option in Te Anau. Dorms rooms start from $25.00 per night, and they also have private rooms available.

BOOK NOW
Dusky Motels

Dusky Motels

A clean and comfortable typical kiwi motel, the perfect choice for families. Double rooms start from $100.00 per night.

BOOK NOW

FAQs About Monkey Creek, NZ

Can you drink from Monkey Creek?

Yes, you can drink from Monkey Creek. The water is exceptionally pure, sourced from glacial meltwater.

A striking view of the mountainous terrain at Monkey Creek, New Zealand. The rocky slopes are streaked with patches of snow, contrasting against the green and brown hues of the vegetation below. The cloudy sky overhead adds a moody and atmospheric quality to the scene, emphasizing the raw beauty of the rugged landscape.
our second stop at monkey creek was a much nicer day with incredible snowy views
A rocky streambed winds its way down the mountain at Monkey Creek. The stream is flanked by dense vegetation and trees, leading up to the steep, snow-dusted slopes of the surrounding mountains. The cloudy sky above adds to the dramatic and remote feel of the area, highlighting the untouched wilderness.
the stream winding its way down a nearby mountain

Wrap Up: All You Need To Know About Monkey Creek, Milford Sound

Now you know one of the best spots to stop on the famous Milford Sound Highway it’s time to get out there and explore!

Whether you want to come here to check out the incredible landscape, drink the freshest water you have ever had, or to stumble across a cheeky Kea, Monkey Creek will be here ready and waiting.

tasha amy with long, red hair walks along a rocky streambed at Monkey Creek, New Zealand. She is dressed in a rust-colored sweater and black pants, and the rugged mountains rise dramatically behind her. The overcast sky and misty atmosphere enhance the wild, untamed beauty of the landscape, emphasizing the grandeur of the natural setting.
enjoying the incredible views with a little bit of sunshine
A small stream flows over a rocky bed in the foreground at Monkey Creek, New Zealand, leading the eye towards a backdrop of towering, snow-covered mountains. The landscape is a mix of golden grasses and green shrubs, contrasting with the dark, imposing peaks under a cloudy sky. The scene is serene and captivating, highlighting the natural beauty of the area.
even after a lot of rain the stream is still pretty shallow

Any Questions? Let Me Know In The Comments!


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If you are driving to Milford Sound one of the best stops to make a long the way is the hidden secret called Monkey Creek. Come see why it's worth visiting, why it's even called that, what to do there, and more!

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