There are quite a few campgrounds in the Fjordland region, most of which are along the long stretch of Milford Road before the start of the mountains. Camping on one of these sites is a great way to break up a road trip to Milford Sound while staying in a very remote area and enjoying stunning landscapes around you. It’s also great for the budget conscious, as camping on one of the 12 campsites run by the Department of Conservation (DOC) only sets you back $5-7 NZD per person per night. To put it in Kiwi terms, it’s sweet as!
I stayed at Cascade Creek DOC campsite for a few nights and had a great experience. The campsite sits at the southern end of Lake Gunn in Fjordland National Park and has space for about 20 tents and campervans, according to the brochure. Access is easy, via a short bit of gravel road just off Milford Road, and about a 1.5h, very scenic drive from Te Anau.
Most campers use this site as a one-night stopover during their trip to Milford. The campsite is, therefore, more of a transient place, and not a location where a lot of people pitch their tents and stay for a few days, although you comfortably could if you wanted to do so and didn’t mind the coming and going in the evenings/mornings. Lake Gunn is a peaceful and very quiet place where you can fish from the shore or a small, non-motorised boat (which you’d have to bring yourself). You can also fly-fish in Cascade Creek. There’s also a nature walk through beech forest that leads to the lake’s shore. It is an easy loop track that can be walked comfortably in under an hour. There are information panels along the track, explaining about the birdlife in the Eglington Valley.
If you go fishing, make sure you are informed about didymo, a water pest that has destroyed the natural balance of streams, rivers, and lakes in New Zealand. Any of your equipment that gets in touch with infected water, whether your shoes, bucket or fishing rod, needs to be checked, cleaned and dried before being used in another waterway. You can read more about didymo and how to disinfect your fishing gear over at Biosecurity New Zealand.
If you want to camp at Lake Gunn, you have the option of Cascade Creek, to the south of the lake, or the campsite named Lake Gunn to the north of the lake, directly on the lake’s shore. My recommendation is to use Cascade Creek, especially if you’ve got a larger vehicle or want to pitch your tent on grass or softer ground, as the Lake Gunn campsite is really small, not suitable for larger vehicles and is quite stoney. On the positive side, Lake Gunn’s northern campsite does sit right on the stoney shore of the lake.
- Type: Standard
- Fee: $5 per person per night
- Location: Off Milford Road (SH 94), at the end of Lake Gunn, Fjordland.
- Facilities: long-drop toilets; picnic tables; water from the stream; BBQ.
- Notes: Take plenty of insect repellant – the sandflies are fierce!
For more information on Department of Conservation campsites in New Zealand, read my introduction to DOC campsites.
Other DOC campsite reviews:
- Lake Hawea, Kidds Bush campsite
- Tongariro National Park, Mangahuia campsite
- Moke Lake campsite
- Mavora Lakes campsite
- Kinloch, Otago