Your journey heads along the edge of Lake Wakatipu with The Remarkables creating an incredible backdrop to some of New Zealand’s most memorable scenery. Travelling through the farmlands of Northern Southland onto Te Anau nestled on the shores of New Zealand’s second largest lake, it’s time to break the journey with a short comfort stop where you can buy drinks and food.
After departing Te Anau, the gates of Fiordland National Park indicate the start of the amazing Milford Road -towering peaks, tranquil lakes, crystal clear rivers and dense rainforest make this one of the world’s most spectacular drives. Sit back, relax and let your driver show you the sights, and tell you about the amazing scenery around you. Don’t worry there are plenty of photo stops too
There are no petrol stations (or cell phone coverage) on the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound, and motorists are advised to fill up before their trip.
The Milford road, also known as State Highway 94, is one of the highest and most scenic state highways in New Zealand. The road peaks at its highest point at 940 metres (3084 feet) above sea level and takes you from Te Anau through the Fiordland National Park to Milford Sound.
Although Milford Sound is world famous, one of the highlights of a trip is the journey getting there. The road can be narrow in places and windy around the mountain passes. NZ Transport Agency recommend taking an organised coach trip if you are not familiar with the driving conditions especially during winter or icy days.
All the drivers for Kiwi Discovery are fully trained and experienced in the winter driving conditions, and will put the chains on the wheels if needed (while you sit back in the comfort of the warm coach!).
The Homer Tunnel can be very narrow and campervans should exercise caution through the 1270 metre long tunnel as there are parts with a low roof at the sides. The Homer Tunnel also runs on a steep gradient into Milford Sound. Traffic lights were only fitted in 2004 and help alleviate the problem of two larger vehicles trying to pass each other inside the tunnel.
It is at the Homer Tunnel that the avalanche risk is highest and the road status can be checked on the NZ Transport Agency website.
|Times and Distances to Milford Sound|
|* Times are based on good weather and driving conditions.|
During the 1930s depression, the government employed the surplus of unemployed men and set about building the road and the Homer Tunnel.
Many workers were killed by the harsh conditions including avalanches and floods, and finally in 1952 the road was completed. Road conditions during the winter were (and are still) treacherous and it wasn’t until the 1970s that the road was opened year round having previously been closed for the winter. Today it is still a requirement that your vehicle carries chains with a fine if police find motorists without them during the winter.
You’ll arrive at Milford Sound in time for the later “off peak” cruise, meaning less tourists and more of Milford Sound to yourselves. Using a purpose built vessel, there is plenty of viewing decks to move around and ample space to get those perfect photos of the waterfalls and towering peaks. The best place to hear the sounds of the Fiord is outside on the deck, so bring warm outdoor clothes and a waterproof jacket! However, if you prefer the comfort of the luxury lounge you may sit inside and take in the view while enjoying the complimentary tea and coffee.
Our informative guides point out scenic highlights along the way, such as the Bowen Falls (dropping 160 metres seaward), Sinbad Gully (a classic example of a hanging valley), snow-capped Mount Pembroke, and the awe-inspiring Mitre Peak itself, towering 1692 metres from the ocean floor.
Having smaller launches (approximately 20 metres) allows the cruise boat to navigate closer to the shoreline, getting our guests up close to the incredible surroundings. Purpose-built for Milford waters, the boats make great viewing platforms should we encounter the local fur seal colonies – once nearly hunted to extinction – the rare Fiordland crested penguins or pods of dusky dolphins.
With more rainfall than any other part of New Zealand, Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound provide spectacular scenery whatever the weather.
There are comfortable seats and tables inside the main lounge for you to enjoy the views or have some lunch away from the outdoor elements. You will need to pre-order lunch to have on the boat or you can take your own. There is complementary tea and coffee on board and a small range of snacks to purchase.
Information sheets are available in several languages if English is not your first language, and a map of Milford Sound pointing out Mitre Peak, the Pembroke Glacier and a number of waterfalls is also available.
The Lunch Options
Lunch is not included in our Milford Sound day excursions. There are a few options for lunch as you cruise on Milford Sound.
The first option is to pre-order a lunch pack to be served as you board the boat to enjoy while cruising the fiord. Alternatively, you may pack your own lunch or purchase your own lunch in Te Anau when we stop for our morning tea break.
Lunch options must be pre-ordered 24 hours in advance, you may choose from either a picnic lunch or Sushi lunch
What to bring:
Shoes/boots (non slip are recommended), waterproof jacket, warm sweater/fleece jacket, sunscreen, sunglasses, insect repellent, some cash for snacks & drinks and camera and/or video camera. Some people also enjoy bringing their own i-pod and mp3 players or a book for the journey home.
For the Milford Sound tours, Kiwi Discovery use two luxury coachs. One with 49 seats and a glass roof and other with 51seats. Both have plenty of leg room and big windows for viewing, dual exits and reclining seats with 2 DVD screens for the return journey.