The road to Milford

10th October 2006
The Milford Road

Milford Sound is 121km from Te Anau down the Milford Road – a spectacular alpine road running through undulating farmland, towering mountains and heavy forest. Quite possibly, the most beautiful road I’ve ever been down. It takes about 2 hours to drive, but with all the stops along the way, it took us nearly 3.

First stop was Te Anau downs, the launch point for the Milford Track. Next up were Mirror Lakes, perfectly still oxbow lakes that looked like something from Lord of the Rings.

We stopped for lunch just before the Homer Tunnel looking out over two valleys and miles from anywhere. Two keas (mountain parrots – reknowned for their cheekiness) joined us and hopped around curious at our presence – trying to get at our lunch!

The Homer Tunnel was quite an experience, it’s preceded by the most amazing avalanche carved landscape, really steep mountains with avalanche debris scattered around. The tunnel itself is 1.2km of steep downhill, narrow, unlit road under the mountains. A near brush with a rather large coach led us to safety on the other side and a sight to which adjectives simply don’t do justice – we were in a massive valley with hundreds of tiny waterfalls gushing down to the floor like veins. The snow that had prevented our kayak trip provided us with a pretty unique spectacle. A steep descent led us to Milford Sound itself.

I have to say that in the end, the Sound was a little disappointing – I preferred the drive down!. We decided not to go for the package coach and cruise, because it felt too processed and like a sausage factory – the thought of cramming onto a coach full of camera wielding tourists, piling off every half and hour, before piling back on, was just a bit too much. We’d opted for the sea kayak trip to do it differently and to get a real experience. Unfortunately, that meant we didn’t get out into the heart of Milford Sound, which I’m sure is very rewarding, but we’ll keep that for another day.

The drive back involved a stop at the imaginatively titled Chasm, a huge chasm (unsurprisingly) carved out by water and rocks. It was probably more spectacular than the Sound and one of the most amazing natural features I’ve ever soon – the sheer volume of water passing through, the noise
and the scale of it… words and photos can’t describe it!