advertisement

The Milford Road

The road to Milford Sound is world-famous. Although it can be completed in 2 hours, allow at least 3 so you can stop to look at the many natural attractions along the way. Highway 94 from Te Anau leads north along the lake, with islands and wooded distant shores on your left. The drive is often a slow one, especially in wet conditions, as you make your way through steep gorges and between walls of solid rock and moss-covered inclines. I would discourage anyone from taking a motor home on this road as it is narrow, steep, and winding with a lot of bus traffic - and if that doesn't put you off, the dark, narrow tunnel will. The road is usually very busy in summer and there can be delays, especially at Homer Tunnel. Remember: There are no fuel stops between Te Anau and Milford, so make sure your tank is full. This is not a road you want to be "marooned" on - in any season. During the winter months, all drivers on Milford Road are required by law to carry chains for their vehicles. Road conditions can be checked on www.milfordroad.co.nz, or by calling tel. 0800/444-449 in New Zealand, or check www.transit.govt.nz/projects/milfordroad.

Be sure to stop for pictures at the Mirror Lakes. The road winds down the Eglinton and Hollyford valleys, through the astoundingly narrow and steep Homer Tunnel, and down into the majestic Cleddau Valley, to Milford Sound. Before you go, stop by the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre, Lakefront Drive, Te Anau (tel. 03/249-7921; fax 03/249-7613; www.doc.govt.nz), for information on Fiordland National Park. Ask specifically for the pamphlet The Road To Milford (NZ$6), which describes each mile of the journey. It's not a bad idea to go armed with sand fly repellent, too.

Homer Tunnel, about 100km (65 miles) into the journey, is a major engineering marvel: a 1.2km (3/4-mile) passageway first proposed in 1889, begun in 1935, and finally opened in 1940. It wasn't until 1954 before a connecting road was completed and the first private automobile drove through. There's no lighting in the tunnel and it's very narrow. Drive with extreme care!

About 6km (3 3/4 miles) past the tunnel, stop and walk to the Chasm. The pleasant 15-minute round-trip goes through mossy undergrowth and beech forest to see a rather wonderful feat of natural erosion on the Cleddau River.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.