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Private Discovery Tours, Exploring the remote South Island Private Discovery Tours, Exploring the remote South Island

Milford Sound Tour FAQ’s

Milford Sound

History

Milford Sound WildlifeThe men who built the Milford Road and the Homer Tunnel in the 1930s were, for the most part, victims of the Depression and directed to the job by the government. For the men of the road, and those women who followed their men into this wilderness, life was harsh beyond belief, but the road and tunnel had to go through.

The weather could be vicious, the terrain ferocious, high in altitude, steep and rugged, beset by floods and deadly avalanches. Workers were brought face to face with the avalanche hazard. Men were killed; bridge structures, road works and tunnel portals destroyed. The road, which was completed in 1952, consequently was closed during winter months until the late 1970s when tourist and fishing interests successfully lobbied for it to remain open year round.

After a massive avalanche killed a road maintenance supervisor in 1983, a programme was established to monitor, assess and control the avalanche hazard on the Milford Road. The internationally recognised avalanche control programme used today enables the road to remain open with optimum safety to all road users.

Times & Distances

From Queenstown to Te Anau the distance is 170 kms and takes around 2 hours. The journey from Te Anau to Milford Sound is 121km . A non-stop direct one-way drive takes at least two hours depending on weather conditions and how often you stop.

So the total one-way Queenstown to Milford without stops takes 4 hours. By the time you stop for refreshments / toilets in Te Anau and take some short walks and photo stops you need to allow up to 6 hours from Queenstown, include a cruise on the Sound and return drive to Queenstown you are looking at a full 12 hour day.

What To See And Do Enroute?

Milford Sound Boat RideOnce you enter the Fiordland National Park you will have the opportunity to stop suggested places include.

Eglinton Valley Flats: Glacial carved river valley, Knobs Flat the last toilets before Milford

Mirror Lakes : A short boardwalk reflecting the mountains in small ponds, good information panels on history, wildlife and native forest.

Lake Gunn beautiful small Lake surrounded by Beech Forest, make sure you have insect repellent on before stepping out.

Hollyford Valley lookout: Take the first turn off to the right after passing the Divide here you will have wonderful views over the Hollyford Valley.

Monkey Creek: A great stop surrounded by towering mountains.

Homer Tunnel: You may well have to stop here as the tunnel is controlled by traffic lights. Sometimes the native parrot Kea are here trying scavenge lunch please do not feed them, it only encourages them to be more aggressive and dependant.

The Chasm: Impressive 10minute walk to see the force of and power of water, the Cleddau River has carved and sculptured this ravine over time. You may wish to delay this walk until your return as it can be very busy with coach loads of people enroute to Milford.

Milford Sound: Your destination, park the car and you have a 10 minutes walk to the terminal building for cruise departures.

When you get to Milford there are a number of cruise options depending on when you arrive, large or small boat, some options have lunch available on board others have snacks available. Essentially if you are travelling between Dec and April you need to make a booking. We recommend Real Journeys who offer Scenic cruises and nature Cruises depending on your time of arrival.

Before Setting Out

Make sure you have a full tank of fuel before leaving Te Anau as there are no fuel stations until Milford Sound. You can get petrol only at Gunns Camp in Hollyford Valley which is a detour from Milford Road. Otherwise you can get petrol and diesel in Milford Sound, although the service is limited to certain credit cards with pin number access only.

What Weather Can I Expect In Fiordland?

You should be prepared for all weather in Fiordland, year round. From clear blue skies to wild days when storms rage. Rain makes Fiordland, and when it falls it alters the landscape dramatically – rock faces stream with waterfalls and rivers rage. So bring suitable clothing for cool and wet weather during your trip.

What Are The Milford Road Conditions Like In Winter?

Extreme care is needed during the winter months (May to September) due to the potential for ice and snow on the Milford Road. All vehicles must carry snow chains May to September, preferably chains should always be taken as a precaution snow can fall any time of year however it is more likely during winter months. You may wish to consider taking a tour to Milford if visiting in the winter months and have peace of mind that an experienced winter driver is in control of your day.

What Will You Need On Your Milford Sound Trip?

We recommend you bring the following: comfortable shoes, warm sweater/fleece jacket, waterproof jacket, sunscreen, sunglasses, sun hat, insect repellent, and camera.