Milford Sound: Getting there is half the experience

This article is inspired by a sad story a few days ago of a crash that claimed two lives on the Milford road to perhaps the most stunning part of New Zealand’s conservation estate. It is inspired by the fact that

Thousands of people do it every year. My family have done it twice in 1991 and 1999. Both times we made it a two day exercise, driving from my Uncle’s farm in Waikaka to Te Anau Downs on the first day and then to Milford and back to the farm on the second day. Without doubt when it comes to scenery, the Milford road is the most fantastic drive in New Zealand.

But it is long. From Te Anau to Milford Sound is 204 kilometres one way. From Queenstown to Milford Sound, it is nearly 420 kilometres. The road is windy, has steep drop offs and is treacherous in rain or. In winter it can be closed for days by the avalanche risk and black ice on shaded corners have sent many a car into a spin.

Any one who has taken the time to enjoy the scenery along the way – to look at the fantastic waterfalls, the stunning alpine landscape, and verdant rainforest – will agree that the scenery along the way is breath taking.

Oh sure you might be trying to cram as much into your compressed holiday itinerary as you can. Sure you might not be coming back for awhile, but why the inane rush to drive Queenstown to Milford Sound AND back in a single day? Aside from being an exceptionally long drive totalling nearly 840 kilometres (525 miles), you completely miss the said stunning scenery. And you probably give stuff all time in Milford Sound, the place you spent so much effort getting to in the first place.

But, I have a solution and it is not a daft one by any means. Build a motel or other accommodation place just outside the National Park boundary. It is still about 100 kilometres from there to Milford Sound, but it does two things

  • Enable more time in Milford Sound, which was the whole reason for making the trip in the first place
  • give the visitor more time to enjoy said stunning scenery and marvel at what a fantastic place Fiordland National Park is

An assorted mix of accommodation would be necessary to cater for the various groups. Tour buses could use it as a pick up/drop off point and it might be possible to run smaller groups from the lodgings up to Milford Sound on minibuses. Giving tourists a place that they can be picked up from nearer to Milford Sound means they could leave their cars at the accommodation and not have to risk a road whose conditions they might not comprehend.

And if saves any lives by giving fatigued drivers somewhere to park up, all the better.


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