In the car park at The Chasm, is a kea, a New Zealnd mountain parrot, just sitting there. I didn't expect it to be so tame. Apparently keas are a real nuisance in New Zealand, as people feed them and they become too tame and mischievous, causing damage in camp grounds and car parks. Keas are thought to number about 3,000 in New Zealand, are a protected species and one of the most intelligent birds around.
Sandflies are particularly annoying in Milford Sound, their stings are incredibly itchy and may endanger your stay.
If you don't have any product to protect you, my advice is to buy some lavender lotion at the ticket counter. It smells really nice (if you like lavender) and it can be also used to prevent mosquito bites, and to treat them.
In winter the road to Milford Sound can be closed occasionally as it is prone to heavy snowfall and avalanches. Always check the weather forecast and get information on the road conditions before your trip, and carry snow chains, just for the case. (Also see: General Tip about the Transit Information Kiosk)
Never forget that the Milford Road is an alpine road, with its highest point reaching 940 metres above sea level.
Even if the road is clear, the avalanche risk remains for quite a while after heavy snow falls and when it gets warmer again.
The avalanche risk area covers a stretch of 17 kilometres, from Falls Creek (91 km north of Te Anau) to the Chasm on the Milford Sound side of the Homer Tunnel.
A specialist team monitors avalanches with high tech equipment, so when you get the all clear sign, you can be rather sure that you will travel safely – if you do not dream at the wheel…
When a low avalanche hazard is posted on the road condition information signs on the Milford Road, the road is open. When a moderate avalanche hazard is posted there is a risk of avalanches reaching the road and the road could be closed at short notice. When a high avalanche hazard is posted the road is closed.
Also land slides can close the road. Last September (2008) two ladies had a lucky escape when a huge slip crashed down on the road after heavy rainfalls. The road was closed for several days after that. You cannot do anything about it – just quickly make an alternative plan for your time in the south of the South Island.
Black ice is a big risk when the road is open. Many areas are in the shade, so the road can become icy, especially in the morning. Just last week (early July 2009) a tour bus slipped and rolled just north of Te Anau Downs, so still before the mountainous sections of the road. One Korean tourist died. I can only tell you over and over again: Take extrem caution when driving here in winter!
Road info here:
Transit has a 24/7 freephone hotline:
0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 444 449)
Fill up your car at Te Anau. There is no petrol station along the Milford Road.
At Milford Sound you can get petrol and diesel, but the service is limited to a certain number of credit cards with pin number access only.
You can also get petrol at Gunns Camp in Hollyford Valley. But if you are running out of petrol you might not want to risk this detour.
If you plan an early start in Te Anau, fill up your car the evening before. You cannot only sleep longer. The stations only open at 7am.
There is no cell phone coverage between Te Anau and Milford Sound.
The only places you can make private phone calls are Knobs Flat and Milford Sound, where you find card phones. At Homber Tunnel is a satellite phone for emergency calls only.
As rare as phones are proper flush toilets. They are located at Knobs Flat, The Divide and at Milford Sound.
Do check out the boat timings before you head to Milford Sound or you will be dissappointed. Know that there's only two cruises during the Winter period - 11am and 1.30pm.
We did not want to take the risk of going for the 11am cruise. It would have meant that we leave Queenstown at 6am and there would be too little time for us to explore the surroundings of Lake Te Anau, Lake Matheson and Homer Tunnel.
If you depart early from Te Anu to Miford Sound, you have to drive very carefully and slowly especially when there is thick mist.
We came across a very thick mist and we have to turn our headlights to high beam and drive very slowly and especially slow down at the bends. The mist do adds some mystery to this lovely place.
It is always raining at Milford Sound. You will be very lucky if you get a clear weather. We are really fortunate to have a clear blue sky during our cruise.
To get to the beautiful Milford Sound you will have to bypass Homner Tunnel.
Just before you enter Homner Tunnel, pls turn on your headlights.
You will have to queue at the traffic lights which operates from 9am to 6pm.
The wait may be 15 minutes because this is a one way tunnel.
Be patient and admire the surrounding sceneries while you wait for the green light.
Your vehicle must clear the max height limit of 3.81m.
Beware of these hungry parrots!
Kea is the world’s only alpine parrot, found in the mountain areas of South Island. Racuouc cries of “keeeaa” often give away the presence of these highly social and inquisitive birds.
While I was happily enjoying my sandwhiches in the car with my windown wind down, the kea flew next to me on the side mirror.
I was so afraid that I quickly wind up the window. Got to take some pictures of those naughty cheeky fellows.
A tour bus passed by and one of them started to feed the Kea with apple. Soon a whole group of them were beside our car.
When the tour group left, the Kea were back looking at me munching my sandwhices. I felt so threathen by them. Thank God my window is wind up and I can enjoy eating in peace.
The drive is challenging, in places it's a narrow winding drive. The scenery can be distracting, so take your time, be aware of other road user and if you wish to enjoy the views pull over with plenty of warning.
There are no shops or fuel stations between Te Anau and Milford Sound. A limited selection of food, drink and fuel is available at Milford Sound. Make sure you have a full tank of fuel and take food & beverages with you before leaving Te Anau as a round trip from Te Anau to Milford Sound is 242km.
Make sure you have a full day... it's going to be a long day, especially if travellingg from Queenstown.