It may only be 120 kilometres to Milford Sound but they recommend allowing two to two and a half hours. We however would recommend at least four and a half because that’s how long it took us with all the stops.
Here are some of our recommended points of interest that shouldn’t be missed:
One, Te Anau Downs where we saw an old shepherd’s cottage and wondered at the tenacity of humankind – especially womenfolk – who made the three day trip from Dunedin in the 1800s on horseback to live out here in isolation!
Two, Mirror Lakes. It took me quite a while to work out why there was a sign in the lake. Duh! This spot was popular with the tour buses which made taking photos without tourists popping up in them a challenge.
Three, Knobs Flat. Again wondered at the courage of humankind when you see the inhabitable terrain and realised real people lived and worked here to build the road or tunnel. At this point noticed that the weather was getting cooler. Definitely feeling that alpine air!
Four, Lake Gunn. Also known as “Misty Mountains” in “The Fellowship of the Ring”. Apparently a good spot to see fish but we didn’t see any but could easily see why Sir Peter Jackson chose it for his movies.
Five, a short detour onto Lower Hollyford Road to view Marian Falls. I saw my first wild kea in the carpark. At this stage I still thought they were cute.
Six, Monkey Creek. Given the amount of tour buses parked in the car park, one could safely assume that Monkey Creek is a popular tourist attraction. I wouldn’t know. I didn’t even get the opportunity to get out of the car, let alone see the point of interest. Instead we became the main attraction (attack-ion?) when two kea landed on our car and began to attack it and prevent us from getting out. Suddenly we were surrounded by tourists taking photos while I did my hardest to try and look inconspicuous while in the front seat laughing hysterically. DH eventually managed to get out his door but then left it open and one cheeky kea began to attack the rubber around the window and another went for his finger. Meanwhile more tourists were swelling the ranks of those still taking photos, preventing DH from returning to his seat. As soon as DH was able to get back in the car, we drove off. Verdict = kea are not cute (and we’re not sure how the rental company will view the damage!).
Seven, Homer Tunnel. If I remember correctly, this was begun in 1935 and not completed until 1954! It was started by hand by relief workers during the Depression. For those who don’t particularly like driving through tunnels, this is still a must-see. Besides, you can’t get to Milford Sound by road unless you use the tunnel, so you don’t really have much choice.
Eight, The Chasm. Rocks carved by rushing water. Spectacular! Again, another spot that was hard to take photos due to all the tourists.
Nine, Mitre Peak. What can I say? It’s spectacular. Iconic. I-c-o-n-i-c.
Ten, the Milford Sound carpark. Why? Because this is where we saw weka. The one that chased another one and pulled out a bunch of feathers from it’s victim’s tail; the one who bit DH when he held his hand out; the one who limped along garnering sympathy; the ones that had tourists asking us, “Kiwi?” No, but unique all the same. And, I suspect, to be preferred to kea.
Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; Thy judgments are a great deep: O Lord, Thou preservest man and beast. Psalm 36:6 (KJV).