Scary drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound

Dec 3rd, 2004, 09:56 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 28
Scary drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound

Hi all, it looks like there are a lot of experts on the South Island here, so I'm throwing this one out there. My parents are currently doing a couple of weeks in the South Pacific, and it looks like the cruise thing on Milford Sound would be right up their alley. Lots of scenery without having to work for it (they are in their early 60's, but definitely not the hiking type). One option I've come up with is to spend a couple of days in Te Anau with bus-cruise-bus at Milford Sound. They will have a car, but their question is-is this drive a nice "smell the roses and admire the scenery drive" or one more like one which you are gripping the steering wheel with sweaty palms as you nervously look off the sheer edge of the road kind of drive. If it's the latter I think they'd be better off on the bus.
Thanks all!
erdoc is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2004, 10:36 AM
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Hi erdoc,
As a middle-50s nervous moderately-claustrophobic traveller (who hates being driven by anyone and went through with my husband driving!) I would have to say the drive by car to Milford Sound was beautiful, the hairiest part being through the tunnel (it is dark in there with just a little lighting, a 1-in-10 gradient, and narrow with passing lanes strategically placed)and just through the tunnel where it is down to 25km with really fine hairpin bends for a little bit. Having said all that, I will be going through there again in the near future as it was well-worth it for the awe-inspiring experience. Coming back from the Sound the tunnel is not as scary as the first time.
If they do decide to drive themselves, I would recommend leaving early in the morning (around 7ish!) to beat the tourist buses that tend to clog proceedings. That way they will have time to stop and look at some of the sights on the way. Tell them to stop at the Mirror Lakes on the way to Milford as they are usually rippled by the time you return - as we discovered to our annoyance!
Te Anau is a small but lovely place in the centre of so much.
Hope this is of help to you.
dotty is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2004, 11:10 AM
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Just returned this morning for NZ, and we did that very drive, and it's not at all scary, especially after driving the rest of the South Island-- in fact, one of the tamer roads, especially after the roads in the north. The tunnel is much wider than most report, the only thing we were a bit nervous about is coming back (after 6pm) they red/green lights were not on, so we couldn't be sure if anyone was coming at us or not, but it worked out just fine. Maybe there are sensors somewhere in the tunnel???? Good luck!
jonesie is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2004, 11:37 AM
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As everyone else has noted, this is not a scary drive, except perhaps the Homer Tunnel. That should not dissuade anyone from taking the drive, because it is quite varied and beautiful. Tell your parents to allow several hours for the trip, so they can stop along the way.
ALF is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2004, 04:33 PM
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As everyone else has said the drive is beautiful with the tunnel being the scariest part. I was the one driving when we encountered it and I must say I was very nervous driving through it. Straight after going through the tunnel there is a very sharp hairpin bend so be aware of that it comes up on you suddenly especially after the darkness of the tunnel and coming out into the bright light.
Daneille is offline  
Dec 4th, 2004, 03:24 AM
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Also just got back from South Island. Forget the scariness of the drive. You will miss the best part of the trip to Milford if you do the driving. Drive to Te Anau, do the glow worm cave tour and then get the Real Journey's bus/cruise package. If you drive, the driver is sure to miss the scenery and, since I am from the US, my wife would have as well since she would have been looking at the road to be sure we were on the correct side.
glk11b is offline  
Dec 5th, 2004, 12:19 AM
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Sounds like a fantastic drive! Can you rent a BMW? LOL
Traveler863 is offline  
Jun 24th, 2005, 01:56 PM
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I have a related question. We are reserving the Milford Sound overnight cruise for January and are leaning towards taking the coach. Unfortunately it doesn't look like we will have the option of spending a night in Te Anau before or after the overnight cruise. So, we'll be leaving from Queenstown...

Should we:
Coach from Queenstown (8:30am-next day 3:30pm , NZ$450)
Drive to/Coach from Te Anau (12:45pm- next day 12:30pm, NZ$390)
Drive to Milford (4:30pm- next day 9:15am, NZ$325)

Tim_and_Liz is offline  
Jun 26th, 2005, 05:21 PM
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We were in NZ in Feb,and the drive was not at all bad- the roads were in good condition and we certainly didn't have any nail biting moments.

I would also suggest leaving early so you can view the sights along the way by yourself, and (hopefully) not get stuck behind buses of tourists, as there is pretty much NO overtaking lanes.

rarmalb is offline  
Jun 28th, 2005, 04:36 AM
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That drive was fine but don't let them go up thr Remarkables. I have never been so scared. No barricades and sheer drops withh Buses & cars speeding down on your inside.
Sarvowinner is offline  
Jun 28th, 2005, 03:20 PM
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I'm of the opinion that the driver to Milford gets the short end of the stick. It's also a very long day to do roundtrip as a driver. I tend to think the bus is the way to go. I've spent the night in Te Anau a few times and it's nothing that special. (I managed to see glow worms at a few other locations). The busses usually do stop at few spots along the way for photos and at Te Anau.
mlgb is offline  
Jun 30th, 2005, 09:11 PM
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The safety of the drive may depend on the time of year. Last July we took a bus tour (Real Journeys) to Milford from Te Anau. The road had been washed out in one place and had recently been reconstructed to allow traffic after the washout. On five of the previous seven days before we travelled, the road to Milford had been closed due to avalanche dangers. Also, we were told we had to have tire chains at that time of year to have insurance for the drive. These factors made the bus seem sensible.
The drive itself is sensational, with sheer cliffs rising on either side. It was perhaps the most scenic drive I have ever experienced. The bus driver travels very quickly, but makes sensible stops in the right places. Actually the drive to Milford is the best part of Milford. We went to Doubtful Sound before Milford Sound, and found the Doubtful Sound boat adventure to be far more interesting (and unfortunately more expensive). I believe in the winter it would be a mistake to drive to Milford. Take the bus and enjoy.
craiginowensound is offline  
Jun 30th, 2005, 11:51 PM
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I agree with Craig... and mlgb. We rented a Toyota Prada? 4 wheel drive SUV (downmarket diesel version of the Lexus GX 470) for our time in Queenstown during the winter one year and I was prepared to drive us to Milford sound etc. I am used to driving in snow but my wife convinced me that I would enjoy the trip better as a passenger than as the driver and I must report that in this one instance that she was right.
mjs is offline  

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