Journey time: 8h:15m (including lots of photo stops, visiting Mirror Lakes, the Chasm & Milford Sound cruise)
Up (120km): 2h:35m (Direct would be 1h:45m to 2h)
At Milford Sound: 3h:25m (Includes 2 hour boat cruise)
Weather: Fine and sunny (Te Anau 27°C, Milford Sound light breeze, seas reasonably calm 21°C)
Well the objective for the day was to enjoy a cruise on Milford Sound - one of the must do's when in New Zealand.
The highlight of the day turned out to not be the cruise (though it was great) but the road to Milford Sound.
Setting off from Te Anau we reach Te Anau Downs within 20 minutes.
It was a calm and sunny day and the view across the lake toward the mountains of the Milford Track was simply superb.
Boats leave from here for Glade Wharf and the start of the Milford Track.
Continuing on and the scenery is pristine. The road can be reasonably busy so the driver must be careful not to be distracted by the views and must concentrate when driving. Reaching 940m ( 3,080ft) the road is subject to snow and ice especially in winter. Check the Transit NZ site for more information.
The Eglinton Valley was alive with lupins providing a purple carpet for the valley and great photo opportunities.
The Mirror Lakes are the next must stop. The Earl Mountains are reflected perfectly in the still waters.
(Yes, I've checked a couple of times
and this photo is the right way up)
There is a 45 minute nature walk at Lake Gunn before the road reaches The Divide. This is the ending place of the Routeburn Track. There is a carpark and if you allow about three hours, the walk to Key Summit is recommended. As well as passing through a variety of eco-systems and birdlife you'll be rewarded with some panoramic mountain views.
The road continues with more mountain passes, streams and valleys with numerous points to stop and take in the views.
Eventually we come to the 1.27km Homer Tunnel. Even more stunning scenery awaits on the other side with spectacular sheer mountain faces and the Cheddau Valley to negotiate.
We stopped at The Chasm carpark and walked for 5 minutes to view the powerful rushing waters that have eroded the rocks to wierd shapes below. Just don't fall in please!
After 2 hours 34 minutes we arrive safely at Milford Sound, already filled with exhilaration but still with anticipation. The dock resembles a reasonable sized airline terminal but is tastefully hidden away from most views. Now to select our cruise ...