Milford Road is the name of an awesome scenic drive in South West New Zealand that offers a dramatic and beautiful journey from Te Anau to Milford Sound. Milford Road (part of the State Highway 94) is a very scenic drive through Fiordland National Park and portions of the Te Wāhipounamu World Heritage Area, one of the great wilderness areas of the southern hemisphere. The road is totally paved. It’s 118km (73 miles) long running south-north from Te Anau to Milford Sound. The truly epic drive was started during the Great Depression in 1929, but it was not completed until 1953 as work came to a halt during World War II. To drive the road without stopping will take most people between 1.5 and 2 hours. It is regarded as one of the most scenic roads in New Zealand. It is an unforgettable journey into the heart of Fiordland National Park and the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage area. Drivers are well advised to set aside extra time to see the sights, though – including the beautiful Mirror Lakes, perfectly reflecting the Earl Mountains and the Cleddau River with its dramatic waterfalls – before reaching the pristine serenity of Milford Sound. It’s hard not to stop and stare at the ridiculous beauty of Eglington Valley and the Mirror Lakes. The Avenue of the Disappearing Mountain is also staggering -- an optical illusion causes the approaching mountain to get smaller rather than larger. Lord of the Rings was filmed in New Zealand partly because of its gorgeous, naturalistic views, which are captured in Milford Road in the middle of the Southern Alps. Think mighty cliffs, snow-capped summits, waterfalls and fern trees that stick their middle fingers (or branches) up to gravity.
One of the most famous highlights of the road is the stunning Homer Tunnel. With a length of 1,270 meters (4,200 feet), it was carved out from solid granite and took nearly 20 years to complete.
Despite its remote location, many people travel along the Milford Road each year. Drivers will be sharing the road with cars, coaches, camper vans and minibuses. There is less traffic in the winter months (May to September) but the road conditions require more caution.
Snow can fall on higher parts of the road any time of the year. Snow, ice and risk of avalanches make safe driving critical. Avalanches are a winter hazard in the high mountains above the Milford Road and snow and ice effect the road surface in winter months, transit signs inform motorists of conditions and a Transit New Zealand check point has been built to make sure road users carry chains for safe passage to Milford Sound.
The Milford Road takes you through very remote, unsettled terrain and before departing on your trip from Te Anau, you are advised to fill your cars with fuel, although limited supplies are available at Gunns Camp in the Hollyford Valley and at Milford Sound. It’s one of the more dangerous public roads in New Zealand, with injury crash rates around 65% higher than the rest of New Zealand's network, and a fatality crash rate of almost twice average (per vehicle kilometre travelled), making it the third most dangerous section of New Zealand's State Highway network.