And New Zealand… … Probably the place where I might have left a little part of me. Surrounded only by beauty, serenity and hope seeping through the snowcapped mountains, valleys and ridges, I have no qualms that any sombre mood would definitely be uplifted, for sure.
Well… … at least I know mine had. Looking back at the photos taken there, it does bring back the memories that had impinged on me when I was in New Zealand, South Island for close to a month.
How to get there?
It was a one day trip from Te Anau township where we resided at to Milford Sound. A very laidback drive with many quick respites that included mini sightseeing and camera shots along the way! ‘Cause why rush, when the en route’s views were just as impeccable!
A straightforward driving route on the Te Anau-Milford Highway 94 will basically take you there in approximately 1 hr 50 mins? And that does not include respites. So I would say a 2 hour (ish) drive or longer?
En Route to Milford Sound via Eglinton Valley, Mirror Lakes & Homer Tunnel
So if you are within the Te Anau vicinity, then you had better take a driving trip (preferably self-drive), and embark on an expedition on the Te Anau-Milford Highway 94. You don’t even have to hike, walk, or claw your way through the mud, bushes or forest to have views that are as marvellous as what you would feast your eyes upon on this drive en route to Milford Sound.
And I know it does sound crazily exaggerated here, but I am not kidding. It was THE MOST amazing vista I had ever seen from a viewpoint of a driver/passenger IN THE CAR. The entire stretch up Highway 94 was just BAM amazing! It was ridiculous endless marvelling on my end; I just can’t… …!
1. Eglinton Valley
Now picture Eglinton Valley as this gorgeous piece of open field of lustrous green patch sprawled across hectares, accompanied with the distant mountains stretched out into the far off land as backdrop. That was imperatively a scene not to forget! And with the endless quiet highway, anywhere was a good spot to park by the side of the road and gawked at the wonders of Mother Nature.
Since we set off in the late morning, the strong afternoon sunlight beamed so generously on everything that the entire landscape just glistened in front of us. It was picture perfect.
Along the way, we paused to immerse in a stream with close to turquoise clear waters flowing with benign. So peaceful and calm, the icy cold waters streamed down without a care in the world. It was just beautiful.
2. Mirror Lakes
Don’t be fooled by the ‘Lakes’ in the naming of this. It is not really a huge patch of lake or any sort. It is more of a pond? Okay, maybe slightly larger than a pond. It is not hard to miss this pit stop as there would be cars parked along the side of the road, and a decent signage too!
A 2 minutes or less mini boardwalk would take you down to the viewing deck where you would be greeted by the still waters and mountains. And if you are lucky maybe a cute ducky or 2?!
You don’t have to spend too much time at Mirror Lakes, ‘cause the real action and mind-blowing views comes soon after.
3. Homer Tunnel
Anyone heading to Milford Sound has to go through Homer Tunnel. Since the tunnel can only fit in a stream of cars in a single file each time (each way), hence there would be a bit of a wait time if cars from the other side of the tunnel would be making their way over.
Which was no biggie at all, considering the majestic view in the vicinity just compensated for it all! Families actually parked their mini vans, and have lunch tables all set up just next to the entrance/exit of Homer Tunnel; facing the glacier. Having lunch without an impeding view of the glacier? HELLO, YES PLEASE, ANYTIME! 😀
Seeing that we had quite a bit of a wait time, we decided not to join in the car queue, but parked alongside the families having lunch! We had some time to immerse in the beauty of the mountains engulfing from the sides with trickling of waters down the ridges like mini waterfalls. Oh they were all so beautiful as the sparkle under the afternoon sunlight, like little streams of confetti!
The white glistening glacier was probably the highlight for everyone waiting at the entrance of Homer Tunnel. It was so up-close and personally, it was unbelievable that it was just there; so within your reach! It was crazy! And of course, we had to snap a hell load of photos! We did notice some people exploring deeper into the glacier area, but because we were tight on time, we decided to have that a miss.
After an arduous but all so satisfactory and self-fulfilling drive from Te Anau township, we had finally arrived at Milford Sound! By then, taking into account all of our respites and photo-snapping, it was already late afternoon, and the sun was soon to set.
We had a quick lunch/tea at the Blue Duck Café. Cannot really recall exactly what I ordered, but probably a standard set of coffee and meat pastry puff? Or did I bring along my own sandwich? Okay, I think probably I did brought my own sandwich and bought a coffee from the café. 😀
Then the exploring begun! We embarked on the Milford Foreshore Walk, which was a pretty easy grade boardwalk with some gravels and slight forested area. So peaceful and serene considering it was already late afternoon, there was practically close to no one around anymore.
Just the sound of the cool crisp howling of the sea breeze and the occasional honks coming from the Milford Sound Cruise Tours. They were all probably already done with their magical cruise day tour around Milford Sound vicinity, and to think, we only just begun! Haha! 😀
(a) Bring a packed lunch/snack
Since the journey from Te Anau to Milford Sound can be a little long, it would be always nice to have a snack of some sort for when you decide to rest. And a great spot to fuel up and get those legs stretching and blood circulating would be near the entrance of Homer Tunnel! With the close-up view of the glacier being so perfectly in place and in a cosmos with the surroundings, having lunch there would make any nature lover jelly!
(b) Start journey from Te Anau to Milford Sound EARLY
Now I am not saying bright and early like 6 or 7 am even, but I would say a reasonable time between 9 and 10 am (ish) is a good period to set off. This will imperatively give you plenty of time to snap pictures of Eglinton Valley and the river streams, the Mirror Lakes, and definitely not forgetting, having able to explore the glacier just at the entrance of Homer Tunnel!
(c) Drive-Thru Homer Tunnel with CARE
Inside Homer Tunnel is pitch dark with NO side lights or beacon of any sorts within the tunnel. It is only towards the other side where there would be shafts of sunlight peering through and beacons to direct you along, other than that, your headlights, and of course, the headlights coming from other cars in front and behind you are all you have.
Entering the tunnel for the first time is like taking a ride on Disneyland’s Thunder Mountain. I mean, it was not any fast like a roller coaster in that sense, but we were entering a tunnel, which is drilled through a mountain so I guess it was kinda the same? Haha…!
Since, it was pitch black, manoeuvring slowly through the tunnel with care is fundamental. Just go slow, and follow the car in front!
(d) Staying over at Milford Sound?
To be honest, I don’t think there is a need to stay over at Milford Sound. Yes, the landscape is spectacularly immaculate and out of this world, but if you not coming to Milford Sound from a Fiordland’s multi-day trek or had been on the road for a while, then I reckoned that there is really no need to spend a night at Milford Sound.
There is really nothing else you could do there other than the 20 minutes Milford Foreshore Walk. Not to mention, in the middle of nowhere, there are no shops or restaurants to dine. Heading back to humble Te Anau township with so many amazing food options and necessities available would be a better option. The accommodation at Te Anau is also much reasonable.
Besides, remember the 2 hour (ish) drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound being so wickedly awesome, well… … you get to experience it for the second time in 1 day! WHY NOT?!
However, if you feel you might be too exhausted from the drive, and do feel like spending more time at Milford Sound, then I recommend ONE night. Just one night would be more than enough. 🙂
Milford Sound could be experienced differently giving you angular perspectives of it. Whether you are
(iii) simply a self-drive from Te Anau township
Milford Sound will still always be an amazing place in the South Island of New Zealand. I will not forget how in awed I was in the car on the way to Milford Sound. The route was just as sweet amazing as the finishing line.
Picture does speak a thousand words, but trust me when I say, you need to be there to really believe it. Believe that there’s just so much more out there in this world. Believe that there’s so much beauty in this world.
So get out there, and explore! Remember to Travel Whenever!