On day 21, I posted about Milford Sound. It is an incredible wondrous place. But even more incredible and wondrous (in my opinion) is the road that takes you there — state highway 94.
Picture a road with mountains all around you, fields of purple flowers on every space flat enough to have them, and waterfalls competing with each other as they tumble down from the very tops of the mountains every which way you turn your head. It isn’t one waterfall, or two, it is literally hundreds along the 74 mile stretch from Te Anau to Milford Sound.
Highway 94 is one of the most dangerous highways in New Zealand however, with a fatality crash rate of almost twice the average — it is New Zealand’s third most dangerous section of state highway. Skipper’s Canyon Road north of Queenstown is ranked as the 3rd most spectacular road in the world according to DangerousRoads.org and the most dangerous in NZ. Mount Hutt road, West of Christchurch, is the 2nd most dangerous. Given the pictures of the roads, if you aren’t afraid of heights and like a bit of danger then they would be well worth the trip.
The highlight of the drive to Milford is the Homer Tunnel — a 1.2 kilometer passageway literally through a mountain. The tunnel took 19 years to build and was cut through solid rock. It is wide enough for buses to go through but not wide enough to be a two lane road. Before the road was opened in 1954, there was no road access to Milford Sound. The picture here is from the discovery center in Milford Sound and shows you how impressive the road is and where the tunnel cuts through — a gradual rise in altitude getting to it and then a pretty dang steep descent on the other side. Make sure your vehicle has good breaks if you drive!
When you arrive at the entrance to the tunnel, you’ll see cars parked to the side. There’s a traffic light for the tunnel and you have to wait for the traffic to come through and the light to turn green before you go. While you wait, you are treated to many many many waterfalls coming down the mountains on both sides of the tunnel. Spectacular! Interestingly, the place where you have to park to wait your turn is in an avalanche prone area. In the summer that’s not a problem but in the winter I understand they don’t run the traffic light for the tunnel so that they aren’t forcing cars to wait in an avalanche area.
The videos below were taken from our car as we got to the tunnel and as we drove through. They aren’t the greatest since the car was a bit dirty after driving around the South Island for a couple of weeks and the kayak is sticking over the top so blocks the view a bit but you can still appreciate the beauty of it all. Sorry for the horrible oration but be sure to check out the passing bay.