We left Lake Takapo and made our way to Queenstown. The thing about road tripping through New Zealand is that making pit stops is super easy and when you get off the main road, it doesn’t take much to get back to where you need to go and be on your way. We made a few other pit stops in small towns on our way to Queenstown so that we could grab a snack or go to the bathroom. I feel like New Zealand was made for road tripping and making your way through that country at your own leisurely pace. Bathrooms, pit stops, rest stops, etc are easy to find. You’ll also notice that they don’t like people driving tired and there are so many billboards that tell you to pull
We woke up super early to begin our journey to Milford Sound. If you plan on going to Milford Sound, I highly recommend doing some research. I will post my help tips in a post following this one. We left our Airbnb, hopped in the car and began the windy journey to Milford Sound. Be prepared when driving because the turns are tight and the roads are small. We made our way to Te Anau, got a full tank of gas and then proceeded to drive toward Milford Sound. The closer you get to Milford the more beautiful it becomes. Honestly, I did not think that there was any possible chance that a place could be this breathtaking, but with every passing minute it became more and more amazing. We drove up to a field outside of Milford, pulled over to the side of the road with all the other tour buses and took some photos with the beautiful mountains behind us and the amazing blue sky.
I had actually purchased a selfie stick specifically for this portion of the trip. We had spent the last few days without utilizing it even though I had lugged it all the way to the southern hemisphere. We stood in this field and I learned how to use my selfie stick. This is the first picture I took…
After our ridiculous amounts of photos showing our excitement, we jumped back in the car and continued driving. We began the climb into the mountains and eventually ended at the Homer Tunnel which is about 0.75 miles long and is almost like the gateway to the start of Milford Sound. There are stop lights on either end that signify when you’re allowed to drive through this one lane tunnel. You wait at the light for your turn to drive through and then you begin. While we waited and as our line piled up, people turned off their cars and jumped out to take advantage of the opportunity to take photos with the beautiful mountains that surround this tunnel. The mountains are covered in small waterfalls and streams coming down the side and you feel like an ant at the size of these mountains. When it was finally our turn, we turned on the car and began our 30 kpm drive through the tunnel. It is almost pitch black in this tunnel so everyone drives with their lights on and water drips onto your car. You need to stay steady because it is not a wide tunnel so you definitely need to be careful when going through. When you are making your way into Milford, you are going downhill so you definitely have to ride your brakes the entire way through and then eventually you end up on the other side in the light and on a bridge that feels slightly unstable.
This road leads to what feels like a few miles of downhill switchbacks. Be prepared. The smaller cars will speed through and it is terrifying, the larger cars will take their time which can be frustrating especially as you’re trying to coast a little bit.
We continued our drive through the mountains and made our way to the Milford Sound Lodge. Be prepared that when you are driving through the mountains, the roads are tiny, there are curves (and lots of them) and in some locations the bridges only accommodate one car in one direction. Pay close attention to the road signs and they will let you know who has the right of way. We eventually ended up at our lodge, checked into our room and that began one of the most memorable experiences I could have had on this trip.