Hobbit Odyssey Day 7: Milford Magic

Milford Sound Road

“How long will it take to get to Milford Sound,” Mrs MBW asks Phil, the service station attendant in Te Anau, which is about 120km from the famed tourist attraction.

“About two-and-a-half hours,” he says. “Then he looks out the window and sees the Harley Road King on the forecourt and adds, “But a lot less on that bad boy.”

“And with that bad boy riding it, even less,” says Mrs MBW.

She’s right. It takes us about 100 minutes with a couple of quick stops for photos.

The road to Milford Sound
The road to Milford Sound

The road out to Milford Sound is our activity on the seventh day of our 14-day Hobbit Odyssey motorcycle tour of New Zealand and, coincidentally, our 29th wedding anniversary.

Milford Sound has been the focal point of our trip and we had hoped to do it on our anniversary to make it even more special. Milford Sound is, to us, that iconic image of Kiwi tourism and the type of majestic scenery that has made films such as Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit such goldmines for Kiwi tourism.

Milford Sound Road
Milford Sound Road

We’ve also been told the 120km road out to the sound is a rider’s delight, so this is an anniversary gift to me.

After some of the magnificent riding roads we’ve done over the past week, it has a lot to live up to.

And it does. The road is constantly winding, but you can easily stay on the speed limit of 100km/h most of the way. There are some tight sections, a one-way tunnel where we wait about six minutes and a few hairpins on the way down.

Homer tunnel on the way to Milford Sound
1.2km Homer tunnel on the way to Milford Sound

But it’s the traffic that will slow you down, not the road. We leave Queenstown early before the big tourist buses head off, so we only have to pass some cars and campervans which are easy pickings because they dawdle as the drivers gawk at the stunning scenery.

And oh what scenery. The road runs up past deep-blue lakes with towering snow-covered peaks rising vertically from their shores. It then runs into a massive valley that tightens into a chasm. There is also a stop-off called the Chasm where you walk 500m to view a thundering waterfall cascading into a deep well in the rocks.

The road also winds through moss-wet forests where the line between the wheel tracks is moss and a touch of rain would surely make it as slippery as glass.

However, Te Wai motorcycle tours co-founder and guide Peter Colwell described the Milford Road to me as “Magic when wet. Awesome when dry.” I wouldn’t like to tackle it in the wet and this area gets a massive 7-10m of rain a year with a record of 512mm in one 12-hour period.

Thankfully, the clouds are holding off today ahead of predicted gale-force winds and rain tomorrow.

Make sure you get fuel at Te Anau before you leave as it’s a 240km round trip. Fuel is not expensive here, but they have “emergency fuel” at Milford Sound where the bowsers don’t register the price per litre until you put your card in. I have my suspicions it’s not cheap.

However, the cafeteria has reasonable prices and a wide range of food to satisfy the hungry rider.

There are heaps of tourist activities to do here, including jet boating, cruises, kayaking, caving etc.

Milford Sound anniversary trip
Milford Sound anniversary trip

We decide on a nice, relaxing and romantic cruise that takes us out to where the sound meets the sea.

Bring some insect spray as the sandflies are prolific. It’s also cold and windy, so we leave our jackets and gloves on and the only exposed areas to the sandflies are our faces which we shield with the occasional “Aussie salute”.

Rudyard Kipling called Milford Sound the eighth wonder of the world and it is an amazing spectacle with waterfalls pounding down from higher than Niagara Falls from the steep mountains that tower up to 1.7km straight out of the water, among the highest of their type in the world.

Ok, I know I’m sounding like a tour guide, so I’ll just say, it’s fascinating.

But what I’ve come for is the riding and the return trip flashes by in record time.

Depending on the weather tomorrow, we’re heading for a motorsport museum.

Mrs MBW wants to know when she gets HER anniversary gift!

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