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Access to Milford Sound in the early morning

Brisbane, Qld
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184 posts
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Access to Milford Sound in the early morning

We will be spending a few days touring the South Island in early December. We are planning to stay overnight in Te Anau and get up early the next am to drive into Milford Sound, a trip my husband and I have done before but not with our now teenage daughter. I would like to take an early am eg 9am cruise but concerned that all the info on the Homer Tunnel talks of traffic signals from 9am-can you drive through earlier than this? We were thinking of leaving TA around 5-5.15am. Would like to be sure before I pre-book an early cruise. The overnight boats are out of our price range this trip. Thanks.

South Island
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for South Island
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1. Re: Access to Milford Sound in the early morning

At that time of the year traffic lights operate to control the flow of traffic into the Homer tunnel. However this is only during the day so if there are no traffic lights operating when you approach the tunnel just drive on in.

Normally in the Winter months no traffic lights operate because it too dangerous to stop outside the tunnel due to the high risk of snow avalanche. You will see the no stopping signs but unfortunately many overseas visitors in rental vehicles foolishly ignore these warnings.

Take care when travelling in the Homer tunnel and be especially careful when passing oncoming traffic. The tunnel is very narrow in places and many campervans have had the fibreglass roofs torn off because of carelessness.

Brisbane, Qld
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184 posts
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2. Re: Access to Milford Sound in the early morning

Thanks very much for the advice. We will take care.

Toronto, Ontario
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3. Re: Access to Milford Sound in the early morning

It is do-able in the early AM, but you are correct that the signals are not operating that early in the morning. We weren't sure what to do, but a van coming the opposite direction stopped outside the entrance of the tunnel to let us know there is just enough room for 2 cars to pass each other in the tunell..just drive slow and with your lights on and you'll be fine.

We did the exact cruise you are proposing (9am) and left Te Anau around 6am (i think). Regardless, it was dark when we left so you need to know that at least the beginning (or maybe your entire drive if you leave that early??) will be in the dark. I would suggest checking the sunrise time for the date you are planning on going. Although we started in the dark, the misty morning sunrise (it had poured buckets the night before) was magical in the forest on the way to Milford.

It was an early morning, but I would definitely recommend it as you do bypass a lot of the toursits arriving on buses later in the morning.

Have fun!!

Brisbane, Qld
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184 posts
102 reviews
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4. Re: Access to Milford Sound in the early morning

Thanks for the helpful info-it is always good to hear from some-one that has actually done it! According to one of the weather sites sunrise for a bit earlier in the week is around 5.45am so we may be leaving not long before then. It was useful to hear how long it took-sounds like I might be able to kip a little longer-probably still aim to leave closer to 5.30am just in case...! What boat tour did you do-do you remember? I am looking at what I think they call The Red Boats (with Southern Discovery) which is the 9am cruise with a light breakfast but open to suggestions/advice before I book. Seems like most people are happy with any of the operators from TA reports-no glaring avoid X company at all costs! Figure if it is still a little dark we can stop and enjoy some of the sights en route on the way back as no need to get back into Queenstown until evening.

New Zealand
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5. Re: Access to Milford Sound in the early morning

Why leave so early? The drive takes just 2 hours to Milford, allow another 30 minutes to walk to the wharf and ensure you have time to visit the toilet etc before your cruise.

The Milford Road is stunning and so there is little point in driving in the dark. Plus it could compound the already high number of tourist accidents on the road.

So I suggest you don't leave before 6:30 am, have a safe and stunning drive to Milford, enjoy the cruise, make a leisurely drive back to Te Anau.

Please stay safe on our roads :)

6. Re: Access to Milford Sound in the early morning

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