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Milford Sound-Self drive vs coach tour

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Milford Sound-Self drive vs coach tour

We will be in Queenstown this September and want to visit Milford Sound. We are thinking of driving to Te Anau and staying the night there.

We would prefer to self drive to Milford Sound from Te Anau, so that we could make our own scenic stops/hikes along Milford Road. My fiancé is into photography and wants to capture many of the beautiful sceneries of NZ. I feel if we go with a tour we will be on their time schedule.

I am hesitant though as I've read about the icy road conditions/avalanche possibilities.

Just wanted to hear the opinions of self-driving from Te Anau vs. coach in/out or even fly out option.

Thanks!

Auckland Central...
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1. Re: Milford Sound-Self drive vs coach tour

September is avalanche season.... The bus still stops at all the places for photos etc.

The advantage of the bus - if there is an avalanche and the road closes they will chopper you out - same with a car, but if you have a car it's on the wrong side, and that becomes your problem to get back.

You can solve that problem two ways - go and pick it up when the road re-opens, let your insurance deal with it.

I am not a big fan of bus travel, but that road in that month would be the only time/place I would ever consider catching one.

Oz
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2. Re: Milford Sound-Self drive vs coach tour

Hi,

Some think that the bus trip is spectacular. In my lexicon there isn't anywhere worth going that is worth a bus trip.

IMHO the "best' way to visit Fiordland is the fly/cruise/heli (glacier landing)/fly option. Unless you have excellent travel insurance to cover the instances mentioned by ee I wouldn't self drive at that time of the year.

The danger isn't so immediate as being caught by an unexpected avalanche it is the closing of the road to deal with avalanches caused by explosives dropped from choppers to bring down dangerous sections of snow/ice in order to keep the road safe.

Cheers,

Edited: 23 February 2014, 22:09
New Zealand
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3. Re: Milford Sound-Self drive vs coach tour

At that time of year I would take the bus tour - the bus will stop often enough for some great pics.

Safe travels :)

Queenstown, New...
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4. Re: Milford Sound-Self drive vs coach tour

Drive there , there is too much to see to be rushed. Take out travel insurance to be on the safe side.

Hampshire, United...
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5. Re: Milford Sound-Self drive vs coach tour

We did a trip (early December) with Trips and Tramps which was very good.

They use smaller Transit buses with a good packed lunch and include several walks along the route

Edited: 24 February 2014, 10:17
South Island
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6. Re: Milford Sound-Self drive vs coach tour

The best way to see Milford Sound from Queenstown is coach cruise fly. The above statements which indicate that the coach company will Heli you out in the advent of road closure may not be accurate. There are 6 or 7 companies in Milford that run cruises and twice that many companies who provide coach services to Milford Sound. Nowhere in their literature will you see promises to fly you out in the advent of road closure.

New Zealand
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7. Re: Milford Sound-Self drive vs coach tour

Bill - I discussed this with Real Journeys a couple of years ago to find out the actual situation - if the road is closed and it looks like it could be more than a few hours, getting the people out can be turned over to the civil authorities - so the bus company looks after the logistics and I guess we taxpayers pay for any evacuation.

However if you have driven there you are responsible for getting yourselves out and the rental car back to the agency. There was that young American woman who 2? 3? years ago was charged $700 for her to helicopter out and another $700 plus for the agency to retrieve the car. Needless to say she had no travel insurance and her dad stepped in to help - she needed to get out urgently to connect with her international flight out of Chch, or she would have lost the flight as well.

Nova Scotia
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8. Re: Milford Sound-Self drive vs coach tour

We went this past September and took a bus with Real Journeys. We booked the day before from our motel in Te Anau and there were only 6 passengers. We sat behind the driver. He gave us lots of information and answered questions as well. He knew where to stop and we did not feel hurried when taking photos.

There was a light frost the night before and there were black ice warnings on the road.

Western Victoria
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9. Re: Milford Sound-Self drive vs coach tour

Having driven in once I am taking the bus this time.

You can then sit back and enjoy the scenery rather than concentrate on the road, Plus if the weather is adverse you have an experienced driver at the wheel.

I found that driving I rushed a bit due to the warnings about how long it would take, got plenty of pics but feel I missed a lot. Coming back I got caught in the general retreat and missed a few spots I plannned to catch.

Booking in advance is my question, I did Doubtful Sound in Sept 12 and Milford washed snowed out for 3-4 days, how ""last minute" would anyone suggest for an early April visit??

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10. Re: Milford Sound-Self drive vs coach tour

I suggest you book 1 or 2 days ahead and try and pick fine weather. If you strike the right coach driver I assure you that you will not regret taking the coach. I always advise going with the smaller coach mid range companies with no more than 40 seats. Some coaches will take up to 60 people but to my mind its just too many people and those coaches cannot make as many stops along the Milford road for photos walks etc.

I would also avoid the cheap crowded jucy type coaches packed with people nursing hangovers from the night before.