If you drive non-stop it takes at least two hours to get from Te Anau to Milford Sound Piopiotahi (120 km) and four to five hours from Queenstown to Milford Sound Piopiotahi (300 km).
It’s the only road link to one of New Zealand’s major tourist attractions – Milford Sound Piopiotahi. This road climbs the fastest of any other highway in the country and its highest point is 940 metres above sea level.
The Transport Agency manages the Milford Road, which is especially important in winter season (May to October) when snow, ice and risk of avalanches make safe driving critical. To keep the road safely open as much as possible during the avalanche season, an internationally recognised avalanche control programme is in place that predicts and controls avalanches. A specialist alliance team, made up of Transport Agency and Downer NZ staff, use high-tech equipment to manage avalanches. Specialised weather and condition monitoring equipment at both road and mountain level are all monitored around the clock to optimise safety and minimise road closures.
Besides predicting avalanches, the Milford Road Alliance also controls the avalanche hazard by either not allowing traffic to stop inside the avalanche area, or closing the road and using controlled explosives to release avalanches before they occur naturally.
It operates when needed during winter advising drivers of road conditions or closures.
The Kiosk team provides free information on safe driving during winter and likely road coniditions for the day ahead.
Every road user needs to go through the kiosk when it’s operating to obtain the latest information.
Between June and November vehicles may need to carry chains. Road condition information signs let road users know when chains should be carried. These signs are located 1 km north of Te Anau, Knobs Flat (65 km north of Te Anau) and Milford Sound Piopiotahi (5 km east of Milford Sound Piopiotahi). However the road will close if conditions are too icy or heavy snow is likely.
You endanger yourself and other road users if your vehicle skids on ice or snow because wasn’t fitted with the correct chains, or not using them at all. Driving past warning signs requiring chains further down the Milford Road could prove costly, as the police could fine you NZ$750.
On average about eight days a year, mainly in winter, when treacherous weather and the high avalanche risk make driving on the road unsafe.
If you are not comfortable driving in winter conditions or do not have the right experience, taking a coach from Te Anau is a good option.
Find the most up-to-date information at www.highwayinfo.govt.nz(external link) or ring 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 444 449). This phone service is available 24/7. For road conditions go to www.milfordroad.co.nz.(external link)