Milford Sound Road – a Tourist Deathtrap?

“Gateway to Fiordland becoming a deathtrap for tourist drivers”. The article on a New Zealand online news site immediately caught my attention. Of course I wanted to find out how exposed to risk we were just a couple of months back without even knowing it.

“Along with its reputation as being one of the most stunning drives in New Zealand, Milford Rd is becoming almost as well known for the high number of crashes involving overseas drivers,” states the article and continues by exploring the possible causes for high crash rate on this scenic route. The residents living along the road claim there’s nothing wrong with the road itself and believe the fault lies with drivers. Most tourists cram too much into their itineraries and seriously underestimate the time it takes to drive from point A to B in New Zealand, especially if travelling in a huge campervan. Driving on the left adds to the overall risk.

But while only one of the interviewees doesn’t put the whole blame on tourists being bad drivers, nobody, not even the author comes close to the true reason why this stretch of road is so accident-prone. I guess that’s because Kiwis are too spoiled with nature to notice it:

This drive is simply too spectacular.

The funny thing is that you don’t even expect it. You’re just too hyped about seeing the world famous Milford Sound that you perceive the 118 km of road from Te Anau only as an obstacle standing between you and the Holy Grail. You wan’t to get it done and over it.

But nothing in the world could prepare you for the natural spectacle you’re about to witness on your way there. It starts as soon as you leave Te Anau with the road winding through rolling hills covered in bright yellow shrub.   Add to that some sheep clouds backlit by sun and you’re guaranteed to stop every couple of kilometres for some oohs and ahhs.

Once you pass the Divide, the wow-effect starts getting stronger until it smacks you right in the face: Incredibly steep rock walls seemingly reaching all the way to the sky interspersed with long thin waterfalls. Glacial valleys branching off to the right and left. Crystal clear river rushing over grey rocks. And a tunnel cut through sheer rock – going downwards! So you just stop and let your jaw drop in awe. If I was ever aware of how tiny and insignificant we are in the face of the nature it was right here.

So, no, I wouldn’t be surprised if a driver lost in their thoughts eager to get to Milford Sound would swerve off the road when faced with all this beauty. New Zealanders may try as hard as they can to come up with measures preventing the high death toll on this route. They will never be able to eliminate the force of nature making this corner of the Earth drop dead gorgeous.