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Local Guide - My Favourite Part of the Milford Road

Murray Patterson Luxe Tours Guide and Driver

My name is Murray, and I’m one of the guides here at Luxe Tours. New Zealand’s Southern landscapes have played a prominent role in my life for a long time. Having worked at the Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter, at the bottom of the South Island, for 30 years, looking after people and their safety, it has been a welcome transition to begin a new career out in this amazing part of the world.

Before coming to Luxe, I had the privilege of driving & guiding people over the Wilmot Pass Road, connecting people who had travelled across Lake Manapouri with Doubtful Sound. This gave me my first experience of sharing my passion for New Zealand’s stunning scenery with people from all around the world while ensuring they remain as safe as possible. While Doubtful Sound and Manapouri are stunning areas, the wild and rugged landscapes between Te Anau and Milford Sound have always been the most captivating to me.

As an avid fisherman I have explored many of the waterways along the Milford Road, I am thrilled that I now get to guide people on their journeys between Te Anau and Milford Sound. Even more thrilling, is that I now have the opportunity to share this amazing landscape with everyone who travels with us. 

Let me explain my favourite part of the Milford Road in New Zealand.

My Favourite Part of Milford Road

As a tour driver navigating the breathtaking landscapes of Milford Road, one section holds a particular soft spot for me and in my opinion, is the section that captures the true essence of Fiordland's untamed wilderness - I say untamed because Mother Nature has her ways of reminding us we are here on her terms and at her leisure - the mesmerising journey between Hollyford Valley and Cleddau Valley. This section of Milford Road is nothing short of spectacular, and no matter how many times I drive it, it never fails to leave me with new images carved into my memories. 

Entering Hollyford Valley

Hollyford Valley begins about 87km from Te Anau along Milford Road, and driving through it, fully taking it in, is a truly awesome experience. The road meanders along, flanked by ancient beech forests that create a dense green canopy. Towering peaks extend either side, and each turn in the winding valley road could reveal glimpses of elusive wildlife, secluded nooks, and vistas that stretch as far as you can see. 

As a coach driver, I appreciate knowing that everyone aboard has entrusted me to provide an immersive experience as I navigate them through the valley. If they were driving themselves, they wouldn’t get to sit back and let themselves be lost in the scenery, so knowing they’re getting to properly witness this part of the road I love so much is a highlight of every trip. It's not just a drive; it's a passage through a living masterpiece that reveals a story thousands of years old.

Every time I drive down the valley, the mountains hugging the road, I’m reminded that where we are driving right now was once under a giant river of ice, a massive glacier, that would have extended for hundreds of kilometres right out to the sea, and once retreating, in my opinion, left behind one of the grandest glacier-carved valleys there is. 

Join Murray or one of our guides on a Luxe Milford Sound Tour and use Promo Code: INDULGEME60 to save $60 per guest!


Christie Falls Creek

Christie Falls Creek, Milford Sound, Luxe Tours NZ

One of the places we often stop on our trip through the Hollyford Valley is Christie Falls Creek, just past the turn to the Lower Hollyford Valley. When we get out, the air is filled with the soothing sound of cascading water, and a small bridge leads us to the Christie Falls waterfall. 

I love the setting of this waterfall, nestled in a crevasse and tumbling down between the rocks. The footbridge here has thankfully been rebuilt recently after Mother Nature got a bit grumpy and struck the area with heavy floods in 2020, and it allows us to get up close to the extremely scenic cascading waterfall. 

Monkey Creek

After ensuring we spend a good amount of time just listening to the water, breathing in the mountain and rain forest air, and taking in the scenery, we board the coach again and continue through the valley to the next incredible spot on our trip: Monkey Creek.

Monkey Creek, Milford Sound, Luxe Tours NZ

Monkey Creek is a glacier-fed spring with pure, crystal-clear iced water surrounded by impressive mountain peaks. I always enjoy seeing the excitement as guests capture some of the most amazing photos here. This spot is also where we have one of Luxe’s special guest experiences, and kea, clever and curious alpine parrots, almost always make an appearance, searching for backpacks and mischief. There are smiles all around while we observe the antics of these birds.

Sometimes we also see whio/blue ducks that are declining in numbers and are often not seen in the wild, so whenever we catch a glimpse of one at Monkey Creek it’s pretty special. 

At 12pm, this spot is usually flooded with tourists, so I like to make sure we arrive a little earlier so we can experience the area peacefully with our small group without being overwhelmed by the crowds rolling through. 

Homer Tunnel

Once back aboard the coach, we continue to weave along Milford Road, and the mountains only seem to grow higher as smiles grow wider, and you can feel the anticipation building. That’s one of the best things about experiencing the road with a small group of people; Everyone’s energy bounces off everyone else’s and the excitement just grows with the mountains. 

Eventually, we reach a valley surrounded by dark, looming cliff faces that at first glance, seem like a dead end. Here, everything becomes dwarfed by the towering peaks above, and you feel the full power of nature as you see the tiny road disappear into the mountainside, into the Homer Tunnel.

The 1.2-kilometre tunnel allows people to pass through the Darran Mountains, which is also the location of Fiordland National Park's tallest peak, Mount Tūtoko, about a third of the height of Mount Everest.

The Homer Tunnel can be quite a surprise for first-timers because they are often expecting the usual kind of highway tunnel. But the Homer Tunnel, which opened in 1954, looks like it was hand-dug yesterday. It still has its jagged appearance, and when entering it, I can almost see the men working away with their pick axes. 19 years of exhausting work, costing some their lives, all to allow us easier access to Milford Sound. I’m always grateful as we drive into the darkness. 

Cleddau Valley 

There’s always a hushed, appreciative stillness as we drive through the often dripping blackness, broken only by headlights and recently installed wall lighting. Then, as we reach the end of the tunnel, almost like stepping through a portal to another world, we burst out into the Cleddau valley. 

Hearing the collective gasp from our group is always the best part of the day, where I get to witness the moment people become completely awestruck by one of my favourite sights: the snaking road surrounded by giant mountains winding through the Cleddau Valley.

We stop, turn the van off, and just stare and take in the view. On a dry day, the view is massive and rugged, often with the sound of kea echoing in the background. On a rainy day, the view can be less expansive but moody and mysterious, the cliffs are awash with waterfalls and all you can hear is the sound of rushing water. No matter the weather, it's always an extraordinary scene, and we just stand in silence together, taking it all in. 

Weaving through rain forests and mountains between the Hollyford and Cleddeau Valleys, Milford Road becomes more than just a passage. If you allow yourself to become fully engrossed in the scenes unfolding before you, it transforms into a story told through the towering peaks, untamed rivers, and rushing waterfalls. Driving through this section of the road feels like you’re driving through a painting, and each twist and turn reveals another breathtaking sight unique to the wildness of Fiordland.  

If you decide to embark on a journey to Milford Sound, be sure to give yourself the best opportunity to properly savour every moment between the Hollyford and Cleddau Valleys. I believe everyone who travels the road deserves to feel the complete wonder and awe that comes from taking the time to observe and notice everything this incredible piece of the road has to offer. In my opinion, it’s a section that holds an array of Fiordland’s finest scenes. So to truly appreciate it, make sure you slow down, breathe in the pristine air, and immerse yourself in the unparalleled beauty of Milford Road’s most stunning stretch. 

Join Murray or one of our guides on a Luxe Milford Sound Tour.


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