Ask a local on which type of weather in Milford Sound is better and you will generally find a 33/33/33 split between a sunny day, a day full of rain and a winter's snowy day. We simply cannot choose one, it would be unfair to the others as they are all equally as stunning, just in different ways. Check out our reviews of must do's for sunny days and the winter months.
While the Hollyford Valley viewpoint on a wet, grey day may not provide as spectacular views as those by a sunny or clear winter's alternative, what will stun you is the section of road in this area. Be prepared to have your head tilted up out the window as you take in the breathtaking waterfalls that will splash down on the road and your vehicle as you drive through.
The fauna in the area seeps water down over anything passing under it. The road can become a running stream , providing for a small journey through Pandora in this particular section. Safety is paramount however, the road here is very narrow, down to one lane in places and on a wet day can be very challenging for drivers inexperienced with New Zealand roads, let alone the number of returning tourist busses trying to commute through also. Care is needed.
Lake Marian Track
While we would not suggest taking on the entire Lake Marian track, which is rated as 'Advanced', a careful 15 minute stroll to the broad-walk waterfalls is very much worth the effort of the stop.
Turning down onto the 'Lower Hollyford Road', the carpark is close to the turn off. Across the swing bridge you go, the well laid track brings you up slightly in elevation, alongside the river but in bush until it opens back up to stunning, large and roaring cascades. It would be fair to say that this section of the Lake Marian Track challenges the very popular spot at 'The Chasim' on the way into Milford Sound, however many large group tours do not stop here at Lake Marian due to the tight road and limited carpark area.
Good walking shoes are important here and allow 25-30 minutes return as a minimum. A camera is also a must!
Really a must do stop opportunity in all types of weather. Stunning in the sun, magical in winter, the Homer Tunnel turns it on most days. Either ends of the tunnel are equally as beautiful however only stopping at the southern end is possible in summer. Surrounded by steep mountain cliffs, there is space to pull over before entering from the Te Anau end of the tunnel. A cheeky kea is likely to greet you at most times, in the hope of course you will provide a meal to them although this is not allowed.
On a wet day, long skinny waterfalls will surround you and even drape the tunnel entrance. As you exit the Homer Tunnel, although unstoppable here, you are greeted by a steep switch back road that brings you down into the Milford basin through the Cleddau Valley, all the while surrounded by the area called 'Hundred Falls' which comes to life with a bit of rain. Literally over a hundred waterfalls appear from the cliff tops around you, giving you the sense you have arrived to a different world - or Milford Sound.
Of course Milford Sound is considered the 8th wonder of the world on any day but with rain it is truly special. Many people will be turned off making the trip into Milford on a wet day but these are the conditions some locals yearn for. While the main waterfalls in Milford such as Stirling Falls and Lady Bowen Falls crank up their water volume and intensity even more, hundreds of other smaller to medium size falls will appear, lining the Milford Sound corridor. All to be enjoyed of course from the comfort of your cruise, should you take advantage of that opportunity.
Most cruises will bring you up close for an encounter with a 'glacial kiss', referred to as this due to where the water is tracking down from - many glacier lakes far up in amongst the peaks of the mountains above. With around 7000mm, and 182 days on average of rainfall per year, there is a good chance you may experience Milford in this scenario.
Don't shy away from it, it gives you one of the best photo and video opportunities you will find in the world.
These stops are absolute must-do's on a wet day but that in no way should take away from stopping there on a sunny or winter day, but if you need to prioritise due to time then the above is where your GPS should be set to. At Luxe Tours we make these stops, along with seven others that are stunning on sunny or winter days.