It had definitely been a few years since I’d last set foot down the Milford Road. I used to work for a scenic flight company in Te Anau so would frequent it on a regular basis ferrying passengers off their flights in the van when the weather didn’t permit flying. This was nearly 20 years ago and although much of the road and Milford Sound itself remains the same the number of visitors in the area has increased substantially. Having memories of this area as a carefree single person on foot is quite a different experience to returning with a young family and a manual tilt in space wheelchair to negotiate the terrain. These days what was once a quick sightseeing stop can now become a whole new challenge of accessibility barriers and crowded viewing platforms. I have to add though it is still incredibly scenic and well worth a visit despite the crowds. The beauty of Fiordland was never going to remain a secret forever!
The Chasm Walk
- Duration: 20 minutes | Distance: 1km return via the same track
- Location: Off Milford Road halfway between Milford Sound & the Homer Tunnel.
- Accessible Toilets: No
- Track Terrain: Mix of loose gravel to more compacted & wooden boardwalk.
- Parking: Large, tarmac & gravel terrain – well-signposted
There are two footbridges that cross over the Cleddau River which offer dramatic views of a series of powerful waterfalls. Thousands of years of swirling water has sculpted shapes and basins in the rock. The sheer velocity of water gives an appreciation of how much rainfall the Milford Sound area receives every year.
We were told at the outset that this track was wheelchair accessible and it clearly says it is on the signage as you enter. However, we would describe this track as ‘doable’ by wheelchair, as we managed it, but with a lot of assistance in many areas due to loose gravel and steep gradients. We attempted it with a heavy tilt in space wheelchair and hadn’t lifted the caster wheels.
A guide had remarked we’d be fine with a wheelchair so we thought OK let’s give it a go. However, we should have listened to our gut instinct and pulled out our son’s all-terrain wheelchair as it would have made the track a lot easier to manage. We were just being a little lazy and didn’t feel like unpacking it and putting it together. Good old Finlay’s Pop said he’d push Finlay up the track not a problem, and he did, all the way there and all the way back!
There was a big lip to negotiate in one area due to a ‘wash-out’. Milford sound receives a huge amount of rainfall so areas like this can be found from time to time.
Once we arrived at the viewing bridges we found a wooden boardwalk with good viewing platforms. It was all nice and easy along this part.
We waited a while to allow the tour coach passengers to move through so that we could enjoy the free space to view the waterfall. The trip back was a lot easier (a) probably because we knew what was coming and (b) it was a steady downhill gradient the rest of the way.
The Mirror Lakes
- Duration: 10 minutes | Distance: 400m return
- Location: 56km north from Te Anau along Milford Road
- Accessible Toilets: No
- Track Terrain: Well-maintained wooden boardwalks
- Parking: Easy pull-over area to the side of the road
You will pass the Mirror Lakes on your left as you drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound. We looked out at them as we were driving past that morning and they looked stunning with the Earl Mountains reflecting off them. There was no breeze at all and it just looked perfect. However, because we were on our way to meet a morning cruise we didn’t have time to stop on our way in.
On our return, in the afternoon the breeze had come up and the Mirror Lakes had lost their mountain reflections. They were still beautiful though with all the wetland plants, beech trees and birdlife around.
In terms of wheelchair access to the Mirror Lakes, it is absolutely fine. Boardwalk all the way with large viewing platforms.
Check out our reviews:
- Our Milford Sound Cruise with Real Journeys.
- Where we stayed in Te Anau, the Distinction Luxmore Hotel