Things to do in Queenstown when the Milford Road is closed

Milford Sound’s remote location is both a blessing and a curse. The solitary access road into this spectacular destination is part of its unspoilt charm, but weather conditions can cut off access in a flash. Right now, flooding has closed the Milford Road, preventing visitors from getting through. Luckily, there are plenty more things to do in Queenstown while crews work to reopen the road.

At present the road is likely to be closed for most of February, so if you’re travelling in New Zealand and wondering what to do instead, here are some ideas:

Set off on a jet boat safari

If you’re looking for a day trip from Queenstown that includes excitement, beautiful scenery and some time on the water, the Dart River Wilderness Safari is a great alternative to a Milford Sound tour. You’ll travel bv coach along the shores of Lake Wakatipu to the picturesque town of Glenorchy, then board a jet boat and continue along the beautiful Dart River into Mt Aspiring National Park. Your day also includes a short walk through the native forest with a local guide, and a four-wheel drive tour of New Zealand’s rugged ‘back country’ through scenery featured in the Lord of the Rings movies.

Visit Aoraki/Mt Cook

Aoraki Mt CookWhile the breathtaking scenery of Milford Sound is out of reach, get your fix of soaring alpine peaks with a visit to New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki/Mount Cook. Take a day trip from Queenstown into Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, travelling past vivid glacier lakes and into the Southern Alps. Arriving at the tiny Mt Cook Village, nestled high in the mountains, you’ll have time to explore your surrounds and gaze up at the mountain’s imposing peaks. Take a short scenic hike, enjoy a gourmet lunch or take a scenic flight to get the full effect.

Explore the West Coast

A huge part of the appeal of Milford Sound is the journey along a winding, scenic road, feeling like you’re in the middle of nowhere. If you want to ‘get away from it all’, an adventure along the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island is an ideal replacement for your Milford Sound tour. InterCity offers daily services between Queenstown and the West Coast, stopping at popular destinations and all kinds of hidden gems. Visit the glacier townships of Franz Josef and Fox Glacier and the gold-mining towns of Hokitika and Greymouth, or marvel at the Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki. You’ll pass through ‘towns’ where only a handful of people live, skirt deserted lakes fringed by ancient trees, and along wild beaches where the Tasman Sea foams and crashes on to rocks and storm-tossed driftwood.

Go bungy jumping

Let’s be honest, this was probably already on your Queenstown bucket list already, so here’s the perfect chance to cross it off! From the original Kawerau Bridge Bungy just outside Queenstown to the white-knuckle, hold-on-to-your-pants adventures of the Nevis, Ledge and Canyon Swing bungy options, there are so many ways to get that adrenaline hit.

Go wine tasting

The area surrounding Queenstown is jam-packed with vineyards – the combination of mountain slopes, stony rivers and sheltered valleys makes for perfect grape-growing conditions. For a relaxing and delicious way to spend your time, make a day of it and visit some local wineries. Most local vineyards have a cellar door where you can taste their wines and buy the perfect souvenir to take home. Many also have adjoining restaurants so you can settle in with a meal or a tasty platter and enjoy the view while you sip.

With all these Queenstown activity options, the Milford Road will be open again before you know it!

Wondering why the Milford Road is closed? Check out this astounding video of the damage caused by the February 2020 flooding in Fiordland National Park:

Crews are working hard to repair the damage and clear the road, so that visitors can enjoy trips to Milford Sound again as soon as possible.

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Comments (4)

Hi There
My family and I will be in Queenstown in mid March. Do you think that the Milford sound road is I’ll be open again by then and if so is it a good idea to pre book now
Kind Regards
Debbie

Kia ora Debbie, tourism buses and coaches will be allowed through from 21 February onward, so if you’re planning to travel to Milford Sound in mid-March it is likely you’ll be able to travel there on a pre-booked tour.

Hi! I have Milford Sound on my itinerary on March 25th 2020 from Queenstown. Given that only buses would be going, will cruises continue or will they be shut? Also if the cruise is there, can I complete the trip to Milford by bus and return to Queenstown on the same day? Thank you! – awaiting your reply at the earliest!

Yes, cruises are running and day tour buses and coaches are timed to arrive in time for cruise departures.

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