One of the first highlights of a trip to Milford Sound after entering Fiordland National Park is the Eglinton Valley. It was carved out by glaciers thousands of years ago. Today, steep rocky mountains covered in native beech forest line the valley. The flat floor of the valley is covered in eye-catching golden tussock grass.
The Milford Road runs through the valley alongside the shallow Eglinton River. This is one of only a few road-accessible valleys in the whole of Fiordland National Park. Within the Eglinton Valley you’ll also find the famous Mirror Lakes and Knobs Flat.
The first Europeans to explore the area came here in 1861. They named the river and valley after the British Earl of Eglinton. In 1935 the road was built, allowing more visitors to experience the valley’s beauty.
Eglinton Valley Wildlife
This part of Fiordland National Park is also significant for the wide variety and unique nature of its wildlife. The Eglinton Valley is one of only a few places in New Zealand with large areas of lowland beech forest. There are plants and wildlife here that you won’t find anywhere else in the world, including more than 30 rare, threatened or endangered species. This is why Fiordland National Park is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Area – to protect and preserve this unique area of Aotearoa.
The surrounding beech forest of the Eglinton Valley is home to a host of birdlife, as well as New Zealand’s only land mammals: bats (pekapeka). Our short-tailed bat is a fascinating creature – unlike other bats it has evolved to be able to crawl about on the forest floor and forage for food.
Beauty worth capturing
Several areas in the Eglinton Valley were locations in the Lord of the Rings movies, in particular the Eglinton mountains which represented the Misty Mountains in the Fellowship of the Ring.
The Eglinton Valley is a favourite photo stop for visitors – the eye-catching contrast between the dark tree-clad hillside and the rippling golden tussock makes for a stunning backdrop.
If you’re visiting Milford Sound on a day tour, your driver guide will probably make a stop somewhere in the Eglinton Valley so you can take photos and enjoy the quiet atmosphere.