The tunnel is just one of the many amazing features on the
Milford Road, one of the world's finest drives, which takes visitors
from Te Anau to Milford Sound.
Cutting under the Main Divide at the Homer Saddle, the tunnel stretches for 1270 metres through solid granite. Construction commenced in 1935, and after a long and extremely difficult period, the Homer Tunnel eventually opened in 1954.
When first opened, the tunnel's road surface was single lane and entirely gravel, making it, at that time, the world's longest gravel lined tunnel.
The tunnel was eventually widened and the surface sealed. These days, although the tunnel has two lanes, it's not really suitable for two buses to pass. Fortunately this rarely occurs, as most coaches travel in during the morning, then back out in the afternoon. During peak summer periods traffic lights control the flow through the tunnel.
As you arrive at the tunnel, there is an area where you can pull over and take photos, and it is here where you
are often met by one of New Zealand's native parrots, the cheeky Kea
(you can see them in the picture taken on our last trip). These
gregarious birds take great pleasure in "tasting" plastic and rubber
pieces of your car, so keep a watch out for them.
The Milford Road is an amazing journey, and as you can see from the pictures, the tunnel is surrounded by towering peaks. As you enter the tunnel it takes a while for your eyes to adjust to the light, and off in the
distance you can see a
small speck of light at the other end of the tunnel. When you exit the
tunnel, I can only describe the landscape as being like something out of
the movie Jurassic Park! As you can see from the picture, the road
winds its way down into the valley between massive cliffs. When it's
raining, waterfalls cascade down the peaks, and we can truly say that
the scenery almost takes your breath away.
The tunnel and surrounds are an integral part of what makes a visit to Milford Sound such a special experience.
Te Ara, the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, has more information on the building of the Homer Tunnel.