If one has the time, and the luxury of having a car, or rented a car, driving around the South Island of New Zealand is one of the great adventures in life. Aside from cities and towns, a majority of the island has little traffic, and nothing but sweeping views of far off mountains, expansive coastlines, and almost everything in between. While it is hard to single out one specific drive with the “best” views, any list would surely include the stretch of State Highway 94 from Te Anau to the Milford Sound (otherwise known as the Milford Road). Along this 118 kilometer (73 miles) stretch of road, one has fantastic views of Fiordland National Park, with alpine meadows, snowcapped peaks, waterfalls, old growth forests, and glacial valleys. The only downside to this road is that unlike other stretches of New Zealand highways, it is narrow, and at times, does not have places to pull out and admire the view.
While the intrepid traveler can stop at the Divide, and day-hike Key Summit as part or all of the Routeburn Track, and a lucky few can backpack the Milford Track, casual travelers are best served by a stop at the Chasm either on their way to Milford Sound or back, a spot with a short walk but one with epic views of the national park.
Directions: The Chasm is well-signed off of SH 94, and is located some one hundred and nine kilometers northeast from Te Anau. Even though it is hard to miss, it is located approximately five kilometers from the Homer Tunnel. From the parking area, it is a short, graded gravel path that leads out in a small loop across an open expanse, before ducking under the trees, and passing over two bridges that cross the Cleddau River. Here, along the river is where the trail gets its name as there are numerous sculpted rocks from thousands of years of flowing water, and many picturesque waterfalls that drop off into hidden channels carved into the rock. At 400 mostly flat meters, this is a trail that is suitable for everyone and one that is worth a stop because of the many great views of the park that it provides.
Tips: Although it may seem obvious, visitors should stay behind the barriers at this spot, as a fall could be fatal or cause serious injury. Visitors to the area who are interested in a multi-spot adventure can easily fit this, Key Summit, and the visitor’s area around Milford Sound in a day’s exploring.