a VirtualTourist member
We have planned a day trip up to Milford Sounds into our short stay in South Island in August, but have recently read concerning information about Avalanches.
We have rented a 4x4 in the hope that this would be more suitable for the journey and had planned a day trip, leaving Te Anau and getting back to Queenstown for that night. I am aware thats about 5 hrs of driving in good conditions - that bit doesnt worry me. However, what are the chances of the road being closed or high avalanche risks at the end of August (28th/29th)? , The website i saw mentioned 4 months of risk but is it higher or lower in August.
I hadnt planned on getting chains, but saw that this is sometimes a legal requirement (not sure if i want to drive in such bad conditions). I really dont want to miss out on the beauty of Milford Sounds, but need some advise.
If there is a high avalanche risk it does not matter what kind of car you are travelling in - they won't let you pass.
As unpredictable as the weather is, it is not possible to generalise when the road will be closed. It can also be closed due to heavy snowfall without high avalanche risk. You cannot set a date for low and high risk, as snowfall is unpredictable. On the Milford Road you must count with snow from June to November. Road closures are not very frequent but can occur at any time. (For example, today there was snow on the Routeburn Track.) So it is essential to watch the weather forecast when you are in the region - and carry snow chains for any eventuality. And I would not count with making the trip from Milford Sound to Queenstown in 5 hours. It takes about two hours from Te Anau to Milford Sound.
Travel distances on www.aatravel.co.nz
An option you could consider is a scenic flight from Queenstown to Milford Sound. However, this comes at a price.
If conditions are bad you better change your plans because it makes no sense to drive the whole day without seeing anything but low cloud and fog.
My suggestion for visiting Milford would be to take a tour - horrible sounding I know, but the roads are difficult at the best of times and as the driver you will miss out on 90% of the experience because you will be completely focused on the road. But, to answer your question August is the middle of winter. It will be cold and there will be snow and ice around (there was lots around when I was there in November).
Have a good trip.