State Highway 94 is a New Zealand state highway connecting the large Southland town of Gore with one of New Zealand’s most popular destinations Milford Sound. It also passes the significant townships of Lumsden and Te Anau as well going through the Homer Tunnel (in this area it is also called the ‚Milford Road‘, with the section from Te Anau up to the Sound being 119 kilometres or 74 miles). The road also goes through Fiordland and crosses the Main Divide of the Southern Alps.
It is regarded as one of the most scenic roads in New Zealand, and with a peak elevation of 940 metres (3,080 ft), the country’s third highest highway after the Desert Road (SH 1) and the Lindis Pass (SH 8). However, the „Milford Road“ part is also one of the more dangerous public roads in New Zealand, with injury crash rates around 65% higher than the rest of New Zealand’s network, and a fatality crash rate of almost twice average (per vehicle kilometre travelled), making it the third most dangerous section of New Zealand’s State Highway network (as of 2008)
The road alignment was first surveyed in 1890 by London-born engineer Robert Holmes, who later became the Engineer-in-Chief of the Public Works Department. Holmes initially preferred a route starting at Lake Wakatipu and running northwest, but the decision was instead made to start from Te Anau.
However, the project then languished in planning for 40 years, possibly because in 1889 road building had been removed from the brief of the Public Works Department, and only reinstated with much more limited authority in 1909. It took until 1935 to construct a rough road to the entrance of what would become Homer Tunnel. The tunnel itself was excavated by pick and shovel. While the breakthrough was achieved in February 1940, the labour shortage caused by World War II caused significant delays, and it was not until 1953 that the tunnel was finally completed.
Te Anau to Milford Sound – The Milford Road
In Te Anau, the road changes name to Luxmore Drive as it proceeds towards the town centre. Once there, the road swings to the right and becomes Milford Road, once outside the town limits the road changes name to Te Anau Milford Highway. The road then hugs the shoreline of Lake Te Anau for about 29 km until it reaches Te Anau Downs. From Te Anau Downs, the road veers right and enters the Eglinton Valley. The road then runs parallel to the right side of the Eglinton River for 33 km while it passes through Knobs Flat. At Cascade Creek, the road emerges onto the shorelines of Lake Gunn and Lake Fergus. The road then passes through a saddle and emerges at the upper section of the Hollyford Valley.
After Hollyford, the road veers to the west and rises steadily along the valley to its highest point at the Homer Tunnel. At 1270 metres long it is the second-longest road tunnel in New Zealand (after the Lyttelton road tunnel). The road then emerges at the head of the Cleddau Valley and the road spends its last 16 kilometres descending along the valley to Milford Sound