Without a doubt one of New Zealand’s most impressive engineering masterpieces.
You could spend the whole day driving the Milford road, stopping at some of the most beautiful scenic spots you may have ever seen, but in my opinion, nothing trumps the Homer Tunnel when it comes to the rich history and impressive story behind how it became the incredible, slightly treacherous tunnel it is today.
In 1889 the Homer Saddle was discovered by William Henry Homer and as a result, the Homer tunnel was constructed to allow easy access to Milford. Construction didn’t start until 1935 and they say initially there was just 5 men with picks and wheelbarrows chipping away at the solid granite working in the shadow of the monstrous Homer Saddle. Obviously, progress was slow. Without the machinery and technology they have today there must have been more than a few setbacks. Fractures in the rock causing huge problems with leakage from snow melt, avalanches and of course, World war 2 slowed construction right down. Although they made it through to the other side in 1940 it still needed to be made wider and eventually the tunnel was open to the public in 1954.
The tunnel is 1,240 meters long 5.5meters wide by 7 meters tall. Not quite wide enough for 2 lanes you may think. Sure enough, it was opened to traffic going both ways as they pleased. A bus and small car might squeeze past each other, but I wouldn’t want to be in a large campervan meeting a bus coming the other way! Thankfully, in 2004 traffic lights went in and it was reduced to a one-way tunnel which suits me just fine!
So, as your VIP coach pulls up to the entrance of this magnificent tunnel, think back to the 5 guys who picked up their picks and started swinging away. What an amazing accomplishment. We now have over 400,000 people visit Milford Sound each year, each passing through a slice of history that is the Homer Tunnel.
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