Common questions

Where can I purchase food?

Is there a restaurant nearby?

Where can I get fuel?

Can I visit Knobs Flat in the winter?

Where can I park?

What facilities do I have access to?

I have a tent or campervan. Where can I stay?

How do we find Knobs Flat?

What are the Knobs of Knobs Flat?

Is there AC power in the units?

 

Where can I purchase food?

Te Anau has two supermarkets and other outlets where you can purchase food and wine to suit your taste and inclinations. They are not large by city standards but hold a good range of all the basics and more for any length of stay in Fiordland. The main supermarket is open fom 7:00 am to 9:00 pm in the summer, and from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm in the winter.

If you do arrive at Knobs Flat without food in the 'tucker box' we have a small shop. It has a small selection of canned, dried, fresh and frozen food to ensure you won't go hungry for breakfast, dinner or tea.

Each of the rooms has tea, coffee, sugar and milk and a plunger waiting for your favourite coffee grounds.

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Is there a restaurant nearby?

While I may not personally think of Knobs Flat as being in the wilderness, the nearest hotel restaurant (in fact the nearest habitation with the exception of one farmstead) is 36 km away at Te Anau Downs. Beyond that you have to go to Te Anau 62 km away, or to Milford Sound 60 km in the other direction.

Te Anau does have a good selection of eating out places and a number of people choose to dine there and then travel the 45 minutes out to Knobs Flat. Others eat out at Milford Sound in the Blue Duck Cafe (bistro bar) at the end of a day's adventure and after the rush, before travelling the hour back to Knobs Flat in the evening.

Alternatively, arrive at Knobs Flat, settle in to the scenery, relax and use the gas top cookers and the kitchen facilities each unit has to prepare your own evening fare. We have a small shop on site, so you need not go hungry if you have not come with your own food.

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Where can I get fuel?

The nearest full fuel and mechanical services are in Te Anau. Diesel and petrol are usually but not always available at Milford. The minimum round trip with no side diversons from Te Anau to Milford is 240km. My advice; fuel up before you leave Te Anau.

Gunn's Camp have a limited supply of fuel 24 hrs (it is hand pumped), though I suggest that late at night or early in the morning might not win you any friends. At Knobs Flat we have jerry cans of petrol and diesel for our own use and inevariably, the ill prepared (whom I charge like the proverbial).

For others who ask in advance, motorcyclists with limited fuel capacity and guests staying who drive the road several days and do not intend going back to Te Anau the price is more reasonable but still has to cover costs.

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Can I visit Knobs Flat in the winter?

Being winter there is usually some snow covering the mountain ranges around us, the Earl Mountains on one side and the Otapara Range on the other. It can reach the Eglinton valley floor but often does not hang around. But yes, if the snow is heavy it can make it impossible to get to Knobs Flat, however that has only happened twice since 2000 and the road was opened within a day each time.

Beyond Knobs Flat you may be required by law to carry chains that fit your vehicle if the conditions are icy. This circumstance will be posted on information signage on the outskirts of Te Anau as well as at fuel stops in Te Anau where you can hire chains. Occasionally the road is closed beyond here (Knobs Flat). This might happen a number of times a winter and may last only a few hours or it may be closed for several days.

If the road is closed beyond Knobs Flat (actually it is usually 20km beyond here at the Hollyford Valley turn off) there is still plenty to see and do up the Milford Road.

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Where can I park?

Knobs Flat is a backcountry experience even by New Zealand standards and tries to be informal. There are no painted lines in the parking areas usually used by guests, it is a gravel surface and you decide where and how you want to park thinking about how other guests will also share the space. Parking is free, we leave metered parking far behind in the towns and cities.

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What facilities do I have access to?

At Knobs Flat the units are warm and comfortable, the views are spectacular and there is plenty to see and do.

Each unit has a small fridge, gas top cooking with two gas rings and a small gas grill, the usual pots and pans necessary for preparing a simple meal (check also Accommodation from the main menu). While the fridge in your room has a small but perfectly good ice box, for larger items or quantities of frozen goods we do have a freezer at reception you can use. We also have larger pots and pans, if you have managed to procure a crayfish, along with some other kitchen items for special requirements.

At this stage we do not have an oven on the premises, we do have a cast aluminium 'camp oven' which used on the gas rings is good enough for baking camp bread or roasting in. We have a portable BBQ shared by guests for outside cooking. There are no microwave ovens on the premises.

You have access to a washing machine and drying is done out of doors in the sun and wind on a rotary clothes line. There is a clothes line under cover for when it is raining.

We do however take our guests back to simpler times and you will not find a TV or radio in the room. Neither will you find a bedside clock, microwave, telephone or the internet. There is no cell phone coverage from Knobs Flat. There is a public pay phone that accepts credit cards on the premises but not in your room. I of course have a business phone if there are urgent inwards messages to be passed on.

There is a small library in reception with books on Fiordland you can borrow along with a few games. There is plenty to see and do in the great outdoors. You could even talk to the other half if you have one and have brought them or others along. We encourage you to appreciate a little of what life used to be like and perhaps could be, if you made the choice.

If you think this sounds like you then you are welcome. If you are looking for TV or the internet or your cell phone is wired to your fingers or ear, then perhaps you had better look for accommodation in Te Anau or in other places more urban.

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I have a tent or campervan. Where can I stay?

You can stay right here at Knobs Flat. We have a dozen great tent and campervan sites where you have access to good showers and toilets and a camp kitchen. If you just want a shower then showers are available here at Knobs Flat.

There are no 'powered sites' between Milford Sound and Te Anau. You are off the grid at Knobs Flat and in the back blocks when you come on out our direction. You will be able to charge small appliances while here but we do not have 'plug in' powered sites. Our own hydro power station is just not large enough to make it possible.

If you are looking for something more basic the Department of Conservation (DOC) have around a dozen very good basic camp sites along the Milford Road. Deer Flat nearby is a popular site with plenty of room.

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How do we find Knobs Flat?

Finding Knobs Flat Accommodation is easy. There are not many options. If you insist on using GPS vehicle based mapping then skip to the last paragraphs. I wouldn't bother however, just lift your head out of the cockpit, read the road signs to Milford Sound from Te Anau (like people used to do) and enjoy the view. Read the next couple of paragraphs if you do need help with directions or a little reassurance.

Self drive

By road Knobs Flat is on State Highway 94 north to Milford Sound from Te Anau. It is a 120 km long no exit highway, so until you have driven past Knobs Flat, you can only arrive at Knobs Flat by road from one direction, from Te Anau 62 km away.

26 km from Te Anau at Te Anau Downs there is a blue relectorised road advisory sign with the words 'Knobs Flat 36km' on it. 2 km from Knobs Flat there is a highway sign with 'Knobs Flat 2km' on it, underneath there are four symbols displayed including the 'accommodation' bed symbol, that's us specifically. At 400 m out there is another sign, this says 'Knobs Flat 400m' with the same symbols underneath. At 100m there is a lonely Knobs Flat 'locality' sign, both brown in colour and non reflectorised, indicating its status. It is less visible at night. At this point the buildings become obvious and also help give it away. There are very few buildings along the Milford Road beyond the Te Anau Downs farm (33km away). That said, someone once did drive past Knobs Flat, the scenery is a distraction.

And then we reach the entrance. The blue reflectorised sign that marks the turn off into the Knobs Flat built up area itself, becomes visible and is readable from around 200m away (100m before the brown locality sign). It of course again has the bed symbol (that's us!) and on the right hand side and across the road is our own 'Knobs Flat' sign. We all have to make our mark.

You are probably starting to get the picture. Turn right off the highway here, there is no other logical option, and weave your way straight up the road past several minor intersections to the first building on the right (around 75m up from the highway), it has a sign 'Reception' on it and the rest they say, is history.

 

By coach

If you are arriving by coach or commercial transport, the driver is likely to set you down at the amenity block (first building on the left on the premises). Walk up the road 20m to the building with the sign 'Reception', see paragraph immediately above. If the driver does not know where Knobs Flat is, I am sorry, you have got a very shonky company ... the driver will know!

By air

You could arrive by air. The only real option is helicopter.   Being in the national park the pilot will need the appropriate permissions from DOC to land. Unless you have flown in from Auckland (some remote North Island town) the pilot should know where Knobs Flat is. If you want to impress them let them know it is a VFR reporting point marked on the applicable aviation maps. If they are not immediately sure, our grass helipad at about 44° 58' 40.00" S 168° 01' 03.00" E.  From there walk 30m NE along the gravel path (the pilot should be able to point you in the direction of NE) to find the building with the sign 'Reception', refer two paragraphs above.

Google map errors

Note Google Earth has Knobs Flat incorrectly located several km south of the actual locality. Some web based mapping programmes that use google maps as a base even have us located near Te Anau, 60km wrong, so a fat lot of use they are. You might try entering 6178 Te Anau Milford Highway. A sad entitlement on life, we have recently been given a number, we are 61780m from somewhere and this may eventually show up on digital maps.

GPS users

If you have a GPS mapping database in your vehicle my recommendation is to throw it away (or at least, turn it off) and turn the brain back on. The long winded directions in the paragraphs above are by far and away easier to follow than all the GPS based systems I have seen to date. Using these systems you are likely to be diverted around Te Anau and miss the town and your food and fuel stops.

All the GPS mapping systems used in vehicles that I have seen do not have Knobs Flat "indexed" though many do actually have Knobs Flat marked on their maps. This means you cannot use the "GO TO" to find Knobs Flat. Use the directions above. I will answer distraught phone calls from lost GPS users (in the unlucky event you have cell phone coverage) but you will just get the same messages as relayed here.

Pull your head up from the screen and look out the window, read the road signs, relax. You are very unlikely to go wrong (even at night, all the critical signs are reflectorized) and if you do it is very unlikely to be fatal, or even for that matter the slightest bit harmful. It may even be enlightening, the view is great and the mental challenge .... well I leave it up to you.

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What are the Knobs of Knobs Flat?

So what and where are these Knobs of Knobs Flat?  A number of them are visible from here as grass covered hillocks in the open grassland across the Eglinton Valley. Others lie hidden under the adjacent beech forest.

Recent geological thinking suggests they are the largely covered remains of a significant land slump that occurred after the last glacial period ended around 10,000 years ago. As the sides of the Eglinton valley were no longer supported by the glacial ice they were free to collapse and fall to the valley floor. The escarpment where the debris of the Knobs Flat event probably came from is still visible and unstable today.

River sorted gravels have subsequently washed over and around this debris pile in the valley floor Now only the tops of the highest 'knobs' are visible, stranded in the wide and level expanse of the open Eglinton River flats. Sometimes they have vegetated over with beech forest, sometimes they remain exposed to catch the afternoon sun and cast shadows across the landscape.

There is evidence for many such hillside failures throughout Fiordland. A large number of lakes and wetlands have been created as a result. While some of the largest slumps appear to have occurred shortly after the end of the glacial period, including the worlds largest known land slum, some 14cubic km in volume near Lake Monowai, others have occurred much more recently. Many may be associated with movement in the alpine fault.

Earlier geological wisdom had the knobs to be Kames, a process of deposition whereby rivers and streams transport and deposit gravels into ice caverns within decaying glaciers. When the glaciers finally melt the piles of gravel remain.

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Is there AC power in the units?

Yes there is.  In fact all the units run on a battery bank and inverter so should the main power supply ever go down, as it does from time to time, the power to the units remains uninterrupted.  Only once in 6 years have we lost power to the units for around 1/2 an hour until I could fix the problem.  Cameras, laptops and low draw items are not an issue.  If you sleep with a cpat machine or other medical device that requires 230V AC throughout the night I do not anticipate there should be any problems with that.

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