The Milford Track
Where: Southern South Island, Fjordlands, New Zealand.
When: Just after the summer season (Feb – May) can be wetter but is far less crowded and cheaper.
Remember to bring: Plenty of cash for trail fees and wet weather gear.
For an unforgettable journey into New Zealand’s wild fiord country, there’s no better walk than the Milford Track. Rudyard Kipling declared it the eighth wonder of the world and it has long been coined “the finest walk in the world”.
The 53.5km walk can be tackled in two ways: either as a “freedom walker” or by joining an organised trek. Either way, you just need to remember the walking season runs from November to April, and you must stay in designated huts (no camping is allowed), the number of walkers is restricted and you can only walk in one direction, from Lake Te Anau to Milford Sound.
If you want to go as an independent trekker you must book – as far ahead as possible – with the Department of Conservation. Whilst it is undoubtedly a lot cheaper to go it alone, it does mean you have to carry all your own equipment and the huts are a lot more basic (no hot showers!).
There is also a luxurious version of the guided walk. However, only one company – Milford Track Guided Walk – offers this option. Not only do you have the advantage of looking forward to a slap-up dinner and luxurious accommodation at the end of a hard day’s walking, the knowledgeable guides will also enrich your understanding of the surrounding flora and fauna.
The Milford Track’s origins lie in the discovery of a large waterfall (later known as the Sutherland Falls) by the first European resident of Milford Sound, Donald Sutherland. An overland route to the falls from the great lakes of the interior was sought after and, in 1888,Quintin Mackinnon forged a passable route from Lake Te Anau to the Arthur Valley. Tourism to the falls has boomed ever since those early years.
Today the 4-day hike (or 5 if you are doing the guided walk) takes walkers through a wealth of diverse landscapes, from wetland and prairies to the steep, invigorating climb over McKinnon’s Pass, and the final unveiling of the awesome Milford Sound at the end of the journey. For an unforgettable trip into New Zealand’s pristine fiordland, the Milford Track comes highly recommended.
Lastly, Milford’s reputation as being one of the wettest places on earth is not unfounded, so be sure to take wet weather gear with you! If the heavens do open, you’ll get to see dozens of waterfalls suddenly springing into life around you – a spectacular sight!
Department of Conservation
The official website, with information about all the trails available and advice on tramping.
Milford Track Guided Walk
Luxury guided walks along the Milford Track.