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Fiordland - Milford Track
53.5kms - 4 days
100 years of fame
Around 100 years ago, in an article that appeared in the London Spectator, the poet Blanche Baughan declared the Milford Track to be ‘the finest walk in the world’. Here is a little of what she said:
"This is truly the "region of the perpendicular" - the mountains are split right straight down from their summits to within a few hundred feet of sea level. The other valley-side, perhaps half-a-mile from its fellow, is equally steep and just as precipitous; and presently, as the track ascends, as the trees lessen both in size and number, and the frowning white-tipped walls begin to draw together above the canyon, you realise that you are walking at the bottom of a gigantic furrow of the earth."
Milford Track is arguably New Zealand’s most famous walk. The 53 kilometre journey begins at the head of Lake Te Anau, and leads you across suspension bridges, board walks and a mountain pass. The Milford Track will show you pristine lakes, sky-scraping mountain peaks and enormous valley views; and it will take you to feel the misty breath of Sutherland Falls, the tallest waterfall in New Zealand.
On a sunny day it is postcard perfect but some walkers say that only when it rains, and torrents of water cascade down the steep mountainsides, have you truly experienced the magic of the Milford Track.
Guided walkers take five days and four nights to complete the 53 kilometre track; independent walkers usually take a day and night less. The track is always walked from south to north, to minimise impact on the environment. There are three public accommodation huts and three private lodges on the track; camping is not permitted.
The splendours of MacKinnon Pass
The first two and a half days of the track are uphill. Beginning at 200 metres above sea level the track then climbs to MacKinnon Pass at 1069 metres. As you approach the pass the ascension becomes more earnest zig-zagging along a total of nine switchbacks. While catching your breath at the summit of the pass, you can look back on the stunning Clinton Valley. To the north lies Arthur Valley and Milford Sound - a view that is crowded with mountain peaks.
The tallest falls in New Zealand
On the third or fourth day of the track is Sutherland Falls. The 580 metre fall drops directly out of Lake Quill, which is fed by several glaciers, and plummets to the ground in three steps. The world waterfall database gives the falls a scenic rating of 95/100 and a grandeur rating of 35/35. Other photogenic waterfalls on the track include Hirere Falls (420 metres) and Dudleigh Falls.
Before and after the walk
The lakeside town of Te Anau is the gateway to Fiordland National Park and the Milford Track. Great restaurants, quality accommodation in a remarkable alpine setting make Te Anau a very appealing place to prepare for (or recover from) walking the Milford Track. Other adventures in the area include horse treks, a visit to the glowworm caves, night sky safaris, fiord cruises and sea kayak safaris.
A quick history of the track
Milford Track follows the Clinton and Arthur Valleys, which are separated by the MacKinnon Pass. These U-shaped valleys were carved by glaciers during the last ice age which ended some 14,000 years ago.
The route was discovered by Quintin MacKinnon in 1888 and the first track was completed within two years. In the early days, one of the most colourful guides was MacKinnon himself. In his sailing boat ‘Juliet’ he ferried parties to the head of Lake Te Anau, then guided them up over MacKinnon Pass to Lake Ada where another boat ferried them to an accommodation house at Milford Sound. MacKinnon was well-known for his pompolonas (pan scones), as well as his parrot and pigeon stew.
Over the years, Milford Track has been improved with bridges and boardwalks, which allow walkers to travel in all but the most severe weather.
Booking a walk with a tour provider
There are a number of specialist tour operators who can aide you in bringing your walking experience to life. Whether you are looking for a guided tour or accommodation along the track browse through our business listings to find the walkin experience that is right for you.
Booking a walk independently
If you want to walk a Great Walk independently you will need a Great Walks Pass The fees for this varies between each Great Walk, but all prices are very reasonable as they are heavily subsidised in order to foster participation by many people.
For some Great Walks you may need to make a booking, for others simply purchase a Great Walks hut or campsite pass before your trip
- For the Milford, Kepler, Routeburn, Heaphy and Abel Tasman the online system allows you to check availability and pay for your booking. Book online
- Department of Conservation (DOC) Visitor Centres national wide can make hut or campsite bookings on your behalf. A booking fee applies.
- Call on +64-3-249 8514, fax +64-3-249 8515, email email@example.com