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New Zealand’s nine ‘Great Walks’ are dotted throughout the country, winding their way through varied landscapes like volcanic plateaus and emerald green forests. It’s no wonder the Fiordland region – with its impressive mountains, fiords, waterfalls and forests – plays host to no less than three of these Great Walks.
For those that enjoy hiking amidst awe-inspiring landscapes, Fiordland is paradise. Chances are, you’ll only have enough time to walk one track. But how do you choose? Here’s a snapshot of each of the trails from a local’s perspective to help you decide which suits you the best.
The Routeburn Track
This well-kept trail links Mount Aspiring National Park with Fiordland National Park and its huge views make for some stunning hiking. Think soaring peaks, enormous valleys, waterfalls, and alpine lakes. The track climbs to an impressive 4,117 feet above sea level, so you can imagine the panoramas you get to soak up en route. In forested sections of the track, native birds are a-plenty; look out for the cheeky kea, the world’s only alpine parrot, as well as tomtits, robins and fantails.
Is the Routeburn for me?
The Routeburn is one of the shorter tracks, taking around 3 days to walk in full. This is great if you’re short on time or want to have more days to travel to many different parts of the country during your vacation. It’s also a point-to-point track, linking Glenorchy (near Queenstown) with The Divide on the Milford Road (near Te Anau), so you can choose the direction you want to hike that suits your vacation plans the best. It’s not as popular as the Milford Track, but it is one of the more well-known hikes.
The Kepler Track
Custom-designed to showcase all of Fiordland’s best features, the Kepler Track winds past mountains, native forest, glacier-carved valleys and waterfalls. Huge limestone formations make for great photos, and large river flats give your legs a rest from climbing. Winding through mossy beech forests, you’re certain to spot plenty of native bird life (on Day One there’s a high chance you’ll encounter the Kea bird).
Is the Kepler Track for me?
One of the lesser-known trails, you’re not likely to come across as many people as you would on the Routeburn or the Milford. The construction of the track also makes for very easy walking – streams are bridged, there are steps on steep sections and boardwalks cover boggy areas. Because this track was built to cover the best of Fiordland, it’s a great way to experience all of the spectacular landscapes that this part of the country is known for.
The Milford Track
If you’re a keen hiker, it’s highly likely you would have heard of New Zealand’s most famous walk – the Milford Track. Once labeled the ‘finest walk in the world’, the trail winds past Fiordland’s grandest landscapes; including crystal-clear lakes, soaring peaks and enormous, wide valleys. The Milford Track is probably one of the only walks in the world where you want at least a day of rain. Many say that during wet weather, when walkers are surrounded by water tumbling down steep mountainsides, the Milford Track is at is most unforgettable.
Is the Milford Track for me?
Graded as ‘Easy/Intermediate’, the Milford Track showcases New Zealand’s tallest waterfalls and ends bang smack in the middle of the World Heritage wonder that is Milford Sound. As one of the country’s most famous walks, it is popular, which means you may meet a number of people along the way. For most hikers, the track days 4 days of walking to complete.
I’ve got limited time, but I want to experience them all!
We’ve heard visitors say this so much that we decided to create an experience where guests can get a taste of all three Great Walks over only three days. The ultimate walking package, you’ll hike up to Key Summit on the Routeburn Track, experience a guided heli-hike on the Kepler Track and enjoy a Milford Track guided walk and boat cruise on the third and final day. Love hiking, but short on time? Then this is the ultimate Fiordland walking package. Visit our website for more information.