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Milford Track Travel Guide: The Ultimate Great Walk

Milford Track Travel Guide: The Ultimate Great Walk

I’m just going to come out and say it – the Milford Track is New Zealand’s greatest Great Walk. Of the nine Great Walks (with more to come) in New Zealand, it has the most iconic scenery, starting at the northern edge of Lake Te Anau and finishing up at Milford Sound. This Milford Track travel guide will show you what to expect during the four days of hiking, as well as some tips on organising your trip.

How Long Is It?

The Milford Track takes four days to complete, although I guess you could combine the first and second days if you had to. We did it in four, as did everyone else in our group.

How Hard Is It?

The first day is very easy and there’s only really one day that is hard in terms of uphill walking. I’d say it’s a bit easier than the Kepler Track and slightly harder than the Routeburn (mostly because that’s only three days). The first two days are mostly flat, as is the last. The third day is the toughest, but that’s also when you see the best views!

Booking the Huts

You’ll need to book well in advance to do the Milford Track, as there are only a limited number of beds each night and it’s the most iconic of the Great Walks. Having said that though, there were people in our group who had booked only a few days before — the 2021 season has been unique so far though with lots of cancellations from Aucklanders for obvious reasons.

We snapped up our spots within about 15-minutes of bookings opening — they go quickly! You can usually book in early June — I’ll update it here when I know the dates for 2022.

Getting There / Getting Home

To walk the Milford Track you’ll need to organise transport to the start of the track. You’ll get picked up in Te Anau (or Queenstown) and after a short drive you’ll catch a boat across Lake Te Anau. It’s the perfect buildup to the walk.

At the end of the track you’ll need to organise a boat to take you from Sandfly Point to the main area of Milford Sound and then a bus from there back to Te Anau or Queenstown. We went with Tracknet (we paid our own way) and also used them for transport to the Kepler and Routeburn tracks. It should set you back around $225 each – definitely not the cheapest Great Walk transport but it’s unavoidable.

When to Do the Milford Track

The Milford Track is best walked in the warmer months. The Great Walk season usually starts around late October and finishes towards the end of April. Outside of these times it becomes a lot harder – facilities aren’t what they are during the season and the track becomes more dangerous in terms of ice, river crossings etc. We’ve always done Great Walks in season.

What to Pack

The Milford Track sees a lot of rain – you’re almost guaranteed to get some while walking it. You’ll need to pack for all weather conditions, which means good wet weather gear, a warm jacket and proper hiking boots. We did the Milford  Track in late October and it was warm enough most of the time, but we did get a lot of rain on the last day and half.

You’ll also need a sleeping bag and all your own food. There are gas cookers at the huts so you don’t need to bring all your cooking equipment (just the pots etc). You’ll also want a first aid kit. There’s a place to charge phones at Mintaro Hut, so bring a cord if you think you’ll need it.

What Do You See on the Milford Track?

Now all those boring details are out of the way, I can show you some of the sights you’ll see along the Milford Track. I wrote full posts about every day, so I won’t go into too much detail here (mostly just photos).

Day 1 – Te Anau to Clinton Hut

The first day of the Milford Track is very easy. It consists of a scenic cruise across Lake Te Anau and then a 90-minute walk through the bush to Clinton Hut. There are nice views along the way and you’ll mostly walk by the pristine Clinton River.

Day 2 – Clinton Hut to Mintaro Hut

On the second day the views of the Clinton Valley really open up. It’s quite an easy (although long) day of walking and the valley views are awesome. You’ll pass by a few waterfalls and a small lake, and you’ll get your first view of Mackinnon Pass, which you’ll soon be walking over.

Day 3 – Mintaro Hut to Dumpling Hut

The third day of the Milford Track is by far the most spectacular. It starts with an uphill slog through the forest before opening out to amazing view over the Clinton Valley. From there it’s up and over Mackinnon Pass with amazing views in every direction. Then it’s down to the Arthur Valley floor and a side-trip to Sutherland Falls, the tallest waterfall in New Zealand.

Day 4 – Dumpling Hut to Sandfly Point

The final day on the Milford Track is fairly easy as there aren’t many hills. You’ll still cover plenty of distance though and your body will likely be a bit sore at this point. It was raining most of the last day for us, which was actually a good thing. When it rains heavily in Fiordland dozens of waterfalls appear on cliffs and mountains surrounding the valleys – such a special sight!

The whole thing ends with a short boat ride across Milford Sound and then a bus ride back to Te Anau or Queenstown. Four days in one of the most beautiful national parks in the world – you can’t beat it!

Do you need help planning your Milford Track walk? Let us know in the comments below!

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Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.