“Milford Track is New Zealand’s most famous long-distance walking track through some of the finest and most scenic parts of South Island”. “Milford Track has been thrilling travellers for more than 100 years.” All the reviews were too good to miss. We simply had to do the Milford Track on our holiday to New Zealand.
The Milford Track is found in the heart of Fiordland National Park and is part of Te Wähipounamu, the South West New Zealand World Heritage Area. The area is so remote that, to get to the track start, a boat ride in and out of the area is required.
Camping isn’t allowed, making hut stays compulsory. But there are only 40 places in each hut every night. And those 40 places get booked up months in advance. So it was way back in February that I booked our passes to walk the Milford Track 9 months later in November.
The huts are strategically placed to break your 54 kilometre hike into a convenient 4 day journey. I’m not much of a hiker, so wasn’t too sure how I’d fair having a full pack on my back and being only allowed to walk, not run (though apparently people do run the whole track in one day).
Unfortunately, I was somewhat underwhelmed by the Track itself. Not because it isn’t beautiful. The problem is… the marketing guys did too good a job. When someone tells me that I’m doing a track that is one of the most beautiful in the world, I end up having very high expectations. And the track was indeed beautiful, but only in parts.
Day 1 was a very short 5 kilometre stroll from Glade Wharf (where the boat dropped us off) to Clinton Hut. This was all through forest along what was admittedly an incredibly pretty and clear river. Day 2 was similar trekking through forest along the Clinton River, with few of the views that famously advertise the trek.
Day 3 was when it started becoming impressive. The trail brought us up and over the Mackinnon Pass. And thankfully, due to the good clear weather, we had spectacular views back along the Clinton Valley and north towards Milford Sound. Then Day 4 was back through forest, with some more crystal clear rivers and formidable waterfalls. All in all, very beautiful, but I think there are just as beautiful walks in other parts of the world, like in the Lake District or Alps or Himalayas.
But what I was most struck with was the incredible organisation of the place. The trails were well maintained, despite the battering they get from the floods and rock falls that come from the extreme wet weather that haunts the place. The huts were clean and had good facilities with even gas cooking rings provided. The signage was clear. The toilets were clean. And every evening we had hut talks from the wardens, telling us interesting tit-bits and about what to expect the next day.
Milford Track is a great track and definitely worth a visit. However, some of New Zealand’s other Great Walk tracks like the Routeburn Track and Kepler Track are just as spectacular as Milford, if not more. So if you don’t get a pass to do it, I wouldn’t really worry about. There are plenty of other places to see and things to do around New Zealand that are equally cool and fun.