The Great Walks in New Zealand are premier walking tracks that are maintained by the government’s Department of Conservation. These are some of the most stunning and varied hikes, taking you through the best nature this country has to offer. The Milford Track is one of the most famous Great Walks, running through Fiordland National Park on the South Island retracing the steps of early explorers. Whether you choose to do the track in its entirety or want to sample just a taste of it, here are a few things you need to know.
Important Information About The Milford Track
Distance: 53.5 km one way
Duration: 1 day guided walk or 4 days independent walk
Starting point: Glade Wharf at the head of Lake Te Anau, 27 km from Te Anau
Finish point: Sandfly Point in Milford Sound
Accommodation: 3 well-serviced huts along the track
Options: Independent walk and guided walk
Milford Track Day Walk
Milford Track Huts Facilities
The Great Walks season describes peak tramping seasons, generally from mid-spring to mid-autumn. In 2019, the Great Walks season runs from 29 October 2019 to 30 April 2020. During this time, the tracks become more heavily trafficked, therefore it’s required to book huts in advance to ensure you have a place to sleep during your hike as camping is not allowed on the Milford Track. However, this also means that facilities will be better maintained. Huts will have gas cooking stoves, flush toilets and resident wardens to help guide your experience.
During the Great Walks season, the facilities you can expect at each hut include:
Dorm-style bunks with mattresses
Flushing toilets, running water, washing basins (no showers)
Cooking facilities with fuel, tables and seating (no cooking utensils)
Heating with fuel available
Resident DOC ranger to help advise your experience
Outside the Great Walks season, hut facilities are reduced. In 2019, this period is from 1 May 2019 to 28 October 2019. During this time, gas is not provided, the flush toilets are replaced with pit toilets, there is no running water and there aren’t any DOC rangers based at the huts. However, you don’t need to book your bed in advance as beds are first come, first serve. Because this period falls during the colder seasons, flood and avalanche risks exist. Bridges are also removed and water crossings will be required.
Outside the Great Walks season, the facilities you can expect at each hut include:
Dorm-style bunks with mattresses
No running water, but water can be obtained from the outside water tank
Cooking area with tables and seating, but you need to bring your own stove and utensils
Please note: we recommend all hikers visit the Fiordland DoC (Department of Conservation) Office before undertaking the Milford Track for the most up to date track information. This is particularly important when hiking out of season as weather and track conditions can change quickly.
Milford Track Transport
Because this trail requires both road and boat transport, if you plan to do it independently, you can only walk it in one direction. However, it is possible to explore just the beginning section of the trail by booking a return cruise.
The starting point is from Te Anau Downs, about 27 km from Te Anau township. You’ll depart from Glade Wharf and enjoy a 1 hour 15 minute cruise across Lake Te Anau, the largest lake on the South Island. When you arrive at the start of the track, you’ll get to walk through beautiful beech forest along the Clinton River. If you’re planning to book two-way return transport for the Milford Track, make sure you’re back in time to catch your return cruise!
Milford Track Guided Walk
Another option is to book a guided tour. The Milford Track guided walk is a one day tour that takes you to the historic Glade House, across a swing bridge over the Clinton River and through the beech forest. You will be led by a knowledgeable nature guide that will share information about the fauna, flora, birds and wildlife along the track. This is an excellent option for those who are short on time but still want to experience the wonder that is the Milford Track. You’ll walk for about 4 to 5 hours (9 to 11 km return) and enjoy the scenic cruise across Lake Te Anau. These tours can also include coach transfers from Queenstown if you’re choosing to base yourself there.
Whether you choose to walk the 4-day track independently and stay at the huts or enjoy part of it on a single day tour, the Milford Track is a must-do in New Zealand.