One of the best places to visit in New Zealand is the iconic Milford Sound. Located in the south west of New Zealand’s South Island, is Milford Sound, or Piopiotahi in Māori. Piopiotahi, is a fiord in the Fiordland National Park, which just happens to be a World Heritage site. In 2008 it was judged as the world’s top travel destination in an international survey hosted by TripAdvisor. New Zealand’s most popular tourist destination is has even been referred to as the “eighth Wonder of the World”! Thanks Mr Kipling, you’re not so bad yourself!
I’ve got to be honest with you; Milford Sound isn’t really a fiord. In fact, it’s a large ocean inlet which is wider than a fjord and bigger than a bay. Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s talk about the weather. Did you know that Milford Sound is the wettest place in New Zealand and one of the wettest places in the world? The annual rainfall is 6,813 mm on 182 days a year and has even been known to reach 250 mm during a single day, so pack an umbrella, or two! This amount of rain creates lots of temporary waterfalls and some major permanent ones too, and they’re quite the site to behold.
The beauty of this incredible landscape draws thousands of visitors every day, resulting in close to 1 million visitors in a year. Even with its faraway location and the long journey from the nearest cities like Queenstown and Te Anau, nothing deters the adventure-seeking tourists who travel to New Zealand to see majestic Milford. In fact, the Milford Road is one of the best parts of heading to Milford, and it’s often overlooked. Can’t you picture yourself in your free Transfercar rental car or campervan, travelling independently along this stunning alpine drive? The road is long and winding, so you’ve got be careful, even if we are covering you through Insurance Hero, mate! Along the way you can stop at various viewing points that offer spectacular scenery and short walks. The trip from Te Anau will take you roughly 2 hours, so fuel up before you hit the road.
The main reason why so many tourists flock to Milford Sound is for the Milford Track. The track can only be walked in one direction, and while it’s very well signposted and marked, some sections are steep and difficult to climb because of the mud. If you’re looking for a walk that’s not too challenging, the 4-day easy hike starts at the head of Lake Te Anau and ends at Sandfly point in the Sound. You’ll need to grab a boat from the Te Anau Downs – this should take an hour or so, but the view is incredible so no need to bring a book!
The best time for walking the track is between 28 October to 29 April and you’ve got to book in advance. Here’s a taster of what you can expect:
Day 1: The Glade Wharf to Clinton Hut Walk is a 5km walk that can be completed in under two hours. After a sweet cruise from Te Anau Downs, the walk takes you through a stunning beech forest along the banks of the Clinton River to the Clinton Hut where you and your friends, and many other travellers will spend the night.
Day 2: The Clinton Hut to Mintaro Hut walk ups the ante with a whopping 6 hour 16.5 km hike! Needless to say Day 1 was just a warm up! This gradual climb follows the river to Lake Mintaro at the base of Mackinnon Pass where you’ll spot the renowned Pompolona ice field. Take note of the shocking scale of the rock walls towering above.
Day 3: The Mintaro Hut to Dumpling Hut walk is another bigger where you’ll find yourself hiking 14km for roughly 7 hours. The climb takes you to Mackinnon Pass where you’ll get incredible views of Lake Mintaro and Clinton Canyon. After reaching the highest part at the Pass Shelter (1154 meters) you’ll drop down through a lush alpine garden, passing several waterfalls before arriving at the Quintin Shelter. I’m sorry to inform you that there are no actual dumplings at Dumpling Hut, unless you’re packing some in your bags. Not a bad idea…
Day 4: The Dumpling Hut to Sandfly Point walk is, wait for it, the last lag of your trip and it’s a monster at 18km. During this 6 hour walk you’ll follow the Arthur River to the historic Boatshed, Mackay Falls and Bell Rock. After a short boat ride from Sandfly Point, you’re at the end of your journey with world famous views of Milford Sound burned into your brain and filling up your SIM cards!
Think you’re up for the trip? You’re going to need a good level of fitness as you’re expected to walk up to 7 hours a day, depending on the weather conditions, and whilst carrying a 15kg backpack! There ain’t no Sherpas here! When packing for your trip make sure you bring the right clothing, gear and equipment and most importantly: FOOD. Food and drinks aren’t available for purchase on the walk (nope, no vending machines! It’s not Mount Fuji!), so be prepared and pack high protein, carb fuelling goodies to make it through the trip. Children under 10 aren’t allowed on the trip because the weather is so changeable and the terrain can be risky for young feet.
If I haven’t put you off the trip with a. the lack of dumplings and b. the enormity of the task, or c. the weather, then great! Start packing your bags and maybe hit the gym too to make sure you’re in the shape of your life. Then you need to register your free car through Transfercar, which you’ll be able to pick up in Queenstown, or if you’re looking for an even bigger trip, you can come through Christchurch. Take a look at what cars are available and be sure to book quick as they go fast! See you in Milford!