▨ Jamie McHale

Milford Track, Fiordland, New Zealand

Glacial valleys, blue-green rivers, waterfalls, high passes, wildlife and mountain sun · December 2018

The Milford Track has been known as “The Finest Walk in the World” - and is one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks”. Located in the heart of Fiordland, it runs 54km from Lake Te Anau through to Milford Sound via the Mackinnon Pass.

One of the benefits of the Milford Track is that because everyone walks it in the same direction you get to know the other walkers hiking the track well. You can walk in peace and solitude (you can time it right!), but there are friendly faces along the way, at the beginning and end of each day.

Glade Wharf to Clinton Hut

The first day was very relaxed: a coach from Te Anau to Te Anau Downs, followed by a boat ride to Glade Wharf (about twenty minutes plus an hour, both coach and boat bookable via the DoC alongside the hut bookings), followed by a 5km walk to Clinton Hut. The guided tours have even less distance to walk. We passed a wetland area with beautiful vibrant mosses.

A short distance further on the track from Clinton Hut there is a bank of earth that is home to a colony of Glow Worms. The ranger pointed out the location to us on their “nature talk”. It was great to see the Glow Worms, and I even managed to get a few pictures.

It was a beautiful and clear night, so I managed to get some excellent star photos, lying down on the emergency helipad at the hut.

Clinton Hut to Mintaro Hut

The second day was a tramp along the Clinton River. What a beautiful hike! The river had such vibrant greens and blues, the clouds around the mountains in the morning. The walk opened up into a Glacial Valley with waterfalls streaming down the sides.

I saw a pair of nesting Kereru (New Zealand Pigeons), and some Toutouwai (New Zealand Robin).

Mintaro Hut is nestled at the bottom of the MacKinnon Pass, giving us an excellent preview of the next days hike.

Mintaro Hut to Dumpling Hut

The third day is the most spectacular of the trail, the climb up and over MacKinnon Pass. The day started off misty, with the sun quickly burning off the clouds as we ascended. At the “Australia shaped rock” that the Hut Ranger pointed out, we exited the tree-line for the final zig-zags to the top.

At the top we were greeted by playful Kea, the alpine parrot, as we rested at the Quintin McKinnon Memorial. The views at the top were spectacular, over into the Arthur Valley and back down the Clinton Valley. There was a real difference between the lush green below and the yellows and oranges of the apline tussock against the backdrop of rocks and snow.

The MacKinnon Pass Shelter probably has the toilet with one of the best views in the world! We saw a small avalanche in the distance as we walked around to the Shelter. The main track was closed for this reason, so we descended using the Emergency Track.

A quick side-route diversion to see the Sutherland Falls, one of the highest drops in New Zealand, and we were on our way down to Dumpling Hut to be greeted by swarms of Sandflies.

Dumpling Hut to Sandfly Point

The last day we walked along the river banks, yet again admiring the blues and greens of the water. There were tremendous views both up and down the river at the suspension bridge just past Boat Shed, but sadly no glimpse of the famous New Zealand eels.

Pausing at Giant’s Gate waterfall, and then the final stretch down to Sandfly point to get picked up by the boat.

On the way back, I was lucky enough to see a family of Fantails feeding, which I managed to get on video:

What a great walk, and not a drop of rain until the final few moments. I really appreciated both the friendly Hut Rangers, and all the people I met on the track. It was great to share the walk with you!


Next up, after a days rest in Te Anau, is the Kepler Track.

Other Great Walks I have completed