In this out of this world place, deep blue waters are surrounded by tall mountains coated with lush trees that give them their vibrant green hue. Your hiking boots stomp over the seldom even track while you go through chilly mountainsides and humid rainforests that then lead to beautiful streams and lakes that make you feel like you just stepped out of this planet.
If you’re in the mood to get your hiking boots and rucksack and take them to the hiking experience of your life, New Zealand provides you the “world’s greatest walk”: the Milford Track.
As you walk through the core of South Island’s fiord wilderness, you will cross native rainforests, icy valley systems, and high mountains until you reach Mackinnon Pass, to then head down past rivers and cascades, such as the impressive Sutherland Falls, to the mesmerizing Milford Sound and its imposing Mitre Peak.
A 4-day trip
Before the journey starts, you get to choose how comfortable your experience is going to be. There’s a simple version of the trek, where you get guided walks, lodge accommodation and, therefore, hot showers, full meals and even a glass of wine at the end of each day. If you take the hard version, you walk independently, staying in the little huts along the way and bringing and cooking your own food. For obvious reasons, we don’t recommend the latter for beginners.
If you decide to go on a guided walk, you start your trip in Queenstown. Guides will give you a few instructions before you take a coach to Te Anau, where you will be getting a boat ride to the head of the stunning Te Anau Lake. On your way, you’ll experience amazing views that reflect on the lake water, enhanced by high peaks in the distance covered with thick forest. After you arrive, you will walk a fern-lined trail for only 20 minutes to your next stop and first lodge, Glade House.
For the second day of this adventure, you’ll get your first taste of excitement thanks to a suspension bridge over the Clinton River. After that little rush of adrenaline, you’ll go through deep beech woods past Mackinnon’s cabin to the Wetland Walk path, which leads you to a one of a kind reserve area for ferns and mosses. You’ll be grateful to have some kind of even ground as you walk down the old workhorse trail before you climb to the western section of the Clinton Valley, where its 1220-meter walls will make you feel as small as an ant.
You’ll spend your second night at the comfortable Pompolona Lodge. However, you’ll have to get up as soon as the sun starts to rise to have enough time for the intimidating climb to the 1073-meter high Mackinnon Pass. You’ll cross another wobbly suspension bridge before beginning the actual climb, which zigzags its way through the forest. As you get higher, you’ll reach the Nicholas Cirque, a large natural amphitheater at the top of the Clinton Valley, and then it will only take you one final push to finally get to the pass and the memorial cairn that honor Quintin Mackinnon and Ernest Mitchell, the two men who pioneered the trek back in 1888. You’ll be rewarded with a great sense of accomplishment and beautiful views of mountain peaks and valley systems stretching as far as you can see.
The trek trails along the edges of the impressive Mount Balloon before you walk down another 6 km to Quinton Lodge. Try to get a grip on your surroundings, icy streams and towering cliffs will be all around you; however, the path is uneven and jagged so be careful as you go down. You’ll even find a lovely boardwalk that will allow you to walk through a valley of fascinating waterfalls. If your body is still in good enough condition, try taking the 90-minute walk back from Quinton Lodge to the Sutherland Falls, the fifth-highest waterfall in the world.
After these past three days of nonstop activity, the final part of this adventure will feel like nothing to you. Thankfully, the path steadily goes down and, by less than half of it, you’ll have some even ground to walk on back in the rainforest. Lake Ada will announce that you are nearing Sandfly Point, where you’ll be finally able to take off your boots and get on a boat that will take you to majestic glacial Milford Sound.
The best way to finish your trip is to embark the Milford Mariner sailing boat and to take a quiet overnight journey into the sound to experience the sunset over the Tasman Sea. You will only have to stroll on the deck and enjoy the colorful landscape.
How to get there
A couple of airlines fly every day directly to Queenstown, including Air New Zealand. A converted dairy, The Dairy Guest House, offers comfortable accommodation in Queenstown before and after your trek. You can contact Ultimate Hikes to arrange guided walks, and then cruise with Real Journeys through Milford Sound on the Milford Mariner to finish your trip. And if you want to end your experience with a cherry on top, take a flight back to Queenstown and contemplate the breathtaking views.
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