Back in 1888 a truly crazy Scotsman accepted a challenge (for money) to find a way from the huge southern lake, Te Anau, through to the newly discovered Milford Sound (at least, newly discovered by European fur traders).
Milford Sound is an iconic fiord in the deep, deep south of New Zealand, as remote and as rugged as you can find.
Today, it is one of the world’s top scenic locations. Back then it was literally at the end of the Earth, and perhaps today it still is.*
Another explorer had found the amazing Sutherland Falls, itself a two-day trek from Milford, but the hardy visitors who came had to endure a two-week boat trip through some of the world’s roughest seas. That Scot, an explorer himself called Quintin McKinnon spent months finding a way to Milford from Te Anau. And he succeeded, opening up what is now regarded as the Finest Hike in the World.
Today it is still a challenge, even with a well-beaten track. It is a four day adventure, one for the moderately fit. But the rewards are spectacular.
And what hiking, what views !
You will take your camera, and everyone does, but the immensity and grandeur of the valleys and fiords can never do the place justice in a photo. The enduring appeal of the Milford Track comes from being there and experiencing what photos and videos can’t capture.
The vast beech forests have grown in a heavy temperate rain forest, one that gets bucket-loads of rain. So expect to get wet.
The 5 to 11 metres of annual rainfall has created a magic environment, one where you can find spectacular waterfalls (and I mean spectacular world class high and roaring examples), along with a rich playground for New Zealand’s iconic birdlife.
Rivers rise fast in here and the track can become unpassable quickly. But as fast as the rivers rise, they fall. Hikers quickly accept they are tiny guests in a huge natural world.
How fit do you have to be?
Quite fit, but it is a level a city person can get to by working at it for a few weeks in advance. You need to be able to carry a 10kg+ pack for three-full days. It is a vast, bold and unforgiving place. But for an adventure like this, you wouldn’t want it any other way.
It’s one for your bucket list.
David Chaston, who recently went tramping to Milford Sound Track with his daughter, Jessica. Both have done several exciting tracks in the South Island, such as Routeburn Track and Kahurangi.
* Even today it is still too remote for any internet or cellphone coverage, even at Milford Sound. When you are in Fiordland you are completely off-grid.