BUG New Zealand travel guidebook
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BUG New Zealand travel guidebook

 

BUG New Zealand travel guidebook

Destination guides > Pacific Islands > New Zealand > Southland > Fiordland National Park

Fiordland National Park

This spectacular national park at the south western corner of the South Island is largely inaccessible unless you take a scenic flight or hike one of its famous tracks.


Milford Sound is one of the most visited areas within the park and one of the few places with road access. This small village lies under the shadow of the remarkable Mitre Peak and is the launching place for cruises on Milford Sound. There is not much in Milford besides an information point, café and accommodation, so bring food with you if you plan to stay for the night.


This is the finishing point of what many consider to be the greatest walk in the world – the Milford Track. Other excellent walks include the Kepler and Hollyford Tracks, and the demanding Dusky Track. The popularity of the Milford Track means you must book well in advance, and these days many travellers are opting for the lesser known, but equally great alternatives. This is one of the wettest areas in the world, so take good wet-weather gear and plenty of insect repellent for those pesky sand flies.

Milford Sound - Christopher Meder - Fotolia.com

Coming & going

Nakedbus.com, InterCity Coaches (tel (03) 474 9600) and TrackNet (tel (03) 249 7777) have services linking Milford Sound with Queenstown and Te Anau. Buses stop outside the visitors centre on Milford Wharf.


Naked Bus also have good value day trips from Queenstown to Milford Sound.

Hostel accommodation

In addition to the hostel at Milford Sound, all the main tracks have DOC huts.

Milford Sound Lodge

State Highway 94, Milford Sound
Tel (03) 249 8071

Activities

CRUISES ON MILFORD SOUND

Three different companies operate cruises on Milford Sound: Mitre Peak Cruises (tel (03) 249 8110; $60-68), Real Journeys (tel (03) 249 7416 or 0800 656 501; $65-78) and Red Boat Cruises (tel (03) 441 1137 or 0800 657 444; $65-80). A lot of the cruises are on big, impersonal boats but Mitre Peak Cruises have the smaller boats and offer a less touristy experience. Real Journeys also have some smaller boats.


The main advantage of these cruises is the view of Mitre Peak, so they are a waste of money when it is covered in low-lying cloud.

SEA KAYAKING

Milford Sound Sea Kayaks (tel (03) 249 8500 or 0800 476 726) run highly recommended sea kayaking trips on Milford Sound including an early morning Sunriser trip. This is the best way to experience Milford Sound in solitude away from the tourist crowds.

SCENIC FLIGHTS

Milford Sound Helicopters (tel (03) 249 7845) and Real Journeys (tel 0800 656 503) offer scenic flights over Milford Sound. Milford Sound Helicopters feature a landing on the Donne Glacier and give you the option of returning to Te Anau.

Hiking

Fiordland National Park has several of New Zealand’s Great Walks including the Dusky, Kepler and Milford Tracks. The Routeburn Track lies both in Fiordland National Park and Mount Aspiring National Park; this track is detailed on page 331 in the Otago chapter.

DUSKY TRACK

The Dusky Track (84km, 8-10 days) links Lakes Hauroko and Lake Manapouri. It offers a wide variety of landscapes as it crosses two mountain ranges and three major valleys. It is a very challenging track that is best suited to experienced hikers.


Inclement weather conditions can easily hamper your progress and flooding and avalanches are common. Take extra food in case you are stranded for a day or two.

KEPLER TRACK

The circular Kepler Track (60km, 3-4 days) is the closest major track to Te Anau. It is an increasingly popular track and around 8500 people walk it every year.


The track combines breathtaking views of Lake Manapouri and Lake Te Anau with an exposed alpine crossing.

Control Gates to Luxmore Hut (13.5km, 6 hours)

The first 1½-hour is an easy walk to Brod Bay alongside Lake Te Anau. After passing Brod Bay, the track climbs for three hours to reach the tree line and continues up to Luxmore Hut.

Luxmore Hut to Iris Burn Hut (14.6km, 5-6 hours)

The most exposed and weather-beaten section of the track crosses mountain ridges before descending back below the tree line to Iris Burn Hut.

Iris Burn Hut to Moturau Hut (16.2km, 5-6 hours)

This section of the track passes beech forest as it follows Iris Burn to reach Moturau Hut on the shore of Lake Manapouri.

Moturau Hut to Control Gates (15.5km, 4-5 hours)

The last day is an easy flat walk past wetlands to the car park at Rainbow Reach and onwards to the finish point at the Control Gates on Lake Te Anau. During summer you can finish the walk 9.5km early by picking up the shuttle bus to Te Anau at Rainbow Reach.

HOLLYFORD TRACK

The Hollyford Track (56km, 4 days) is the only major low altitude track in Fiordland National Park.


It starts about a two-hour drive north of Te Anau and follows the Hollyford River and Lake McKerrow to Martins Bay.

Road End to Lake Alabaster (19.5km, 5-7 hours)

The track starts with a raised boardwalk through flood-prone country and follows the Hollyford River valley to Hidden Falls Hut. It then continues along the valley, climbing Little Homer Saddle, then passes Little Homer Falls and continues on to Alabaster Hut on the southern shore of Lake Alabaster.

Lake Alabaster to Demon Trail Hut (14.7km, 4-5 hours)

The track goes through flat forest for a couple of hours before following the eastern shore of Lake McKerrow to Demon Trail Hut. This part of the track is not very well maintained and fallen trees may obscure it.

Demon Trail to Hokuri Hut (9.6km, 5-6 hours)

The track continues along the lakeshore to Hokuri Hut. This section is very rocky.

Hokuri to Martins Bay (13.5km, 4-5 hours)

After crossing Hokuri Creek, the track follows the shore for a couple of hours and then heads away from the lake and joins the river mouth near Martins Bay Hut.

MILFORD TRACK

The Milford Track (53.5km, 4 days) is New Zealand’s most famous walking track and over 13,000 people walk along it every year.


It goes from Lake Te Anau to Milford Sound along the Clinton and Arthur River valleys, passing numerous waterfalls along the way. The Milford Track can only be hiked in one direction.


The number of hikers is restricted to 40 each day and bookings are essential if you’re planning on hiking the Milford Track during peak season (Nov-Apr; the Great Walks Season). Booking for each season opens in Jul and the more popular summer months fill up early. You are limited to staying only one night at each hut on the track.


It costs around $300 to hike the Milford Track including $135 for three nights’ accommodation in huts on the track, plus another $160 for bus and ferry transfers to and from the track. That’s the cheap option! A guided walk can cost over $4000 but your four grand does give you luxury accommodation and gourmet meals.

Glade Wharf to Clinton Hut (5km, 1-1½ hours)

You approach the track by ferry from Te Anau Downs. The first day on the track is an easy 5km walk from Glade Wharf on Lake Te Anau to Clinton Hut.

Clinton Hut to Mintaro Hut (16.5km, 6 hours)

The second day on the track is a gradual climb to Mintaro Hut.

Mintaro Hut to Dumpling Hut (14km, 6 hours)

This section starts with a zigzag climb over Mackinnon Pass followed by a steep rocky descent to Dumpling Hut. Many walkers say that this descent is the most difficult part of the Milford Track.

Dumpling Hut to Sandfly Point (18km, 5½-6 hours)

The final leg of the Milford Track follows the Arthur River and the western shore of Lake Ada before reaching the trailhead at Sandfly Point near Milford Sound.


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