Milford Sound was incorrectly named as it is not actually a
sound, rather a fiord. A fiord is a valley which has been inundated
by the sea, as the result of a glacier eroding the valley floor in the
past, below todays sea level. Milford Sound is the most
accessable of 14 fiords in the Fiordland National Park and one of
the most spectacular.
The Milford Track
Described as the "Finest Walk in the World", the Milford Track extends
for 54km from the northern end of Lake Te Anau, to the appropriately named Sandfly Point near Milford
Sound. The route follows the Clinton and Arthur Valleys which are separated by Mackinnon Pass (1073
m). These U-shaped valleys were carved by glaciers during the last Ice Age which ended some 14,000
Originally the early Maori of Southland and Otago travelled the route in search of takiwai (greenstone)
from the West Coast of the South Island. Pioneer explorer and surveyor Quintin Mackinnon cut the
original track in 1888, the route being further developed for tourists and trampers in the following years.
The use of the track was extended in 1966 to include independent trampers, after the Fiordland
National Park Board had erected huts and bridges.
Day one, Te Anau to Glade House
Time: 30 min
Distance: 1.2 km
After a 4 hour bus ride from Queenstown to Te Anau followed by a launch cruise from Te Anau Downs (1¼ hours approx) there
is a one kilometre walk to Glade House, the first overnight stop for guided walkers. Just past Glade House is the largest and
the first of the nine suspension bridges we encountered on our trip.
Day two, Glade House to Pompolona Lodge
Time: 7 hrs
Distance: 16.km / 10 miles
It was a gradual climb as we tracked through the beech forest. to a side track known as the Wetland Walk, a 30 minute pass to
an area unique from the rest of the trek. For the next few miles the old pack horse trail is flat and wide and then begins to climb
as it enters the west branch of the Clinton Valley with towering rock walls up to 4,000 ft above. This follows the Clinton River to
its source, Lake Mintaro, at the base of Mackinnon Pass. It passes through sections of forest and crosses many streams.
Day three, Pompolona Lodge to Quintin Lodge
Time: 8 hrs
Distance: 15 km / 9.3 miles
An early start for day 3 beginning at 7am, this was our most difficult day. The trail passes to the upper reaches of the Clinton
River and the three leaps of the St Quintin Falls. As we continued we noticed the surrounding bush had a devastated look due
to the snow avalanches and tree slides in springtime. We passed by a small lake before climbing the Practice Hill leading to
Lake Mintaro at the top, originally named Lake Beautiful by Mackinnon. Beyond the lake a suspension bridge crosses the
upper reaches of the Clinton River, the first of a series of zigzags over two miles. The views along this section open up to the
Nicholas Cirque at the head of the Clinton Canyon.
Once we reached the top, all the effort was worthwhile - with 360 panoramic views. We
stood at the cairn constructed in 1912 for a photo op, a memorial to the efforts of Mackinnon
and Mitchell in 1888. We headed over to the Pass Hut for lunch, a sandwich we prepared
that morning. While there we took advantage of the noted "Loo with the Greatest View"!
From there the track edges it's way around the base of Mt Balloon and down the 5+
miles to the Quintin Lodge. We agreed that this downhill section contains not only
the hardest walking but also some of the most scenic views. The final mile to
Quintin lodge was a continuous steep zigzag that truly taxed our knees and feet.
Though is was a difficult day, we arrived at Quintin Lodge only to use the facilities
and then chose to take the optional 1.5 hr return trip to the Sutherland Falls - an
Day four, Quintin Lodge to Mitre Peak Lodge
Time: 8 hrs
Distance: 21 km / 13 miles
The morning began with a descent along a track called "Gentle Annie". Far from truth this terrain is a slow gradual grade that is
straining to the legs and probably the most painful on the knees than anywhere else on Milford Track. After the 23 mile peg the
track breaks into the open and runs for a straight section known as the Race Course, as the early pack-horses used to try to
pass each other along it. Continuing down we pass the 1928 boat shed, cross the Arthur river by swing bridge and on to
Mackay Falls - one of New Zealands wettest areas and climbed up a rocky ledge cut into the mountainside (1898) eliminating
the need to boat this section.
As we passed the 30 mile peg we heard the roar of Giant's Gate Falls. We passed the lunch hut and continued on to the rock
based falls for a misty sun filled lunch spot. After lunch the track skirts alongside Lake Ada as we continue on level grounds for
the last two miles to Sandfly Point. This part of the track being built by 45 convicts over an 18-month period from 1890. The hut
at Sandfly point, was a welcome site for refuge from the sandflies while we waited for the ferry to take us over to Milford,
completing our journey on the MILFORD TRACK.
Each sq mile is 1 km *ref map >
The Kea is undoubtedly New Zealand's clown
as nearly every tramper in the South Island will
testify. Keas are endemic to NZ.
A cheeky bird, they will chew on anything they
can. While one is getting your attention, another
sneaks up behind you to see what is in your
backpack, unclipping your straps and stealing
what they can followed by a flight of giggles.
Seen from above their colors are duller,
blending in with the bush but when in flight they
strut their beautiful under wing plumage.
|Reach for the top!
Watching for Keas
|Looking down to the Quintin
Lodge - at the base of the
|One of the Most Famous
"Loo Views" in the World!
|Bobby: "Can you believe
Kim got in Ice Water?"
Taking a Cold dip in the
Glacier run off called
Heli flight Milford Sound
"What a Tramp!!!"
Better than Spinach
about the Milford Track. Though it was
booked through the end of the season,
we were lucky to grab a cancellation.
Altered our schedules to go and had a
Great Time!! A 5-day deal walking through
various terrain and over mountains on
the "Finest Walk in the World!".
At the end of the trip we walked over to the
service 'copters and hooked a ride over the
Milford Sound and the surrounding mountains
and then to a stop at the top of the Glacier.
supplies such as
equipment over the
OF THE TREK