Known as the “finest walk in the world”, the Milford Track starts at the head of Lake Te Anau and ends at the head of Milford Sound. The track lies wholly within the Fiordland National Park and affords the visitor excellent views of mountain scenery and the satisfaction that only a walk of this kind can give, together with the security and comfort of good accommodation. The key to the track is the Mackinnon Pass (3,400 ft) which was discovered on 17 October 1888 by the explorer McKinnon. About the same time as McKinnon's discovery, Sir Thomas Mackenzie and party were exploring the western side for the same purpose.
For reasons of organisation, the tourist parties walk the track from Te Anau to Milford, not from the opposite direction. Once at Milford, parties are accommodated at Hotel Milford or are returned to Te Anau by road. The trip commences at Te Anau where a regular launch service brings parties to Glade House at the head of the lake. After an overnight stop is made at Glade House, the walk proper commences and the wide and comfortably graded track follows up the western bank of the Clinton River. Walkers wear strong shoes or boots and carry only a minimum of personal equipment. Guides and pack horses are available. The track winds through stately beech forests with now and again a view along the wide reaches of the Clinton River showing mountain peaks framed in green beech forest. The first day's walk of some 10 miles ends at the Pompolona Huts and involves only a very gradual climb of 500 ft. During the day the visitor, if fortunate, may catch glimpses of wild life such as deer, the native wood hen or weka, and innumerable other native birds. In the evening, if conditions are suitable at Pompolona, parties may be taken out to see the native kiwi, of which there are a number in the vicinity. On the second day of the walk, parties travel from Pompolona to Quintin Huts via Mackinnon Pass. This involves a climb to 3,400 ft on a well-graded track, with dramatic views at every turn of mountains that were glaciated in the Ice Age, of waterfalls and lakes. A small but secure refuge hut on Mackinnon Pass allows a stop for lunch under any conditions of weather. The remainder of the track down to Quintin Huts in the head of Arthur Valley is also well graded; the total distance for the day is some 9¼ miles. There is also time during the afternoon of the second day to visit Sutherland Falls (1,904 ft) by way of a quarter-mile walk from Quintin Huts. Alternatively, the falls can be visited on the morning of the third day before leaving Quintin Huts. On the third day, parties walk down Arthur Valley to Lake Ada, are ferried across the lake and continue the walk down the west side of Arthur River to Sandfly Point on Milford Sound. From Sandfly Point parties are ferried across the short distance to the hotel. The third day's travelling is some 15 miles but not all of this is on foot. Parties are accommodated in Hotel Milford where they pick up luggage previously left at Te Anau.
by Bryce Leslie Wood, M.SC., New Zealand Geological Survey, Dunedin.