nzbirds >   birding (NZ birdwatching) >   birding sites

Milford Track - Fiordland

Milford Track  (1st page) Directions/Transport Site map Birds found here Photos / Images Reviews/Trip reports
Link to DOC:
Milford Track
Image: Mt. Cook by John Gully, chromolithograph, 1877

The Milford Track, described as "the finest walk in the world", extends for 54 kilometres from the northern end of Lake Te Anau, to Sandfly Point near Milford Sound.

The track is in Fiordland National Park, New Zealand's largest national park at 1,257,000 ha which is also part of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area. Located in the southwestern corner of the South Island, much of Fiordland is inaccessible by road. Reasons for its World Heritage status include dramatic glacier cut fiords, lakes, deep U-shaped valleys, hanging tributaries and well preserved ice shorn spurs. Beech-podocarp forests, perhaps the best modern representatives of the ancient forests of Gondwanaland, predominate along with extensive areas of temperate rain forest. Rare, endangered species of plants, animals and birds, notably the Takahe, are to be found there.

The Milford Track is one of New Zealand's Great Walks. The track's popularity, coupled with the fragile nature of the environment, requires that some important restrictions apply. Camping is prohibited at any time within 1km of the track. The Milford Track can be walked in one direction only, with up to 40 trampers (hikers) staying one night at each of the three Department of Conservation huts on the track. Hut accommodation must be booked in advance, which guarantees walkers a bunk for every night of their journey. The track may only be walked in its entirety from Te Anau to Milford, with one night spent at each hut, making a total of four days and three nights, no more and no less.

Starting off place is the resort town of Te Anau. Here it is possible to see the Takahe, Notornis mantelli. Thought extinct until 1948 when 200 were discovered in the mountains near Lake Te Anau, this large, flightless blue an green rail is very rare. Your best chance of seeing one is at the Te Anau Wildlife Reserve where a captive breeding programme is in place. The fenced in birds here are tame and friendly, and entry is free.

What today is known as the Milford Track was once one of the two principal trails, used by Maori, linking Fiordland with the rest of Te Wai Pounamu, South Island, for the gathering of pounamu, greenstone.

The title “the finest walk in the world” first coined in an article by poet Blanche Baughan, which was published in The London Spectator in 1908.

(page last updated  1 May 2007)