Hi adventurers, welcome to our day hike guide for the Milford Track! We are Charlotte & James, a couple from the UK at the end of our working holiday visa in New Zealand. We both traveled extensively as children and adults, with our families and friends, but also for work. We’ve loved all our travels, and constantly seek new cultures and adventures to be experienced.
Our inspiration to visit New Zealand came down to the fact that we love the outdoors and this country seemed to have a great reputation for its natural beauty that we always found fascinating. We wanted to live the van-life, road trip and outdoors lifestyle – plus we’re big fans of The Lord of the Rings. So it was a no-brainer for us to come here to work and travel.
We hadn’t heard much about the great walks of New Zealand until working here and hearing all about them from our Kiwi colleagues. But because we travel in our van, we had only been doing day hikes which became a big passion of ours after completing some North Island hikes (Tongariro Crossing, Tama Lakes, Pouakai Tarns and Pinnacles in Coromandel).
We fell in love with the terrain and how peaceful it was. So, when planning our big South Island trip, we knew that the multi-day hikes would be booked – hence why we researched some day walks, like the Milford Track.
Our Day Hike Experience on the Milford Track
We did the one day hike at Milford Track and booked a water taxi through Fiordland Outdoors. This meant leaving from Milford Sound Marina and getting dropped off at Sandfly Point, which is the end of the Milford multi-day track. The boat ride is only 5-7 minutes and is pretty efficient.
From Sandfly Point, we walked 5.5 km to Giant Gate Falls which has a swing bridge and a rest area. Here, we stopped for a dip and had lunch. You can go further to Mackay Falls which is another 6 km (each way), but we decided to rest our legs that day and spend more time at Giant Gate Falls. You can go as far as you like as long as you make it back for your water taxi! Overall, we walked 11 km which took us 3 hours with a break at the falls.
The Stunning Views Along the Milford Track
We had some stunning views of Lake Ada whilst walking this part of the track. You’re in the bush surrounded by beautiful trees and bush land, but there are multiple openings where you can see the river and fiords which is stunning. If you look closely at the fiords, you can see multiple waterfalls running down from such a height into the river and it’s truly spectacular!
The Giant Gate Falls running into the river are crystal-clear with a beautiful blue tint. The water is freezing but most people go for a dip which we also did. We heard the classic Tui bird along the route along with some Kaka birds. There are lots of sandflies, so bring insect repellent and keep moving!
How Hard is the Milford Track Day Hike?
This part of the hike was easy and accessible for beginners. A maintained path with no incline was perfect for getting a taste of the track, without carrying a heavy bag for an overnight stay. We would normally challenge ourselves harder but this was the only way to do the track in a day.
Why Stay at the Milford Sound Lodge
If you decide to do the one day hike, you can stay at the Milford Sound Lodge (like we did) which is the only powered campsite in the area. This is a 25 minute walk from Milford Sound Marina or a 5 minute drive with free parking. The campsite at the Milford Sound Lodge had great facilities tucked under the fiords, making it very picturesque. It was also clean, had good hot showers, fantastic kitchen facilities and a restaurant on-site.
What to Bring for the Milford Track Day Hike
- Light Rain Jacket: New Zealand sometimes has 4 seasons in one day!
- SPF 50 Sunscreen: The sun here is harsh even when wearing a sun hat.
- Water Bottles: Bring at least one large water bottle per person.
- Food: Snacks would be enough but having lunch in the bush is nice.
- Insect Repellent: Bring some insect repellent with DEET if possible.
- Appropriate Footwear: We wore hiking boots for this section of the Milford Track as we weren’t sure if the trail would be muddy or not. But looking back now, we easily could’ve just worn our trail runners.
These are the essential items for any day hike in New Zealand, not just the Milford Track. Some other things to consider could be quick dry layers and walking poles. Charlotte tends to get cold really easily, so she always packs thin quick dry layers just in case, while walking poles aren’t really required for this walk unless you feel that you would benefit from them personally.
Our Favorite Memory from this Epic Hike
Having a dip at the falls was our favorite part of the Milford Track. Being part of nature is a privilege that not everyone can have. It’s moments like these where you just listen to the water and birds with no external noise. It’s a grounding and magical experience. Hiking this part of the track was a great way to reflect on how incredible our New Zealand journey has been!