I always dreamed of hiking the most famous walk in the world, the Milford track. The track is located on the South Island of New Zealand in Fiordland National Park. The stunning views along the way makes this hike so popular. And that comes with a price tag.
This blog describes our adventure and how we did it for cheap.
In case you missed it, here is the video of our trip:
Locations: Milford track, Kepler track and Meg hut (South Island of New Zealand).
It all started in Wanaka. Me and my partner, Jelmer Meijer, lived there during the winter season. Our friends Kim, Jeff and Alice lived there too. We all moved out of our rooms and into our vans on the same day. Jeff came up with the genius idea to hike the Milford track together before the Great Walk season (spring and summer) starts.
Costs during Great Walk season
The costs to hike the Milford track in the Great Walk Season (spring/summer) is $162 dollars for the 3 huts in total and another $120 dollars for the boats to and from the track. That’s without counting transport to and from the starting point of the boats.
Great Walk season vs Off-season
You can hike it in off-season (winter) too, but it can be more dangerous because of the weather. The avalanche danger is way higher during winter because of the snow. Department of Conservation, the organization who takes care of the tracks and national parks, doesn’t recommend hiking in off-season. People have died. They fly out the bridges after the Great Walk season has ended, to prevent them from damage. There are no hut wardens to help you and the cooking stoves don’t work.
Staying in a hut during Off-season only costs 15 dollars a night. A lot cheaper than in high season. With a backcountry hut pass we could stay in all the backcountry huts for half a year for 99 dollars. The only thing that we needed to book was transport to and from the track. I will come back to that later.
NOTE: We don’t recommend hiking in Off-season, especially if you don’t have a lot of hiking experience. My friends Jeff and Kim know what they are doing which is the only reason I joined. Also, the conditions were perfect which can be rare. We analyzed the weather and the rainfall regularly, in case we had to cross rivers, from the start of Spring. People have died hiking in Off-season.
Do this at your own risk.
It’s all about timing
We left Wanaka 10 days before the Great Walk Season started but the weather conditions didn’t look safe for the Milford track, so we decided to wait and hike to Meg hut in the Crown Range instead.
(From left to right) Alice, Jeff, Jelmer, me and Kim. The guy on the right is Dylan. He could only join us for one overnight hike unfortunately.
Once we got back from that track we drove toward Te Anau and stayed in another backcountry hut called Princhester hut. This hut is located on the Te Araroa trail. A trail all the way through New Zealand from Cape Reinga (the most northern point on the North Island) to Bluff, (the most Southern point of the South Island). 3000km in total. Pretty impressive!
We were sitting next to the campfire in the hut and suddenly a hunter came in and surprised us with a fresh piece of deer meat that he just shot. The rest of the dead deer was waiting for him back in the car. The venison (that’s how kiwi’s call deer meat) tasted really good and I don’t think I’ve ever tasted meat so fresh before.
Starting the Kepler track (one of the 9 great walks)
The next day, we checked the weather forecast again and it only predicted rain, rain and more rain. Which means that we still couldn’t hike the Milford track because the rivers would be too high to cross. So we decided to hike another Great Walk instead; The Kepler track. Here we didn’t had to cross rivers and the first part of the hike is through a forest, sheltered-ish from the rain. Staying at the huts was again free with our backcountry hut passes.
We hiked to Moturau hut the same day and stayed there for the night. The next day we walked to Irish Burn hut. It was pouring rain all day and we arrived soaked at the hut, but sometimes we could see the beautiful snow capped mountains surrounding us when the clouds broke open. So magical!
The next day started beautifully. The sun was shining and the birds were singing. We followed the track up the mountains and reached the ridgeline after a couple of hours. Mother nature surprised us there with a super beautiful double rainbow! I have never looked down on a rainbow like that before. So gorgeous.
It was a glorious moment but we also realized that seeing a rainbow is not a good sign.
The weather came in and 15 minutes later ended up hiking through a storm. The wind was getting really strong and the rain was pouring down. The track led us higher in the mountains and the rain turned into hail. The wind was so strong that the hail smashed into our face the whole time.
From that moment it was a fight against the storm. We all started hiking really fast whilst covering our faces. It was starting to get a bit scary and I almost couldn’t hold my tears. I knew that the only thing that would keep me alive was to just keep moving. So I started to sing ‘’don’t worry, be happy’’ and kept on walking.
After an hour the hail turned into snow which was a bit nicer and 15 minutes later we arrived at the hut. I can’t explain to you how happy I felt sitting in front of the fireplace with a warm cup of tea.
I don’t have much experience with hiking on mountains (the Netherlands is flat). So this was totally out of my comfort zone. It was my first overnight hike ever too! Luckily my friends are experienced hikers and know what to do in bad situations.
The weather in mountains can be very unpredictable. It is so important to be prepared for everything!
In the end, this experience made me so much stronger! It is a big confidence boost to make it out a storm like this. It will be a good reminder if I ever end up in the same situation again. Although, I don’t hope I will ;).
We hiked back to Te Anau the next day, checked the weather forecast and… YES! A perfect open window to hike the Milford track. The only bad news was that we had to leave the next morning so we could only rest for one night in town.
Dreams DO come true
You have to take a boat to go to the start of the Milford track. Unfortunately for us, all the boats were already booked out. People had been waiting for two weeks before the boats drove again.
Luckily, there are other ways to cross a lake. Like… flying!
Ivan Krippner is the owner of a floatplane company and a good friend. He was able to give us a big discount so that flying was affordable for us. So we packed our backpacks and headed to the lakefront the next morning.
It was a beautiful morning with almost no wind. The lake was just one big mirror!
Seeing the little village from the air is beautiful but the moment that we flew into Fiordland National Park was so impressive! I felt like I was suddenly in the Lord of the Rings movie.
Ivan dropped us off at the beach, and that’s when we realized we were far away from civilization and there was no turning back. So we turned around and started the most famous hike in the world, a dream that came true.
The Milford track
The start of the track is through a beautiful valley with waterfalls all around you. Just stunning. We had to cross a few rivers but nothing major. Most of the bridges were flown back in because the great walk season was about to start.
We skipped the first hut which is just 5km from the starting point and walked 21,5 km that day. We were still tired from the other hikes and looked forward to laying down in our bunks.
By the time we arrived at the hut we realized that we weren’t the only ones who took advantage of the good weather. All the bunks were full and about 15 people ended up sleeping on the floor, including us. This is my first time I had to sleep on the floor. I was so tired that I fell asleep pretty quick anyway.
The next day was the most exciting one. We climbed up to the highest point of the track (1153 meters) and had a stunning view over the pass. Reaching the top and seeing that beautiful view is such a good feeling! I just wanted to stay there forever…
We saw a big crowd of people hiking in front of us and we realized that if we wanted to sleep on a mattress this time, we had to hurry up. So the guys, Jelmer and Jeff started sprinting down. I think they ran about 8km all the way to the hut. When they arrived they grabbed the last 5 mattresses! Hurray!
In the meantime, the girls and I took a 6km detour to the biggest waterfall in New Zealand, the Sutherland Falls (580 meter high). They are beautiful from a distance but standing close to the fall is so impressive! It felt like standing in a storm when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It makes you realize how much power mother nature has and how tiny we are.
On our way back we bumped into Jelmer and Jeff again. They had left their backpacks at the hut and walked all the way back to see the waterfall. They hiked 28km instead of 14km that day. Crazy!
Sharing is caring
When we arrived at the hut we felt bad for the people who had to sleep on the floor. We know how it feels like. Been there, done that. So, we decided to put 3 mattresses on the ground and lie down across them with the 5 of us. We gave away the other two mattresses to people who didn’t had one. They had a big smile on their faces and it felt good to do something back!
The last day we followed Arthur’s river to Sandfly point. And yes, there are a lot of annoying sandflies (mosquitos but then worse). It’s an 18km hike with beautiful waterfalls along the way. At the end, we waited for a boat to pick us up. 10 minutes later we arrived in Milford Sound.
We put our thumbs up and waited for somebody to pick us up. It took us two hours to get a ride, but I’m not complaining because at least we got one! Another two hours later we arrived back in Te Anau, had a beer or two with some people we met on the track.
Believe in yourself
This trip is one of the best experiences I’ve had in New Zealand. I’m so glad that I did it with amazing friends!
I had never done anything like this before and this trip made me so much stronger physically and mentally. 9 days hiking in a row seemed impossible for me. But you are so much more capable of than you think! You just gotta believe in yourself and carry on. With hiking, and with life.
Thank you so much for reading! It’s a long blog post but I hoped you enjoyed it!
And never forget…
Don’t worry, be happy!
What is your favorite hike in New Zealand? Let me know in a comment below! 🙂