The Top Hikes in Milford Sound
Yep, there’s more to Milford Sound than just hopping on a boat and being overwhelmed with stunning scenery. There are many Milford Sound walks taking you to unmissable vantage points and through breathtaking wilderness.
Walks can be found from the waterfront of Milford Sound and all the way along the Milford Road! With this in mind, you might want to plan a few days in the Milford Sound area, especially with all the 18 Stops You Can’t Miss on the Road to Milford Sound.
From short walks to multi-day hikes through unbeatable landscapes, there are hikes in Milford Sound to suit everyone with any timeframe. Check them out in the list below! Plus, for more ways to experience Milford Sound on the cheap, bookmark the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Milford Sound.
1. The Lookout Track (10 Minutes Return)
This one is so quick that you simply can’t miss it! For an awesome perspective of Milford Sound framed by native bush, make your way to the back of the cafe at the Milford Sound car park. The entrance to The Lookout Track is marked by an information panel about Donald Sutherland’s Grave. From here, it’s a quick uphill climb to a platform giving you an elevated view of Milford Sound. Return the way you came.
Location: Around the back of the cafe on the Milford Sound waterfront. The walk is marked by a Department of Conservation (DoC) sign and Donald Sutherland’s grave.
2. Milford Foreshore Walk (30-Minute Loop)
Take an easy flat stroll on the boardwalks before the majestic Milford Sound on the Milford Foreshore Walk. Soak up views from the waterfront between small stretches of beech forest and flax. Information panels along the way tell the story of Milford Sound, as well as its fauna and flora. A quick detour onto the sandy waterfront from the path is a budding photographer’s paradise.
Location: Signposted from the main car park at Milford Sound on the waterfront.
3. Bowen Falls Walk (30 Minutes Return)
The most recent addition to the Milford Sound walks is the Bowen Falls Walk. After taking a short boat ride from the Freshwater Basin Terminal (around NZ$10 each), enjoy a short walk among lush forest and to a viewpoint of the 162m (531ft) Bowen Falls! This offers a new and awesome perspective of Milford Sounds and Mitre Peak.
Location: The Bowen Falls Track is accessed via boat from Freshwater Basin Terminal at the Milford Sound foreshore.
4. Tutoko Valley Route (5 Hours Return)
Hike to the spectacular river valley with panoramic views of towering mountains surrounding you on the Tutoko Valley Route. Getting there is half the adventure on a track that is not as well formed as what you might be used to in New Zealand. Follow the track markers along a river, through forest to a swamp and then an open river valley. Return the same way.
Location: The Tutoko Valley Route is signposted on the side of the Milford Road just after the Tutoko River Bridge. It is only a few minutes from Milford Sound and about 114km (71 miles) down the Milford Road.
5. Lake Gunn Nature Walk (45-Minute Loop)
Walk through mossy red beech forest on the Lake Gunn Nature Walk that takes you into an enchanted-looking forest. The flat and well-formed track has various information panels along the way describing the flora and fauna of this typical forest of Fiordland National Park. We recommend taking this walk slowly to increase your chances of seeing some of the fascinating native birds. The Lake Gunn Nature Walk is usually a quieter easy-walking-track option off the Milford Road compared to others on this list of walks in the Milford Sound.
Location: This walk starts from the Cascade Creek campground about 78km (48 miles) down the Milford Road from Te Anau. Brown signs along the road point out the walking track.
6. Gertrude Saddle (4-6 Hours Return)
For the more adventurous, follow track markers through some alpine vegetation on the Gertrude Saddle Route. After crossing the Gertrude Stream, take a steam climb (and test your fear of heights) with steel cables to assist you. From the saddle, enjoy epic views of Milford Sound (in part), the Black Lake and breathtaking views of mountainous valleys. Return the same way. (Note: this hike should not be attempted in winter due to avalanche risks in the area. Summer is your safest bet to give you less chance of an icy track).
Location: The Gertrude Valley car park marks the beginning of the Gertrude Saddle Walk. The car park is found about 98km (61 miles) along the Milford Road from Te Anau.
7. Lake Marian Track (3 Hours Return)
The Lake Marian Track starts with crossing a swingbridge to a series of spectacular waterfalls. Continue up through the forest on your ascent to Lake Marian. Once at the lake, prey for calm weather to see stunning reflections of the surrounding mountains inside this glacial lake. Return the same way. The initial part of this walk to Marian Falls is suitable for families, which we list in the 10 Things to Do in Milford Sound with Kids.
Location: The Lake Marian Car Park is found about 1km down the unsealed Hollyford Road. The Hollyford Road is well-signposted about 87km (54 miles) down the Milford Road from Te Anau.
8. Routeburn Track: The Key Summit (3 Hours Return)
If you are prepared for a zig-zagging climb to some of the most spectacular views of the Milford Road, then the Key Summit Track is for you! Starting from The Divide car park, make your way up a well-formed track through native bush. Once at the top, get some sensational views of the glacier-carved mountains and lakes. Explore this exposed alpine shrubland on boardwalks leading to various vantage points. Return the same way.
Location: The walk begins from the well-signposted The Divide Car Park about 85km (53 miles) along the Milford Road from Te Anau.
9. The Hollyford Track (4 Days One Way)
The Hollyford Track is considered the “off-the-beaten-track” multi-day hike of the Milford Road. It is a well-formed track that can be accessed all year round with decent huts to stay in along the way. Follow the Hollyford River through stunning alpine environments on its way out to sea at Martins Bay. On the coast, you might be lucky enough to see seals, penguins and various birds. Be prepared for this hiking mission by checking out our 9 Tips to Prepare for a Multi-Day Hike in New Zealand and How to Prepare for a Great Walk in New Zealand.
This is a one-way track, so you either return the same way to make it an 8-day hike or arrange transport from Martins Bay with one of the many shuttle operators in the area. Alternatively, everything is sorted for you on a guided hike and helicopter transfer with Hollyford Wilderness Experience – check out reviews and book the tour on Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: The Hollyford Track begins at the end of the unsealed Lower Hollyford Road. The Hollyford Road turns off the Milford Road about 85km (53 miles) from Te Anau.
10. Milford Track (4 Days One Way)
One of New Zealand’s premier hiking tracks is the Milford Track. The track is only open to non-experienced trampers between 24 October and 30 April. Be aware that huts need to be booked well in advance (we’re talking about a year) for this popular hike. You’ll also need to book water and road transport at both ends of the track. All the boring details aside, the Milford Track takes you to the highest waterfall in New Zealand, Sutherland Falls, dropping a massive 580m (1,902ft). You’ll also be provided with stunning panoramic views atop mountain passes of ancient glacier-carved valleys. Native forest, emerald river waters and wildlife can also be seen along this popular multi-day adventure. For more information, check out A Practical Guide to the Milford Track.
Alternatively, if you don’t have five days to spare for the full Milford Track, Trips & Tramps (see Viator and Tripadvisor for more info) offers one-day guided experiences of the famous trail including a boat trip across Lake Te Anau taking you to see waterfalls, mountains and lakes along the first section of the trail. See more experiences like this in the 5 Best Luxury Experiences in Milford Sound.
Location: The Milford Track starts at the head of Lake Te Anau at Glades Wharf with a scheduled boat service. Alternatively, you can book a water taxi from Te Anau Downs which is located about 27km (17 miles) down the Milford Road from Te Anau.
[CLOSED] The Chasm (20-Minute Loop)
[Update: The Chasm is closed due to flood damage. Get the latest updates about the walk on the DOC website].
Walk through stunning Fiordland forest filled with a small and delightful stream to a couple of bridges looking down into a deep dark chasm. Watch as the water suddenly plunges down a canyon carved with holes and other features. Continue on the loop back to where you started.
Location: This walk is hard to miss with its obvious signposts off the Milford Road about 109km (68 miles) from Te Anau.
More About Milford Sound
Want to do more in Milford Sound than stretching your legs? Check out the alternative things to do in the following guides: