Tramping a Fiordland Great Walk Post Lock-down

7 May 2020

Post lockdown, New Zealanders have an amazing opportunity to see their own country. With borders closed, it is kiwis who will have the run of our beautiful National Parks and to experience the incredible wilderness on their own terms.

There really is no better time to visit Fiordland and tramp one of the Great Walks located here. They are affordable, and tramping is part of the kiwi DNA! Take this time now to get your tramping gear out, plan and get fit in your local neighbourhood. No excuses, just goals; there really is not better time to make it happen!

Fiordland is lucky enough to offer three Great Walks, the Milford, Kepler, and Routeburn Tracks. All three have special highlights. Here is my take on each to help you choose which is the right one for you.

Milford Track

Group of people on swing bridge with water fall behind

The Milford Track is touted as the 'finest walk in the world' and with hidden treasures around every corner it is easy to see why.

It was this track that brought me to Fiordland many years ago, to work as hut warden for DOC.  There is no doubt the Milford Track is the most iconic track in New Zealand, being labelled ‘the finest walk in the world’.  The Milford Track has been inspiring hikers for more than 150 years with its grand alpine scenery, steep, glacier carved valleys, pristine waterways, and lush green bush.

Logistically the Milford Track is more challenging, hence there are increased costs and organisation involved to make it happen. Each end of the track needs to be accessed by boat and being one-way only, transport is required to return to the start point. There are no entry points along the way either, so you need to commit to the full track, rain, or shine, and sometimes it can rain, a lot! So do not underestimate this track, it is a challenge but that is part of its charm.

Kepler Track

Person tramping in mountains above large lake

The Kepler Track offers diverse scenery and magnificent views.

The Kepler Track is also very popular, being right on the doorstep of Te Anau it is easily accessed and boasts a lower rainfall than the Milford.  I have walked it many times in different guises, as the track design lends itself well to both day and overnight excursions, with options for year-round tramping.  This makes the track more suitable for a wider range of tramping abilities and time frames.   

The Kepler Track is circular, and there is easy road access, this can help keep the costs down. You can also use local water taxis and helicopters to reduce the amount of walking if you choose. The Kepler is purpose built, so the gradient and walking surface is more forgiving than the Milford Track. However, the track is still subject to Fiordland’s volatile weather conditions and isolation which can make this track very tough at any time of the year, so ensure you are well prepared.

Routeburn Track

Tramper in the mountains

The Routeburn Track takes you through the main divide of the South Island mountains. Credit: Onesimus Photography

The final Great Walk is the Routeburn Track.  This is not entirely in Fiordland, but also crosses into Mount Aspiring National Park. It is the shorter of the Great Walks, being 33 km one way, but punches above its weight, with plenty of mountain scenery and panoramic views. This world-renowned track is the touted as the ultimate alpine tramping adventure.

The Routeburn Track can be walked in either direction, but transport between the track ends creates challenges and will add to the cost. Unfortunately, in February 2020 floods decimated the area around the Divide, closing access and destroying Howden Hut. DOC are confident they will have the track open by summer (November 2020) but are waiting on geo-technical advice. 

What about a day walk on all the tracks?

The Milford, Kepler and Routeburn also offer wonderful options to get a taste of the tracks, in just a day. You can even mix, and match the day walks to explore more than one! By opting for day walks, over one multiday tramp, the holiday can be more inclusive, so all your family or friends can experience the great NZ outdoors, whatever their ability.

My day walk tramping suggestions include;

Milford Track – Walk from the notorious Sandfly Point to Giant Gate Waterfall under the lush canopy from Milford Sound.

Kepler Track – Choose a short stroll alongside the majestic Waiau River, or head for Mt Luxmore above the bush line.

Routeburn Track – Enjoy a tramp to Key Summit in the heart of the main mountain divide, or make a day of it on the Queenstown side from the Glenorchy Shelter.

Group of children hiking in the alpine area

Take a day pack and your family out for a day walk on a Great Walk, there are plenty of amazing options suitable for all abilities.

Trips &Tramps offer guided day walks to make the most of your Fiordland experience, including a Great Walk Package. By booking a guided walk with us, you are supporting a small, local business who employ local people.  So, take the hassle and stress out of it all and check it out!

There really is no better time to tick off these NZ ‘must-dos’. If we can help, please reach out to us, with our local knowledge and experience in the industry you will find our service second to none.

Kia kaha, and maybe we will see you in Fiordland sometime soon!

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