Milford Sound // A Waterfall Worth Hiking For (NZ)

On this 5-7 hour day hike, you will see one of the most spectacular waterfalls near Milford Sound on the South Island.


Highlights

  • 174m high waterfall
  • Native bush in the Fiordland National Park
  • Spectacular panoramic views on Key Summit
  • Tramping huts
  • Connects well to Routeburn track

A Different Side of the Milford Sound

When you think of the Milford Sound in New Zealand’s South Island, you automatically recall guidebooks telling you to jump on a boat and cruise by the incredible cascading waterfalls fuelled by melting snow. My favourite waterfall though, is one you can’t cruise to, but one you take a gorgeous and relatively easy hike through rainforest to find.

Park yourself up at The Divide car park (the start/end of the Routeburn Track), and start heading uphill on the path. You will come to a point where you can either head up towards Key Summit, or down towards Lake Howden hut. It’s up to you which order you do it however we chose the waterfall first which is via the hut.

It only takes about an hour to the hut and it’s optional to sleep over or continue climbing around the side of mountains for another hour on an easy-to-follow track until you reach the Earland Falls. This impressive, roaring beast brings to life something of a fairy tale, showering into a clear green pool of melted snow. As inviting as the water appeared after a 2-hour sweaty hike, the shockingly cold water kept our clothes on.

tiffany hulm milford sound waterfall new zealand nz

Tackle the Key Summit

Back on the track following the path the way we came via the hut and up the hill to the crossroads, heading left this time to tackle the Key Summit. One last ascension is well worth it for panoramic views of snow-capped mountains and the alpine Lake Marian. After taking it all in, start the easy descent back to the car park. This total walk (defying the signs recommended 7 hours) only took us 5 hours with a snack break!

Have I sold you on it yet? If you make it all the way to the Milford Sound then you’re crazy not to check out these majestic forest falls and an alpine nature walk at the Key Summit. If you have more time, then check out the full Routeburn track to Glenorchy which takes 3-4 days and is well worth it as one of the most spectacular walks in NZ.

Essential Gear

  • water
  • running shoes
  • camera
  • jumper/jacket (it gets cold at the top)
  • picnic
  • sunblock
  • hat
  • insect repellent

How To Get There

The Divide car park is about 85 km along the Milford Road from Te Anau towards the Milford Sound (1.5 hours drive).

Activities

  • Photography
  • hiking
  • Swimming (If you’re ridiculously game)
  • bird watching

Skill Level

Beginner

Distance covered / Elevation Gain

Key Summit- 3.4 km return via same track / 918m

Earland Falls- 7.5 km return via same track / 984m

 


Other New Zealand treasures…

Summiting Ben Lomond and Bowen Peak // Queenstown’s Twin Peaks (NZ)

Dog Tails With Oshy // Mystery Lake (NZ)

Take A Bath On The Wild Side // Hanmer Springs (NZ)

Remarkable Dykes // Banks Peninsula (NZ)

The Lonely Mountain // Mount Taranaki (NZ)