A new track has been opened to the spectacular Sutherland Falls near Milford Sound.
The 1.4km track to the cascading 580-metre waterfall cost $390,000 and includes two new 40-metre suspension bridges across upper Arthur River.
Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith officially opened it on Saturday – as part of commemorations marking 125 years of the Milford Track in Fiordland National Park.
“This new track through some of the most spectacular and rugged terrain in New Zealand opens up access to the awe-inspiring Sutherland Fall,” Smith says.
“It is one of New Zealand’s natural wonders and is an integral part of the Milford Great Walk Experience.”
The track was closed more than a year ago due to a large rockfall triggered by heavy rainfall.
“This season marks 125 years of tourism on the 53km Milford Track since the route between Lake Te Anau and Milford Sound was pioneered by Quintin Mackinnon for the Otago Survey Department in 1888,” Smith says.
“In 1908 the Milford Track was coined ‘the finest walk in the world’ and today Milford remains one of the most popular of the nine Great Walks.”
As many as 17,500 walk the track each year. More than 6,000 are independent walkers, who stay in well-equipped Department of Conservation huts. About a third of these are New Zealanders and two-thirds international visitors.
Tourism on the Milford Track is estimated to be worth up to $35 million to the New Zealand economy each year, with the lion’s share (about $20 million) benefitting the southern lakes region.
“My message to every New Zealander is to put the Milford Great Walk on their must-do list.
“There is no better walk anywhere in the world and it has just got better with the new Sutherland Falls track” Smith says.