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15 FUN Things to do in Mount Aspiring National Park

15 FUN Things to do in Mount Aspiring National Park

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Are you looking to explore one of New Zealand’s best and underrated national parks? Mount Aspiring is calling your name!

With national parks like Fiordland and Mount Cook soaking up most of the limelight, this means that other parks like Mount Aspiring don’t tend to get the recognition I feel they deserve.

It also means that there isn’t as much info about Mount Aspiring available online, which can make traveling and planning what to do a quite a bit trickier!

For this reason, I’ve decided to lift the lid on this beautiful place. So, if you plan on visiting Mount Aspiring National Park, then this blog is for you. Let’s dive into the 15 best things to do here!

About Mount Aspiring National Park

Clouds sit in a valley as seen from Roy's Peak
From Roy’s Peak looking into Mt Aspiring National Park

Mount Aspiring National Park was established in 1964 and became New Zealand’s 10th national park. In 1990, Mount Aspiring, along with 3 other national parks in New Zealand, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in what’s known as the Te Wahipounamu (South West New Zealand).

The park covers a huge portion of the Southern Alps and sits on the doorstep of Wanaka and Glenorchy. In land area, it’s 3,562 square kilometers (1,375 sq mi). The park’s relatively close location to Glenorchy and Wanaka makes exploring the park a breeze.

Mount Aspiring National Park is most famous for its beautiful hikes, and as you’ll find out, much of this list highlights those trails. With that said, there are lots of other attractions in the park, including one of the most famous canyoning experiences in New Zealand. It’s safe to say Mount Aspiring NP is an adventure lover’s paradise filled with open landscapes just waiting to be explored!

Mount Aspiring National Park FAQs

Views form the Diamond Lake Trail over Mt Aspiring National Park

Things to do in Mount Aspiring National Park

1. Visit the Blue Pools

A suspension bridge over the Blue Pools on the west coast of New Zealand's South Island
You won’t be able to believe your eyes when you go, it’s that blue!

Only 1-hour from Wanaka, the Blue Pools are pretty famous for their unreal blue color and the stunning scenery that surrounds them, so they’re definitely worth checking out. 

The hike to the Blue Pools is a short, easy walk through the native forest to the Makarora and Blue River. The walk will take you over two swing bridges, the second giving you a prime view of the bright blue water below.

If you’re feeling brave (or if it’s a particularly hot day), you may want to cool down in the freezing cold waters. The average water temperature here is just 9 °C (48 °F). My partner always goes for a swim, but if I’m honest, I can never get myself in!

Without a doubt, the Blue Pools is one of the most popular places to visit in Mount Aspiring National Park and a staple on any road trip up the West Coast.

Hot tip: You’ll likely come across the swarms of sandflies that call the Blue Pools home, so be sure to wear insect repellant as well as long pants to keep them at bay. Their bites are super itchy and can last for weeks on some people.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The Blue Pools are currently closed for maintenance, with completion estimated for the summer 2024 period. Make sure to check out this website from the Department of Conservation for the latest updates.

2. Hike to the Brewster Hut

A photo of the Brewster Hut, New Zealand
The lonely Brewster hut! Too bad it was cloudy!

One of my favorite overnight hikes in Mount Aspiring National Park is the hike to the Brewster Hut. This short hike starts from Fantail Falls on the West Coast and takes around 3 hours each way, climbing 1000 meters (3,280 feet) in elevation over only a few kilometers. It’s steep, and after rain, really slippery!

That effort doesn’t come unrewarded, though. Once you reach the Brewster Hut, you’ll get stunning views of the Southern Alps and New Zealand’s gorgeous West Coast. If you get a clear night, the stars are breathtaking, and you can see the Milky Way with the naked eye.

This track is considered an advanced hike, so experience is advised. You will have to cross the Haast River on foot (but it’s not that deep in summer).

The hut sleeps up to 12 people, and you do need to book the Brewster Hut in advance if you’re visiting between late October and the end of April. This costs $40 NZD per adult and $20 NZD per child (5-17).

3. Stare in awe at Thunder Creek Falls

Thunder Creek Falls, NZ
Don’t miss Thunder Creek Falls!
Bailey stands at the Thunder Creek Falls Viewpoint in NZ
It’s huge!

A well-known stop on the West Coast in Mount Aspiring National Park, Thunder Creek Falls sure is tall at 28 meters (92 feet). It’s located about a 1.5-hour drive north of Wanaka, and is well worth a stop as part of your adventure here!

A short 5-minute walk from the roadside parking lot will bring you to this very photogenic viewpoint of the falls. The path is also well-maintained and flat, making this one of the most accessible waterfalls in New Zealand.

Surrounded by native bush and with the blue waters of the Haast River running below, it sure makes for a pretty picture.

4. Hike the Routeburn Track

Bailey hikes along the Routeburn Track in New Zealand
This is a Great Walk worth doing!
Bailey on the Routeburn Track in Mt Aspiring National Park, New Zealand
Climbing up on the Routeburn Track!

Just outside of Glenorchy begins one of New Zealand’s 10 Great Walks, the Routeburn Track. This 32-kilometer (20-mile) trail travels through the Southern Alps and finishes on the road between Te Anau and Milford Sound.

Although hiking the full trail involves lots of planning (as well as booking in advance) you can easily hike parts of the Routeburn Track in a day. Some of the shortest day hiking options are less than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) return, taking you through a moss-filled forest, up the Dart River, and to one of my favorite waterfalls of all time.

Even on a day hike, you’ll get to see why the trail is so famous. But if you can, hiking the entire Routeburn Track is amazing too! I did the full Routeburn Track over 3 days, hiking all the way to one side and then back again (I didn’t want to organize a shuttle from the other side back to Queenstown).

Honestly, it was an amazing adventure and the best part was that I got to see the trail twice – although I was so tired by the end! The Routeburn Track also goes through both Mount Aspiring National Park and Fiordland National Park, so you can bet that the scenery here is second to none.

If you aren’t comfortable tackling such a long hike or don’t find going alone appealing, perhaps booking a tour with a guide to hike a section of the Routeburn Track is what you’re looking for! This Routeburn Track Hiking Tour from Queenstown covers a decent chunk (17.6 km or 11 mi) of some of the most scenic parts of the trail, and you will get to learn more about the region as your guide leads you along.

With a maximum of 15 people per tour and lasting around 8 to 10 hours in total, you’ll have lots of time to ask any questions you may have during the hike – that’s what your guides are there for, after all! Full-day hiking tours like this aren’t the cheapest, with this tour being $750 NZD per person, but when it comes to getting to know a trail and its secrets, this is the way to do it. You can book online here.

5. Go Jet boating

Bailey from My Queenstown Diary jet boating in Queenstown
As you can tell I was a little scared!

A very popular activity in Mount Aspiring National Park, and one sure to get your blood pumping, is jet boating! On a tour from Wanaka, you’ll glide through the rivers of Mount Aspiring National Park, including the Matukituki, Wilkin, and Makarora rivers – this is a great experience for the whole family.

The Wanaka Jet boat experience departs directly from Wanaka lakefront and brings you across the lake taking in the scenery there, before moving on into the Clutha River (the longest river in New Zealand). It’s here on the Clutha River that your driver will really push the boat to its limits with 180-degree and 360-degree turns.

As you speed down the narrow braided sections of the river you may feel as if you’ll crash or even hit the banks on the side, but be assured your jet boat driver is very experienced and is just trying to scare you! Tickets for this jet boat ride start at $75 NZD per child over 4 and adults are priced at $135 NZD each.

If an hour-long jet boat ride isn’t quite enough thrills for you, you can take it to the next level with this 2-hour Dart River jet boat experience. You’ll get to see some of the very best landmarks along the Dart River, including important areas to the region’s indigenous Maori inhabitants. Just make sure to hold on tight as these jet boats sure can move!

You can either meet the crew at the meeting point in Glenorchy, or grab return transport from Queenstown (which is included in your ticket). My tip is to wear a warm layer, as it can get a little chilly out on the river where the wind picks up. This tour costs $322 NZD per adult, $220 NZD per child (5-15), and can be booked online here.

Top Tip – If you don’t want to get wet, sit on the driver’s side because the driver never wants to get him/herself wet!

6. Spot a cheeky Kea

Kia in New Zealand
They’re so cute!

Keas are an endangered alpine parrot only found in New Zealand. These famous birds are cute, curious, and downright cheeky! Seriously, they’ll break into your bag or even steal your keys if you’re not careful.

Keas are not afraid of humans like you might think and this is because they spent thousands of years living in New Zealand without predators. These beautiful parrots live high in the mountains and on a hiking trip in Mount Aspiring National Park you’ll likely see them around.

If you can, try to snap a photo of them mid-flight. The colors under their wings are stunning. Just be sure to keep your things closed and never leave your bag unattended when hiking in the mountains – they’ll fly down and break in!

Of course, it goes without saying, but please do not feed or touch the birds.

7. Spot glaciers on the Rob Roy Glacier Track

Views of Rob Roy Glacier from the trail
What a view!

A relatively easy hike that’s an hour’s drive from Wanaka, the Rob Roy Glacier Track is a favorite of mine. As the name suggests, the main drawcard of this hike is the chance to see active glaciers. The drive to the trailhead of the Rob Roy Hike is equally as stunning, as it brings you along the Matukituki Valley.

This 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) hike takes about half a day to complete (so, allow up to 4 hours). The track is located within Mount Aspiring National Park, and it’s truly beautiful, with glaciers, waterfalls, and high mountain peaks! As mentioned, the active glaciers here are the flavor of the day on this hike. From the viewpoints on the trail, you can listen for avalanches and other signs of movement within the glaciers.

This is a relatively easy hike, with a gradual incline towards the glacier viewing point.

Important Information: Since June 2023, the Rob Roy Glacier Track is currently closed for maintenance resulting from erosion. Completion is planned during the 2023/2024 summer season, and you can check for updates here.

8. Mount Aspiring Canyoning Adventure

Bailey looks on as someone repels down while canyoning in Queenstown
I loved it!
A person slides down a waterfall while canyoning in Queenstown
It’s scary but fun!

Canyoning, for those unfamiliar with this activity, is a combination of swimming, sliding, climbing, and rappelling through a canyon. It’s certainly an experience for the adventurous, but one I love and have done all around the world!

It’s no surprise then that Mount Aspiring offers some of the greatest canyoning experiences here in New Zealand, with gorgeous waterfalls, epic cliffs, and fantastic scenery every step of the way.

This Mt Aspiring canyoning tour from Queenstown involves a short walk to the canyon at the beginning, but once here, you must abseil, climb, swim, and scramble your way through the stunning but ferocious canyon. You may even partake in a few cliff jumps (if you’re feeling brave!). Be sure to bring a waterproof camera, so you can take plenty of photos too.

Tickets for this full-day experience cost $450 NZD per person, with lunch, round-trip transportation, and equipment use all covered within your ticket. You can check available dates and book your spot on this tour here.

banner asking people to click to join the Queenstown Diary Facebook Group

9. Explore Haast Pass Lookout

Just under a 10-minute drive from the Blue Pools is the Haast Pass Lookout. There’s a popular walking track here which is about a 2-kilometer (1.2-mi) return, which should take you about 20 minutes or so. The trail leads through native beech forest to the viewpoint at the end, which offers the best views of Mount Aspiring National Park.

10. Have a picnic at Fantail Falls

Bailey at Fantail Falls in New Zealand
It’s only a quick stop!
Fantail Falls, South Island, New Zealand
The water is crystal clear!

Just past Haast Pass Lookout is Fantail Falls, which is where the hike to the Brewster Hut begins. However, for those not hiking to the Brewster Hut, you can still stop here and enjoy a lovely picnic by the river and, of course, Fantail Falls!

A short two-minute walk from the parking lot here will bring you to this waterfall standing at 23 meters (75 feet) tall. The riverbank here is shaded and there’s also a nice rocky beach area to relax at.

Similar to the Blue Pools, I highly advise wearing bug spray here to deter those pesky sandflies.

11. Walk the Motatapu Track

Bailey stands on the summit of Big Hill in Arrowtown, New Zealand
Almost in Arrowtown here.

The Motatapu Track is a historic track that once linked Wanaka with Arrowtown. It’s a testing track with challenging terrain and several steep slides. The track starts from the Fern Burn parking lot, which is past Glendhu Bay and at the end of Motatapu Road (a 20-minute drive from Wanaka). The 34-km (21-mile) one-way track is best hiked in 4 days, and you can see my detailed breakdown below:

(Day 1) Fern Burn car park to Fern Burn Hut (7 km/4.3 mi)

The track winds gently at the beginning, following through grassy flatlands before climbing into the trees. From here you will notice the track starts to narrow and waterfalls feature heavily in this section (great photo ops!). Towards the end, the track enters the Stack Conservation Area briefly.

Follow the bush edge to the tussocks uphill, and here is where you will find the 12-bunk Fern Burn Hut. A fee of $10 NZD per adult and $5 NZD for youths aged 5-17 is payable into the honesty box here (or you can get backcountry passes before you go). Children under 5 go free. It’s also worth noting this hut operates on a first-come-first-serve, but it’s rarely busy.

(Day 2) Fern Burn Hut to Highland Creek Hut (6 km/3.7 mi)

Day 2 starts to ramp up the challenge and is quite a bit tougher on the legs. The track leads through Tussock Country to Jack Hall’s Saddle at 1,275 meters (4,183 feet). From here it’s a steep downhill hike to the creek bed, crossing two ridges leading to Highland Creek Hut.

This is a 12-bunk hut and also operates on a first-come-first-served basis. The fee structure is exactly the same as the 12-bunk Fern Burn Hut.

(Day 3) Highland Creek Hut to Roses Hut (11 km/6.8 mi)

This is the longest day in terms of the distance you will cover. First things first, you’ll cross Highland Creek to the marked track which climbs over a creek to a spur. The track continues uphill along this spur, where you’ll be treated to gorgeous views of the Motatapu Valley.

From here, the track quickly descends into a small gully and across a creek by following a narrow section of forest. It then climbs to a ridge off Knuckle Peak, which you will follow to the Motatapu River. Cross the wide flats to the 12-bunk Roses Hut.

It’s the same as the other huts on this track, with adults costing $10 NZD, and it’s first-come-first-served.

(Day 4) Roses Hut to Arrowtown (25 km/15.5 mi)

The track crosses a small creek and onto the old pack track that climbs the main ridge above Roses Saddle. In between the Motatapu and Arrow catchments, the ridge descends to the Arrow River. If the river level allows, you can follow the river into Macetown – this is quicker and passes historic gold mining-era buildings.

If the river is too high, you will need to take the track above the river which joins an old water race into Macetown.

NOTE: You may choose to break this down into two days and spend the night at Macetown Campsite, which has 36 non-powered tent sites.

From Macetown, a 15 km 4WD road winds its way to Arrowtown. In good conditions, the numerous river crossings can be crossed carefully by hikers. If the river is too high, then unfortunately you can’t cross and will need to turn around to take the Big Hill Track which begins 20 minutes from Macetown.

It’s a steep track, climbing above 1000 m (3,281 ft) but it has gorgeous views across the Wakatipu Basin. An adventure to say the least!

It’s an adventure, to say the least!

12. Go on a scenic flight

Views out a plane window while flying over Mt Aspiring National Park
A scenic flight gives you the best seat in the house!

I did my first-ever scenic flight in New Zealand, and it literally took my breath away. When I think back, it’s the moments like these that I’ll never forget! That’s why I’m a massive advocate of booking a scenic flight in New Zealand, and the views are pretty hard to beat here in Mount Aspiring National Park.

There are two options when it comes to choosing a scenic flight. The first is the best value for money and that’s in a small single-engine plane. You can get these flights for around $300 NZD! However, for a truly unique experience, this half-day wilderness adventure tour includes a scenic flight, a self-guided hike, and jet boating!

Tickets cost $520 NZD per person and with a maximum of 4 people per group, it’s ideal for families and couples looking to experience real adventure here at Mount Aspiring National Park. You can check available dates and book your spot on this tour here.

The second is quite a bit more expensive but, in my opinion, the better option and that’s in a helicopter! This 50-minute glacier flight experience has you setting off from Queenstown to explore many of the most scenic sights that the national park has to offer.

You’ll even get to land on top of Clarke Glacier, one of the largest glaciers in the area. You’ll also receive plenty of information from your pilot as you fly, with lots of interesting facts and stories about the areas you’ll spot along the way. Tickets for this experience cost $785 NZD per person, so if you’re looking for that “trip-defining” experience, this might just be what you’re looking for! You can check availability and book online here.

13. Hike the Liverpool Track

The Liverpool Hut
Spending a night here is a bucket list experience!

Without a doubt, one of my favorite huts near Wanaka is the striking Liverpool Hut. To reach it, you’ll need to walk the Liverpool Track which begins at the Raspberry Creek parking lot, just under a 2-hour drive from Wanaka township (same place as the Rob Roy Glacier Track). Simply follow the Wanaka-Mount Aspiring Road West for 54 km (34 mi) to reach the parking lot.

The beginning of the trail follows the West Matukituki Track to Pearl Flat. From Pearl Flat, cross the swing bridge. Then, it’s a steep uphill climb to Liverpool Hut (at 1,100 meters/3,608 feet). Once past the bush line, the track starts across the exposed shingle, rock, and tussock terrain before bearing left up an easier tussock slope to reach a knoll overlooking the hut. All up, it’s 15 km (9.3 miles) each way.

Liverpool Hut needs to be booked in advance when booking in the busier months (late October – 30 April). Adults cost $25 NZD and youths $12.50 NZD per night. It can be booked via the Department of Conservation website. Get in early, otherwise the hut will likely be fully booked, and this trail is far too long to do in one day.

14. Trek the West Matukituki Track to Mount Aspiring Hut

Views on the West Matukituki Track
This is one hike you won’t see many other people on. Just open valleys and mountain peaks!

As one of the shorter overnight hikes in Mount Aspiring National Park, the West Matukituki Track to Aspiring Hut is a popular choice! This track also starts from the Raspberry Creek parking lot on Wanaka-Mount Aspiring Road.

The walk to Aspiring Hut is 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) and is relatively easy. It mainly takes you via the river flats. There are easily negotiated small bluffs that you must cross, but it offers great views up and down the Matukituki Valley.

On your walk, keep an eye or an ear out for paradise ducks, harrier hawks, and skylarks, among other birds. I also made sure to layer up and bring wet weather gear (I recommend this even in the summer), and I’m really glad I did. The weather can change very quickly in these parts!

The historic Cascade Hut (you can’t stay here) can be seen from the last bluff and Aspiring Hut is twenty minutes beyond this. You can choose to stay the night at the 32-bed Aspiring Hut, but it must be booked in advance. An adult is $40 NZD, or if you’re an NZ Alpine Club Member it’s $20 NZD. You can book online at West Matukituki Track to Mount Aspiring Hut.

Related Read: If you love hiking, then be sure to head over to Queenstown as well as Milford Sound. There are some amazing hikes in Queenstown as well as stunning hikes in Milford Sound that you can read about in my blogs!

15. Hike the Greenstone & Caples Track

Views of the Greenstone and Caples Track
I love that this trail remains off the beaten path!

One of the most underrated hiking trails in Mount Aspiring National Park, the Greenstone and Caples Track is a must-do. The trail, which begins at either The Divide, or just outside of Glenorchy, is a 70-kilometer (43.4-mile) loop track. Its location is very close to the Routeburn Track, and it’s a popular option for those who want an off-the-beaten-path experience.

You can choose to hike the trails in a few different ways. The most popular is to hike the trail in a full loop, which takes around 4 days and involves 6 to 7 hours of walking per day. For those with less time, you can hike either one of the trails in one direction like most do with the Routeburn Track. This does mean you’ll need to organize a ride from one side of the trail depending on where you start.

You can choose to either stay in huts or camp. On the trail, there are three huts that require backcountry camping passes but no bookings. Camping is the most popular option, and you can do it in most places 50 meters (164 feet) from the track or beside the huts.

With that said, you cannot camp on McKellar Saddle or on the valley floors of the Caples or Greenstone Valleys. It’s also cheap at only $10 NZD per person to camp by the huts or free anywhere else.

Where to Stay in Wanaka

Room at the Archway Motel
One of the single rooms at the Archway Motels & Chalets
Kitchen at the Manuka Crescent Motel in Wanaka
Our room at Archway Motels & Chalets had a full kitchen!

There are tons of places to stay in Wanaka. Seriously, you’ll have so many options that it can be overwhelming. Luckily, I’ve stayed in Wanaka countless times and can recommend the accommodation options below:

Hawea Hotel – $

The Hawea Hotel is the perfect budget option for anybody looking to save a few dollars. That said, the rooms are really comfortable, clean, and offer incredible lake views! It is likely the best value for money hotel in Wanaka, with all rooms including a flat-screen television, a private bathroom, and a balcony too.

A one-night stay here starts from around $180 NZD per night, with budget dorm rooms as well as double rooms and family rooms available. You can check your dates and reserve your room here on Booking.com.

Archway Motel & Chalets – $$

When I travel, I often like to stay in apartment-style hotels so that I can cook my own meals. The Archway Motels & Chalets offers studio apartments, one-bedroom apartments, as well as two and three bedroom apartments for really reasonable prices! These are great for families or people traveling in groups (I stayed here last time I traveled with friends).

The motel is located only a short drive from town in a peaceful area – talk about holiday bliss! Room rates start at around $200 NZD per night, averaging around $350 NZD in the high season. You can check availability and book your stay online on Booking.com here.

Club Wyndham Wanaka – $$$

If you’re visiting Wanaka to relax and spoil yourself, then there’s no question that you should stay at Club Wyndham! This hotel is located right in town only minutes from Lake Wanaka and features an outdoor heated pool, waterslide, hot tub, sauna, and an onsite bar and café.

All rooms here come with a kitchenette or full kitchen, and many also offer lake views. You’ll also have access to their fitness center too if you fancy working up a sweat before hitting the sauna! Rooms here at Club Wyndham start at around $300 NZD and can be booked here on Booking.com.

For more detailed information, check out my blog all about where to stay in Wanaka! It includes different areas to stay in and the best hotels for all budgets!

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

Bailey stands in front of a right green JUCY campervan
JUCY is one of my favorite campervan rental companies (read below for a discount code!)
Bailey stands behind her Mad Campers campervan cooking in the kitchen at Piha Beach
I also really like Mad Campers!

Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!

You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:

  • Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to rent a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
  • Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It’s what most budget travelers use for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping…and be prepared for an adventure of a lifetime! My favorite campervan rental company is JUCY because they have a huge selection of campervans to choose from, plus multiple pick-up/drop-off locations. You can browse JUCY’s campervan selection online here. Alternatively, you can easily compare all campervans available in NZ on Motorhome Republic here.

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE: I’ve managed to snag a discount code for 5% off for my readers if you book your campervan or motorhome through JUCY or Star RV! Simply click here to select your JUCY campervan, or click here to select your Star RV motorhome, and then use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off – it’s that easy!

Thanks for reading!

Hiking on the beginning of the Routeburn Track
Another view on the Routeburn Track nature walk! Thanks for reading!

Mount Aspiring National Park truly is an outdoor lover’s paradise. With so many hiking trails and fun activities, you’ll have sore feet by the end of your visit!

Thanks so much for reading! I really hope you loved this blog and now have a huge list of things to do in Mount Aspiring National Park! If you did, then don’t run away just yet. Stay awhile and check out more of my Queenstown, Wanaka, and New Zealand travel blogs! Or click through the few guides that I’ve left here:

25 Most BEAUTIFUL Places to Visit in New Zealand (That You Can’t Miss!)

25 BEST Things to do in Queenstown in Summer (2024 Guide!)

12 BEST Hikes in Milford Sound + My Top Tips!