Giant Gate Falls

Most visitors will never have the time to do the multiday Milford Track, Fiordland, or even the patience to try and book. But you can get a little taste on a day walk from the end of the track to Giant Gate Falls, although you should still plan in advance.

From Deepwater Basin in Milford Sound, Fiordland, southwest of the town and airport, you can catch a water taxi to Sandfly Bay at the end of the track. Go to the end of Freshwater Basin Road from Milford Sound Highway. Park at the end of the road then find the boat ramp, before the small wharf and marina berths. Hopefully, there will be a sign. Start as early as you can book.

It takes a few minutes to cross Deepwater Basin to Sandfly Bay at the head of the Arthur River. There are facilities there and information panels. From there, it is an easy 5.1 km walk on a well-maintained gravel track, with only modest up and down. Walking time is a little over an hour, but we often stopped on the way in for photos. The pristine rainforest includes ​​kōtukutuku (native fuchsia tree), and we spotted some rare flowering native orchids. The track also has picturesque views of the Arthur River, Lake Ada and the Sheredon Hills. This is one of the oddest names in NZ, as the “hills” include the very prominent Odyssey Peak (1,821 metres) and Mount Ada (1.881 metres). One section is on a boardwalk across an old slip, with several beautiful waterfalls off Devil's Armchair after rain. Unfortunately, you can’t see the top of this 1.627-metre peak.

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Giant Gate Falls is an attractive 30-meter waterfall. There is a swingbridge in front of the falls for the best view. On the far side of the bridge is a shelter and plenty of room beside the river for a picnic, even when it's busy. The falls must generate a bit of a breeze, as the sandflies were annoying by the shelter but tolerable on the beach.

Head back the same way to Sandfly Bay. You will probably have to wait 10 to 15 minutes for the water taxi pick-up as it constantly goes back and forth during the afternoon. Be aware the bay lives up to its name while you wait! Make sure you know the last pick-up time before you head out and the latest time if you want to make an afternoon boat trip in the sounds.

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