The track to Lady Bowen Falls in Milford Sound has reopened for the first time in more than 15 years, but walkers will now have to pay to get to it.
The popular track was closed in 2002 due to concerns about rock fall and tree slips. It reopened on January 29th, after Milford Sound Tourism Limited paid $370,000 to rebuild the track, build a pontoon and provide a ferry.
Walkers will now have to pay $10 to take a 120m boat ride to bypasses the unstable section of track. The 16-seat boat can make up to 13 trips a day.
Milford Sound Tourism, formerly called Milford Sound Development Authority, will run the boat and collect the fees. A portion of the money will go to DOC as part of a concession fee.
The return journey, including the boat ride and walk, will take about 30 minutes.
People can also access the walk by private boats or kayaks.
DOC Te Anau operations manager Greg Lind said before the walk closed, it was one of the most popular short activities in Milford Sound.
“At a lofty 162m high it’s one of those bucket list trips people have for when they come to Fiordland National Park,” Lind said.
DOC and Milford Sound Tourism Limited have been working to reopen the track for four years. A 2014 report into options to reopen the track found it would cost $1.5 to $2 million to reopen the unstable section of track – the cheapest option was to bypass the area using a boat.
Milford Sound Tourism general manager Tim Holland said the track added another activity for tourists.
“After exploring many different options, we decided boat transport was the safest way to manage that part of the track. Plus, it’ll provide a whole new experience for people at one of New Zealand’s most iconic sites,” Holland said.
The walk begins from the wharf at Freshwater Basin, at the end of SH94. Walkers are then dropped at a pontoon, from where the track meanders through native bush, winding up to a viewing area of Lady Bowen Falls.