LAKE MARIAN TRACK in New Zealand – A Stunning Day Hike

Lake Marian track is a stunning day hike through ancient mossy rainforest that brings you to a magical reflection lake. During the hike, you will encounter a variety of things such as a hanging bridge, a roaring river and a stunning reflection lake in a valley surrounded by mountain peaks and waterfalls. It is truly mesmerizing and some of the best day hikes you can do in Fiordland National Park. The variety that Lake Marian track has to offer is super interesting and well worth the 10 km out and back hike. In this complete guide, you will find everything you need to know to be well-prepared for the Lake Marian track! 

Check here the best Milford Sound tours on GetYourGuide

Check here the best Fiordland NP tours on Viator

How to get to Lake Marian track 

Lake Marian trail is located inside Fiordland National Park about 30 minutes away from Milford Sound. You can find Lake Marian car park along Hollyford Road with enough parking spots and a public toilet. You will see the trailhead directly at the car park. Milford Road is one of the most beautiful roads in New Zealand’s South Island to drive, so make sure to plan enough time to make some stops along the way.  

Another important thing to note is that the last gas station of Fiordland National Park is in Te Anau. So if you don’t want to get in trouble having not enough fuel, then make sure to refill your car in Te Anau! 


Lake Marian hike key facts 

Before we dive into the details of Lake Marian track, let’s first have a look at the key facts of the trail so you can decide if this is a hike for you! 

Lake Marian distance and duration: The total hike distance of Lake Marian Track is 10 kilometers return. With some muddy patches and a bit of climbing up tree roots, it is not a beginner hike and will take 4 hours to complete including time to enjoy Lake Marian. 

Lake Marian track difficulty and incline: The elevation gain of Lake Marian track is a little more than 400 meters so it’s not too steep. I would rate Lake Marian Track as a moderate hike as it’s never too technical, except for a little climb along tree roots as you can see in the picture below.


Be insured when you travel!

No matter how careful you are, accidents can happen.
A slip during hiking is made before you realize it, and the consequences can be bigger than you want to think of.

We are very happy with SafetyWing and highly recommend getting an insurance with them!

What is the best time to do Lake Marian track?

If you want to have the best opportunity to see Lake Marian, you will have to time it with the weather. As soon as low clouds cover the peaks of the Darran Mountain range, you won’t be seeing much of the view, maybe only the lake itself. But if fog starts to roll in, you might even see nothing. Nevertheless, the hike itself is stunning and worth it. However, when hiking the Lake Marian track you want to see Lake Marian itself. Therefore you have to make sure to watch the weather forecast before heading out to Lake Marian and try to plan your hike early in the morning. You will then have the biggest chance of a good view.

We hiked Lake Marian two times. Once was in spring when we didn’t had luck that it cleared up once we arrived at Lake Marian. But the second time we hiked to Lake Marian was in autumn and we had a beautiful sunny day and spent hours at the lake photographing and relaxing.

Lake Marian on a foggy, rainy day
Lake Marian on a sunny, clear day

Considering the best season to hike Lake Marian it all depends on your experience. You can hike Lake Marian in every season, but hiking in New Zealand in the winter months is always a bit more challenging. If you feel safe to hike in the snow and have proper hiking boots, you will be fine. However, in the winter months, you should not walk around the lake edge because of avalanche danger.

In spring and summer you can take a dip in the ice-cold glacier lake, so bring your swimsuit and a towel if you wish to do this!


How difficult is Lake Marian Track?

I rate Lake Marian Track as moderate because it’s never too technical or difficult. The trail is very well-signed and easy to follow. However, there is a part where you have to climb a little part with tree roots. It’s nothing to worry about though as you can easily use your hands. Just make sure to wear proper hiking boots as you will need the grip along the trail. 

The trail starts off easy with a flat and well-maintained wide path. However, after the Marian Falls, the trail gets more rocky and narrow. This is also the part where the incline gradually begins. During rainfall, the rocks and tree roots can be slippery including some muddy parts. So make sure to wear hiking shoes with a good profile to give you enough grip on these slippery sections.

What to expect during the Lake Marian track  

Lake Marian track is a varied and fun walk that is not only about the lake itself. Being a forest walk, you will see some of the most beautiful ancient trees of New Zealand in this dense native forest. It is truly mesmerizing how much diversity you will see along the trail with Lake Marian as a final reward. Tree trunks covered in moss and the abundant vegetation are supported by the high rainfall in this area. Therefore you may get rain along the way, like we had. So to be well prepared, bring a rain jacket and eventually rain pants.


Right at the beginning of the hike, you will cross a river via a hanging bridge. The path then winds through the rainforest until you get to a wooden platform where you can spot Lake Marian Falls.

Suspension bridge Lake Marian Track

Don’t get fooled by how easy Lake Marian Track starts. The first part is flat, on a wide and very well-maintained path. But after the wooden platform where you can admire the river and Lake Marian Falls, the path drastically changes into an uneven, uphill rocky path through the forest. 

Lake Marian falls

The most challenging part of the Lake Marian track is where you have to climb a wall with tree roots. It depends on your experience as it’s not something super difficult in our opinion. But if you’re pretty new to hiking it might look a bit sketchy. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine if you just walk with attention. Especially during or right after rainfall when the rocks and tree roots can be slippery.

A little climb along Lake Marian Track

Lake Marian

When you get to Lake Marian on a sunny, calm and clear day you will see the beautiful snow-capped peaks of Darran mountains reflecting in Lake Marian. The glacier-formed alpine lake is situated in a hanging valley of glaciers and waterfalls. Truly mesmerizing and well worth the trip! However, keep in mind that the view changes per season. In summer and autumn, you might see way fewer waterfalls along the sheer rocks than during spring and after rainfall. Nevertheless, the hike is well worth it. And if you feel brave enough you can take a dip in the ice-cold water of Lake Marian during spring and summer!

Stunning Lake Marian on a clear day

How to get around in New Zealand 

To experience New Zealand to the fullest and at your own pace, renting a carcampervan or motorhome is the best way to get around. Which one of these options you choose depends on your preference and budget. If you love camping, being outdoors all day and you don’t mind a smaller living space, then renting a camper van is the way to go. It also gives you the freedom to sleep at some of the most beautiful camping spots, but for some of them, you’ll have to make a reservation and plan your trip accordingly. The same goes for a motorhome which is bigger than a campervan and fits about 4-6 people. Here’s what you need to know about renting a car, camper van or motorhome in New Zealand. 

Car rental in New Zealand

Renting a car in New Zealand is the easiest and cheapest rental vehicle available. It will get you to all the best destinations with ease and gives you the freedom to stop for a break wherever you want. However, you should keep in mind that some roads in New Zealand are still gravel or that you have to cross shallow rivers to some destinations in National Parks. Therefore we recommend a mini SUV or SUV model to have enough clearance for this kind of roads.

We rented for 6 weeks a Mitsubishi ASX model and were super happy with this car! The best place to book your rental car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare different car models, prices, companies and terms and conditions. You can also check Rental Cars to compare at which platform you can get the best deal. Make sure to secure the booking of your rental car as soon as possible to have the lowest price possible. Prices go up the closer you get to the pick-up date.


Campervan rental in New Zealand

Traveling around in a campervan is one of the most popular ways for a road trip in New Zealand. With a bed, small kitchen and seating area you will have all the (basic) needs on four wheels. Make sure to check if your campervan has a shower or not because this might influence where you want to camp. A campervan allows you to camp at plenty of beautiful places, sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee. It will give you a true feeling of freedom and connect you with nature.

We recommend booking your campervan with Travellers Autobarn as they have a wide range of Station wagons, 2-berth campervans & 3-5 berth campervans to hire for all budgets. All Travellers Autobarn campervan hires in New Zealand come with free unlimited kilometers, 10% discount to premium campgrounds, 24/7 roadside assistance & long-term rental discounts. Check the availability and prices today to secure your campervan for a New Zealand dream road trip!

Must do tours in Fiordland National Park

Fiordland National Park is one of the most beautiful National Parks in New Zealand known for the glacier-carved fiords of Doubtful and Milford Sound. But it’s also home to beautiful alpine lakes, ancient rainforests and huge waterfalls. With plenty of hikes and a huge variety of other activities to do, it is highly recommended to spend at least three to four days in Fiordland National Park to see the most of it. Three of New Zealand’s Great Walks are found in Fiordland, known as Kepler, Milford Track and Routeburn Track. But if you’re not prepared for multi-day hikes, then there are also a huge number of day walks and other fun activities to do. Here are some tours we highly recommend to do in Fiordland National Park.

Check here the best Milford Sound tours on GetYourGuide

Check here the best Fiordland NP tours on Viator

Milford Sound cruise

A must-do when you’re visiting New Zealand’s South Island, doing a cruise through Milford Sound. Make sure to book this experience in advance as the cruises are likely to sell out quickly. This cruise checks off all the highlights of Milford Sound, including the spectacular views of Bowen Falls, Sinbad Gully, and Mount Pembroke. You will pass the mighty Mitre Peak and glide out along the Tasman Sea coast while you take in the incredible dramatic fjords, ringed by jagged cliffs and cascading waterfalls.

→ Check here all the best Milford Sound tours on Viator

→ Check here all the best Milford Sound tours on GetYourGuide


Cruise to the hidden Doubtful Sound

The lesser-known and quieter version of Milford Sound is Doubtful Sound. During this full-day tour, you will journey across the clear waters of Lake Manapouri, drive over Wilmot Pass into the breathtaking Doubtful Sound. Take in the scenery and keep an eye out for fur seals, bottlenose dolphins, and crested and little blue penguins while listening to commentary from your naturalist guide. 

→ Book here your tour to Doubtful Sound


Wander through the Te Anau Glow Worm Caves

See the magical natural phenomenon of glowworms in the caves of Te Anau. An informative guide takes you on this underground adventure starting with a cruise across Lake Te Anau. Once you’ve arrived at the caves, you can marvel at the shimmering illumination of thousands of glowworms as you glide through the quiet darkness of this magical underground world.

→ Book here your Te Anau glowworm cave tour


Scenic cruise on Lake Te Anau

Marvel at the majestic views of Fiordland wilderness on this luxury sunset cruise while sipping champagne and enjoying canapés on the deck of this impeccably preserved 1930s sailing yacht. You can watch the sunset over the Southern Alps and customize your cruise on this small-group cruise. 

→ Book here your scenic cruise on Lake Te Anau

Milford Sound Hiking Tour with Cruise from Te Anau

Book this full-day Milford Sound hiking tour including cruise to explore the best of Fiordland National Park. Travel along the Milford Road from Te Anau and enjoy panoramic views over the beautiful countryside. Enjoy a relaxing boat cruise through the fjord and out to the Tasman Sea, and gaze over soaring clifftops and plummeting waterfalls. Afterward, enjoy short guided walks and explore Fiordland’s spectacular natural scenery with a local nature guide.

→ Book here your Milford Sound hiking tour including cruise


Jet boat journey through Fiordland National Park

Step into a powerful Fiordland Jet boat and cruise down the mighty Waiau River on this roughly two-hour adventure into the heart of Fiordland National Park. You will pass some famous landmarks and Lord of the Rings filming locations along the way. Departure is from Lake Te Anau with morning, afternoon and evening trips.

→ Book here your Jet boat journey through Fiordland National Park 

Scenic flight over Milford Sound

Depart from Milford Airport and track west along Milford Sound, climb alongside Bowen Falls and Mitre Peak for some great views of the fiords and its towering peaks before returning to our Milford base during this 20-minute flight.

→ Book here your Scenic flight over Milford Sound


Where to stay near Lake Marian track

The best way to explore most of Fiordland National Park is to stay in either Milford Sound or Te Anau. Milford Sound only has one accommodation and restaurant option as the Milford Sound Lodge. If you have a self-contained campervan then you have the option to stay at some camping sites. 

Te Anau on the other hand has more options for accommodations and facilities such as restaurants and supermarkets. However, from Te Anau it is an 80-kilometer drive to Lake Marian trailhead. If you’re planning to explore Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound for a few days, then having your base in Te Anau is a great idea. With the ever-changing weather circumstances in Fiordland National Park, it is always a surprise to see how the landscape changes as well. And with so many places you can explore along Milford Road it is a great day trip into Fiordland National Park.

Milford Sound Lodge 

Milford Sound Lodge is one of the most unique accommodations in New Zealand. Being the only accommodation close to Milford Sound, you will be immersed in nature. The mountain and river view chalets look out over the towering peaks of the Darran Mountains with waterfalls pouring down along the cliffs. Truly some of the most mesmerizing views you can have from an accommodation. We stayed here for two nights and highly recommend booking a stay at Milford Sound Lodge. You are not only close to the action of the Milford Sound cruise and the hikes you can do. But you can also fully recharge in your cozy cabin and order delicious food at Pio Pio restaurant. 

→ Book here your stay at Milford Sound Lodge


Radfords on the Lake Te Anau

Radfords on the Lake is located across the road from Lake Te Anau with stunning lake and mountain views. The fully self-contained suites offer everything you need during your stay. From cooking utensils to a desk and comfortable bed, Radfords on the Lake in Te Anau is your home away from home. With lovely staff, daily cleaning, and its central location, we couldn’t recommend Radfords on the Lake enough. We have stayed here ourselves and fully enjoyed it!

→ Book here your stay at Radfords on the Lake


More New Zealand travel guides

I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about the Lake Marian track. Make sure to put this incredible hike on your New Zealand South Island itinerary!

There are many amazing other things to do and places to visit on the South Island of New Zealand. After living for more than 4 months on the South Island, we have explored most of this stunning island. So for more New Zealand inspiration, head over to our other New Zealand travel guides.

Fiordland National Park

20 best things to do in Milford Sound – The Ultimate Guide

Milford Sound Cruise – The Complete Guide

Key Summit track – The Complete Guide

Gertrude Saddle Hike – The Complete Guide


30 best things to do in Queenstown – The Ultimate Guide

16 best hikes in Queenstown – The Ultimate Guide

Queenstown HillWalkk – The Complete Guide

Ben Lomond track – The Complete Guide

Moke Lake loop track & viewpoint – The Complete Guide

Bobs CoveNature Walk – The Complete Guide


20 best things to do in Glenorchy – The Ultimate Guide

Glenorchy walkway & lagoon track – The Complete Guide

Earnslaw Burn glacier valley and waterfalls – The Complete Guide

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