Milnthorpe Forest is a gem. It's not swanky, it's not idyllic in a nature unspoiled sort of way. But it offers what every dog surely wants. Mile upon mile of shady walking, on soft leafy paths, through what feels at times like a never-ending expanse of woodland.
There are three main ways in. The main entrance is off SH60, about 3 km south of Collingwood. This is where the maps are, so if it's your first visit it's a good place to start, because believe me, you need a map. (You also need to appreciate that the maps are a bit approximate, and in some cases the paths have chanmged over the years - so even with a map you can get lost. But it's a good place to get lost in.) A second option it to take Milnthorpre Quay onto Nelson Street at the southern end of the forest. This leads to a small parking area just above the inlet. Note, however, that the refuse collection trucks use tghis area to turn around on certain days of the week - so read the notice!
The third option is to walk to the forest along Collingwood Beach - a 3km trek, but worth the effort, for it's a lovely sandy beach. However, if you come that way, watch out for the small paths at the back of the beach that bring you into the forest: they're not easy to find. And don't try to enter from the end of Collingwood Beach, over The Esplanade as indicated on the trail map. The water's usually deep, the bed is muddy, and there isn't a bridge. (I warned you about the maps!).
However you get there, when you do, you're in for a treat. There are paths leading in every direction. They dip down gulleys, climb over ridges and small hills, criss-cross the flaxy wetland, follow small streamlets, curve around ponds. They weave and twist, and in case that's not enough to confuse you, now and then they change names. Much of the year, the forest is alive with birds. You'll meet the occasional jogger or mountain bike rider, and other dog-walkers, too. But much of the time, you'll have the place to yourself - just you ans the birds. And if you explore far enough, you'll probably encounter some of the artwork that's been seeded in the place by local sculptors over the years.
For me,Milnthorpe Forest is a must-go-to place whenever we visit Golden Bay. The dogs recognise it before we get there and are always eager and ready to leap. Do go there yourself. It shows that it doesn't take much to create an enjoyable place to walk: just a few acres of land, a hundred thousand trees and thirty or forty years for them to grow. Oh - and freedom of access both for you and your dogs.