Stepping into the calming green embrace of the Hollyford Track is a world away from the bustling streets of New Zealand’s mightiest city.
Think no cell coverage, no stress, no rush. It’s exactly as Ngāi Tahu Tourism likes it. Mana whenua has owned the award-winning hiking operation, located deep within the UNESCO World Heritage site, since 2003—and there’s good reason why the marketing material reads: “Not your usual walk in the park”.
It’s a place that has remained unchanged since pre-historic times. That first step into the beech forest is akin to boarding a botanical ark. For three days and two nights, visitors embark upon an easy-paced, professionally guided walk through Fiordland National Park, a trail that spans 43km, snaking from the mountains to the sea. The full trifecta allows guests to experience the Hollyford by foot, jetboat and helicopter, with no need to worry about heavy backpacks, for they get delivered ahead.
Safely ensconced in a ‘walking bus’ with a guide at the front and rear, this most varied of trails means no two moments are the same — relax, be present, and allow the nature to nurture you soul. Flirty fantails and plump kererus entertain high in the trees, as tiny, delicate orchards release their sandalwood scents dotted down the track.
Weaving a path through the wilderness in tandem with the Hollyford River, experience the dense bush canopy above. Marvel at the mirror stillness of Lake Alabaster, traverse swing bridges over Pyke River, jetboat the rapids of the Upper Hollyford River, and savour the sands of Martins Bay Spit between your toes. To finish, the thrill of a chopper ride affords a bird’s eye view of the cascading waterfalls and seal colonies of Milford Sound.
The dawn pick-up from Queenstown travels to Te Anau, then on to the 19.5km walk of day one. The visit to historic Jamestown on the second day teaches of the hardships suffered by early pioneer settlers, and for lunch as if an oasis, a clearing appears complete with a pristine Virginia Fisher-designed tent fitted with polished wooden floors (the much-welcome touch of glamping comes courtesy of the interior decorator famed for creating light, bright and stylish spaces for luxury clients like Huka Lodge), ready to reward hungry hikers and boost the spirits. Fantastic five-star food covers cravings from venison to vegetarian. Throughout the trip, the fare is fresh and seasonal, with generous top-ups of spring water, trail mix, snacks and nut bars.
Each night, around the table and over glass or two of wine, trampers sit and share their stories. From seasoned hill hikers to novice first-timers of all ages, the walk, the experience, will reward all. Most drawn to the Hollyford seem to share one common goal: to take time out in the quiet wilderness to stretch the legs and minds along the viridescent version of New Zealand’s mini ‘Camino’.
Day three, a well-earned reward for the walking efforts takes shape by taking flight. An exhilarating finale by helicopter over “the poster boy, the talisman and icon of the South Island” — the beautiful and pristine Milford Sound. It is from the skies, above that sprawling, ancient landscape, that the scale of your shared adventure will strike home.
5 Top Tips For Walkers
Break your shoes in before you go
Try a few long walks to prepare
Pack layers — thermal merino preferably
Remember the mosquito repellent
Know walking the Hollyford Track is a trip of a lifetime!
The Order of Things
Pre walk briefing held in either Queenstown or
Usually around 6pm — takes no longer than
Raincoats and backpacks are offered for those who need them.
Pack your backpack with whatever you wish to take with you for the following three days. Pack light.
Enjoy or pack a good breakfast.
Bus collects you from wherever you are staying, and heads on out to the start of the Hollyford Track. If you are coming from Queenstown this is a 4-5-hour bus ride (including stops), but if you are starting out from Te Anau, the bus ride is only about two hours.
Along with 2 Hollyford Track guides and your backpack, you will are dropped off at the start of the walk a little before midday.
The next few hours will be taken up walking through the most amazing and pristine rain forests you have ever seen.
Lunch is around the halfway mark.
Arrive at Pyke River lodge round 7pm.
Relax, eat, drink and rest.
Enjoy a good breakfast.
Get your bigger packs ready for a pick up, and prepare a daypack.
Enjoy a day of walking through various terrains, plus a couple of jet boat rides.
Arrive at Martins Bay lodge, early evening.
Relax, eat, drink and rest.
Make sure you are all packed up.
Then the all-important breakfast, prior to heading out along the beach.
Return to the lodge round midday for a light lunch.
After lunch helicopter out of Martins Bay, up the Milford Sound, and land in Milford.
Just enough time for a coffee in Milford, prior to the bus collecting you and your luggage, and driving back to Te Anau / Queenstown.
Arrive Te Anau mid afternoon, and in Queenstown early evening.
That night, dream of one of the most amazing experiences you have ever had.
Doing the Hollyford Track is an unforgettable once in a lifetime experience – achievable by anyone aged 14–80, of average fitness and capability.