To prepare ourselves for the walk, we attended the Hollyford Pre-Track Briefing which is held at the Spire Hotel, Queenstown at 5.30pm on the day prior to your walk. The track briefing allowed us to meet some of our fellow walkers and learn day by day details of the walk including suggested clothing and footwear. The staff were also happy to provide back packs, pack liners and waterproof jackets if required.
The following morning, we were collected at 6.30am from our hotel by our lovely driver named ‘Peanut’. She offered us an informative commentary as we left Queenstown and followed Lake Wakatipu through to Kingston and south to Lumsden and Te Anau. After meeting our guides Graeme & Mush and collecting the remainder of our fellow walkers, we enjoyed our last tasty ‘Flat White’ coffee for the next few days and continued our drive along the Te Anau & Milford highway, through the Eglington Valley to Gunn’s Camp & Museum, before starting the walk. It was then, we took our first group photo of fresh faced and euthanistic walkers before grabbing our packs and heading into the Hollyford Valley for our first day hike of 19.5km’s. With one guide leading our small group of just 12 (maximum of 16 people) and one at the rear, it made our trip so much more intimate, allowing us to interact with the guides and learn more about the Hollyford Valley.
We followed the Hollyford River through native beech forest listening to the beautiful bird song, walking over swing bridges, enjoying waterfalls and the towering peaks of the Southern Alps, Mt Tutoko and Mt Madeline around us. The valley offers easy walking with a small incline to 168m at Little Homer Saddle, though throughout the day our guides paused to keep us all together but more importantly to tell such wonderful stories of the pioneers, the early Maori settlers, history of the area and the flora & fauna which surrounded us. After a long but enjoyable walk, we arrived at Pyke River Lodge, where the Hollyford River meets Pyke River. We were met by our lovely lodge hosts with a juice and cookie, then it was time to check into our twin share bunk style rooms and enjoy a hot shower located in the shared bathroom block. Feeling revitalised, we all meet back in the communal lounge & dining area for a drink and to learn more about our fellow walkers. Our lodge hosts provided a wonderful platter filled with garlic prawns, mussels, crackers and homemade dips before sitting down for dinner to enjoy Venison and Lemon Dessert. After dinner, we were invited to join the guides to view and feed our dinner scraps to the eels on the riverbank whom I must add were very hungry and came right up the bank to ensure they got something to eat. We also took a short walk along the track to view the Glowworms, before turning in for a good night’s sleep.
Day Two came with a wake up call & breakfast, before leaving the lodge at 8.00am. We walked a short 3km’s to Lake Alabaster, a gorgeous lake offering spectacular reflections on a still clear day and we had the chance to experience one of Fiordland’s longest swing bridges too. We returned to the lodge after further history and geology stories to collect our pack and meet our Jetboat driver. We were shuttled a short distance out of the river to McKerrow Island where we absorbed the mighty peaks that had surrounded us yesterday. We continued on Lake McKerrow to Jamestown, a historic pioneer settlement before entering an ancient Podocarp forest where 800-1,000 year old giant native trees stood before us. We sampled and smelt various plants including the Supplejack vine which tasted like asparagus and learnt of the medicinal purposes for veronicas (Hebe) and the Flax bush. We continued out to Martins Bay, through Jerusalem and out to the wild west coast to view the fur seals & pups lying on the rocks. Our day ending at Martins Bay Lodge with great hosts and food, delicious fresh blue cod fish and chocolate slice. Total walk distance is 15km’s.
And lastly day three which began with another hearty breakfast. We left our lodge by jetboat to explore Martins Bay Spit where the landscape changed once again – walking over the sand dunes then out onto the rugged coast to walk alongside the crashing waves, total 8 km’s of walking. We returned to the lodge for lunch and awaited the arrival of our helicopters, yes Helicopters! Once boarded we headed along the west coast for a spectacular scenic flight, before entering Milford Sound to marvel at the scenery of vertical granite walls rising from the sea. This is an amazing flight filled with so much beauty. From Milford, the Hollyford Track concludes with a coach transfer back to either Te Anau or Queenstown.
This is a remarkable trip, which certainly ticks all the boxes! From the amazing guides and their incredible wealth of knowledge, the spectacular scenery from rainforest to the coast, the warm hosts & lodges. And to top it off with a jetboat ride & scenic helicopter flight into Milford, this is an amazing experience.
Would you like to explore this region?
See our Southern Walking Adventure – 8 days, exploring the beautiful Fiordland National Park and Hollyford Track.