The views from the top are well worth the climb! | Stephen Tulley
Everthing You Need To Know About Walking the Hollyford Track
Where is the Hollyford Track?
Located in Fiordland National Park, the remote Hollyford Valley is home to a rich New Zealand history. It is the only major low altitude track in Fiordland National Park that can be walked all year round, and if it’s quintessential landscapes you’re after, Hollyford is an awe-inspiring walking track.
Largely untouched for thousands of years, the snow-capped mountains of the majestic Southern Alps, ancient native rainforest, pristine rivers and lakes, remote sand dunes, reef and surf of the rugged West Coast combine to offer undisturbed and spectacular scenery.
Landscape and Wildlife
Hollyford Valley has extensive vegetation, native birdlife and a variety of stunning vistas. Beginning among the sheer rock walls of the Darran Mountains in Fiordland National Park, the track follows the Hollyford River (Whakatipu Kā Tuka) to Martins Bay, on to the wild West Coast.
The lowland forests, rivers, lakes, estuary and coast of the valley provide habitats for birds and other animals. The majority of the forest is silver beech, mixed with kamahi, kahikatea, matai and rimu.
Small birds such as tomtit, robin, brown creeper, bellbird, grey warbler, fantail, rifleman and silver eye are common in many areas. Kākā (large forest parrots), frequent the valley and call at dusk. Fiordland crested penguins (Tawaki) and seals can be found around the Martins Bay coastline.
Highlights on the Track are Lake Alabaster (Wāwāhi Waka) and Lake McKerrow (Whakatipu Waitai). The site of the now abandoned Jamestown, which was established in the 1870s, can also be found on the shore of Lake McKerrow.
What to Expect
The Hollyford Track is a well formed valley walk, suitable for most ages (10+) and abilities. The 56km track takes 4-5 days to walk and is graded Advanced. With no alpine sections the track is rarely cut off by snow, allowing for all season walking.
For families, or those wanting just a taste of the track, the first section offers a great overnight option. There are excellent huts and a good track, but it is a backcountry experience in Fiordland National Park.
Safety & Weather
Hollyford Track is in a remote wilderness area and it’s important to note there is no cell phone reception or other means of communication. It is strongly recommended that you carry a Personal Locator Beacon and/or Mountain Radio.
The weather in Fiordland can be very unpredictable and change dramatically, and very quickly. The close proximity of towering mountains and the ocean makes for conditions and temperatures that can vary markedly across the course of a day.
It is important you are prepared with the appropriate equipment and clothing. Good supportive hiking boots are recommended for the Track, as it can be wet, muddy and slippery depending on the weather conditions.
Summer months average around 20°C but evenings can be cooler. Winter temperatures average around 10°C on the coast with evenings much colder. Be prepared for the worst conditions, and carry the appropriate clothing at all times.
When is the Best Time to Appreciate This Unique Wilderness Environment?
The best time to walk the Track is from late October through to late April. Flora and fauna in the valley can vary within this period. The New Zealand Fur Seal colony is permanently at Long Reef. Many of the mature bulls leave in December, whilst Mothers have their pups in January.
The rare Fiordland Crested Penguins nest in the flax bushes at Long Reef from July to December. They’re generally visible in pairs, and entertaining to watch. Whilst they return to land between February and March to moult, they’re rarely seen as they’re timid and tend to hide.
December is often the peak time to see the Southern Rātā flower. The traditionally warmer months of January to March see the summer flowering plants in bloom, including Rātā vine, Manuka and some of the orchid varieties.
Other Local Activities
There is good access for other local activities including trout fishing, deer hunting, climbing and exploration of areas surrounding the Hollyford Track. Anglers should hold a current fishing licence, and hunting permits must be obtained online at www.doc.govt.nz
Get Fit Before Your Walk
It’s essential to prepare for your walk. We suggest a simple training programme of around 6 weeks before your trip. This will ensure your walk is comfortable and enjoyable. Keep it simple with short brisk walks of about 1 hour, then increase to 3 hours as your fitness grows.
Venturing further on bush walks to vary the terrain, with a few hills thrown into the mix will improve fitness. Remember to always carry water and snacks. The list below shows the section lengths and the time on average it takes to walk. You can use these as a guide for your training.
Experience the Hollyford Track on our 7 day Fiordland Hollyford and Stewart Island Trails trip here.
Lower Hollyford Road to Hidden Falls Hut - 9 km (2–3 hr)
Hidden Falls Hut to Lake Alabaster Hut - 10.5 km (3–4 hr)
Lake Alabaster Hut to McKerrow Island Hut - 10.5 km (3–4 hr)
Demon Trail McKerrow Island Hut to Demon Trail Hut - 4.2 km (1.5 hr)
Demon Trail Hut to Hokuri Hut - 9.6 km (5–6 hr)
Hokuri Hut to Martins Bay Hut - 13 km (4–5 hr)