A journey of discovery from the mountains to the sea
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Remote and dramatic, the Hollyford Valley begins among the sheer rock walls of the Darran Mountains and runs from the base of the Southern Alps to the Tasman Sea. It contains two main lakes, Lake Alabaster and Lake McKerrow with the latter having the site of the now abandoned Jamestown which was established in 1870 as an intended major shipping port. The forest is a mix of native lowland species and there are views of Fiordland’s largest two peaks Mt Tūtoko and Mt Madeline. The remote and often wild coastline is inhabited by native New Zealand Fur Seals and rare Fiordland Crested Penguins. The mix of spectacular scenery and amazing native animals make the Hollyford Track a must do in Fiordland.
The Hollyford Valley is a classic glacial carved U shaped valley and was formed by the action of a huge glacier about 20,000 years ago. The only remnant of this once massive glacier is the Donne Glacier on the eastern face of Mt Tūtoko. Originally a fiord, the Hollyford became a valley when Lake McKerrow was formed and cut off from the sea by sedimentary deposits at Martins Bay.
The lowland forests, rivers, lakes, estuary and coast of the valley provide habitats for birds and animals. The main forest is Silver Beech with Kāmahi, Kahikatea, Mataī and Rimu. The forested areas have a rich understory of Coprosmas, Wineberry, Fuchsia and Pepperwood, with abundant ferns, mosses and lichens.
Small birds; Tomtit, Robin, Brown Creeper, Bellbird, Grey Warbler, Fantail, Rifleman and Silver Eye are still common in many areas in spite of introduced predators. The large forest parrot, the Kākā, is a feature of the valley, often calling at dusk.
Kererū, the native wood pigeon, can be seen when Kōwhai and other blooms and fruit are available. Rātā and flax attract the honey eaters, Tūī and Bellbird. Fiordland Crested Penguins nest in scrub and rocks near Long Reef where there is a New Zealand Fur Seal rookery. Fern-birds live in areas of swamp and scrub scattered through the valley, while Bitterns hide in reeds at Martins Bay. Occasionally the Kōtuku, or White Heron, winters over at the bay. Ducks, shags, gulls and terns can be seen in the Hollyford estuary and schools of dolphins regularly visit the lake. The rare Pekapeka or native Short Tail Bat is present but not common.
Stepping into the dramatic Hollyford Valley is like entering a world that’s remained largely unchanged for thousands of years. Geologically spectacular and ever changing, the sheer diversity of vegetation and wildlife in this one valley is truly unparalleled and makes for an utterly amazing guided walk.
Run from a year round base in Queenstown with a walking season from late October to late April the Hollyford Track guided walk continues to grow while maintaining its core values of a personalised trip with small groups and fine service and cuisine.