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.
To read to remainder of Fran and Jude's experience through the Hollyford Track click here.