Frequently Asked Questions

2 Day Fiordland Heli Escape

Frequently Asked Questions

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Find answers to frequently asked questions about the 2 day Fiordland Heli Escape below, or submit a question and we'll get back to you.

Fiordland has very changeable and unpredictable weather, so you need to be well prepared. It can change dramatically and quickly so it’s important to be prepared for the worst conditions and carry the appropriate clothing at all times. Summer months average around 20°C but the evenings can be a little cooler. Of course, our lodges are quite warm and comfortable! Spring and autumn temperatures average around 10°C on the coast with the evenings being cooler still.

Fiordland is a temperate rain forest and up to 9 metres of rain falls annually.  That's right - 30 feet of water can fall in the headwaters every year, so this is one of the wettest places in the world!  For Americans think Olympic Peninsula, WA. So, you need a good rain coat.  If you don't have one, we will loan you one.  

Due to the rainfall we have drying rooms in both the lodges, so you can expect any wet clothes will be warm, dry and ready to wear each morning. Please refer to our gear check list for the most suitable clothing.

Please note that, whilst we do our best, due to the nature of Fiordland’s weather it can be difficult to make very accurate forecast predictions.

3 Day Wilderness Experience

Day One: Queenstown guests travel by coach 170km to Te Anau, and it is a further 100km through the beautiful Eglinton Valley to the track start. From there to Pyke Lodge we walk 19.5kms (12 miles) which takes up to 7 hours.

Day Two: We walk 15kms (9 miles) between Pyke Lodge and Martins Bay Lodge taking 4 - 5 hours. During this time, you will also travel approximately 25kms by jet boat down the Hollyford River and across Lake McKerrow.

Day Three: After breakfast we walk up to 8.5kms (5 miles) along Martins Bay Spit, which takes 3 - 4 hours. Following lunch, you will take a spectacular helicopter flight along the coast and into the breath-taking Milford Sound before boarding our coach to drive 120km to Te Anau.

 

2 Day Fiordland Heli Escape

Day One: Once you have made your own way to Milford Airport (contact Trips and Tramps on 0800 305 807 if you require a coach transfer to Milford), your journey begins with a spectacular scenic heli flight down the length of breath-taking Milford Sound. Landing at Martins Bay we enjoy a picnic lunch before walking approximately 7km to Long Reef which will take around three hours.

Day Two: After breakfast we take a 15 minute jet boat ride up the lower Hollyford River to Lake McKerrow landing at Jamestown. We walk approximately 7km through the Podocarp forest back to Martins Bay lodge. After morning tea we return by helicopter to Milford.

3 Day Wilderness Experience

The Hollyford Track is a well-formed valley walk suitable for most ages (10+) and abilities. However, the days are long, and day one of the 3 Day Wilderness experience can be quite tiring as you walk 19.5km in approximately 7 hours and you are required to carry your full pack. If you have a reasonable level of fitness you will find it pleasantly challenging, and highly rewarding!

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To prepare yourself for the 3 Day Wilderness Experience, we recommend structuring a training programme (at least 6 weeks beforehand) to ensure your walk with us is comfortable and therefore enjoyable. Some helpful tips are: 

  • Start simple and around town - brisk walks of approx. 1 hour; 
  • Wear a backpack weighing about 6kgs to simulate what you will carry on Day One (only) of your Hollyford Track walk; 
  • One month out increase your walks to 3 hours – more as you get fitter - and try bush tracks or uneven terrain to develop balance and the different muscle groups needed; 
  • Hills and stair work will greatly improve fitness; 
  • Walk in the rain if possible as we do experience wet weather on the track, so it helps to get used to it!
  • Walk in the boots and socks you’ll be wearing on the Hollyford to make sure they are comfortable and fit well.
  • Remember hydration and nutrition even in training – drink plenty of water and eat snack foods such as muesli bars, banana chips and chocolate. If you do this in your training walks, your body will become used to processing food whilst on the move!

2 Day Fiordland Heli Escape

The walks on each day are approximately 6 - 7km in length and will take 2 - 3 hours. They are not rigorous and the terrain is largely flat or very gently undulating through forest, coastal bush and rocky coastline.

If you have a reasonable level of agility and fitness, enjoy walking frequently and are able to walk continually for around one hour you will most likely be very capable of completing our 2 Day Heli Escape trip.

 

The Hollyford Track Guided Wilderness Experience operates for six months from late October through to late April, and the flora and fauna in the valley can vary within that period. The Fiordland Heli Escape operates between January and March.

The New Zealand Fur Seal colony is permanently at Long Reef. Many of the big mature bulls leave in December. Mothers have their pups in January. The rare Fiordland Crested Penguins nest in the flax bushes at Long Reef from July to December and are generally visible in pairs, and entertaining to observe. Whilst they do come back to land between February and March to moult, they are rarely seen then as they are not in pairs and are more timid, tending to hide. December is often the peak time to see the Southern Rātā flower, and the traditionally warmer months of January to March see many of the summer flowering plants in bloom including Rātā vine, Manuka and some of the orchid varieties. In April when the weather is usually cooler with crisp clear days many of the flowering plants may still be in bloom. 

* Please note the flora and fauna of Fiordland is dependent on many factors outside our control, therefore we cannot make any guarantees on what might be seen.

3 Day Wilderness Experience

A comprehensive gear check list for the 3 Day Wilderness Experience can be viewed here.

Applicable to the 3 Day Wilderness Experience only

Both Te Anau and Queenstown have several specialist outdoor stores that sell clothing and other gear required for walking in Fiordland. However, we recommend that you only use these as a backup if you have forgotten something as we cannot guarantee that they will have a full range of products or sizes when you are here. 

A comprehensive gear check list is provided upon booking, but you can view our gear check list here. 

You will need to make arrangements for your un-required luggage to be stored at your hotel/accommodation. To make this easier we advise that you stay at the same hotel/accommodation before and after your Hollyford Track walk. If this is not possible please get in touch with us at the time of booking.

3 Day Wilderness Experience

You will need to make arrangements for your vehicle to be stored at your hotel/accommodation, and generally they will do this while you are walking if you are staying with them again upon your return. You will need to check this with your hotel/accommodation. In Te Anau there is a secure parking facility: www.saferparking.co.nz

 

2 Day Fiordland Heli Escape

There is a public car park at Milford, however finding parking can be challenging at times. We recommend allowing plenty of time to find a car park and either catch a shuttle or walk to the airport before your 11.30 check in time.

3 Day Wilderness Experience

From October to March Queenstown guests will be picked up on Day One from their hotel/accommodation from 6:30am. If staying in Te Anau guests meet at the Distinction Te Anau Hotel at 8:30am. For this reason, we highly recommend all our guests start their Hollyford journey in Te Anau for a more relaxing start to the trip.

In April, our trips only start in Te Anau and guests meet at 7.15am at the Distinction Te Anau Hotel. On Day Three you will arrive back in Te Anau at approximately 4:00pm, and in Queenstown by approximately 7:00pm. Note: We cannot guarantee the Queenstown arrival time so please do not book a flight out on Day Three.

 

2 Day Firodland Heli Escape

Guests need to make their own way to Milford Airport (contact Trips and Tramps on 0800 305 807 for coach services) by 11.30am on the day of departure. The heli flight will depart at 12 noon and arrive back at approximately 11.15am the next day. Allow four hours driving time to Milford if you are driving from Queenstown or two hours if you're driving from Te Anau.

Both lodges have flush toilets and there are clean long drop style toilets at our lunch stops. Gunn’s Camp museum has the last flushing toilet stop before reaching Pyke Lodge for the 3 Day Wilderness Experience.

The lodges run on battery bank powered electricity, and we do conserve energy by turning off some electrical facilities overnight. However, lighting is available throughout the night and we have 24hr power in the lounge area for charging cameras etc.

We can organise to have 24hr power in your room. Whilst our bedrooms don't have 24hr power, our lounge area does and so we can run an extension cord to your CPAP machine. You will be given a room closest to the lounge. Please note, however, that being in a remote area we generate our own power, and the power system we use, although very reliable, cannot be 100% guaranteed.

A selection of New Zealand craft beer, fine wines and organic soft drinks are available for purchase at the lodges. We accept credit cards or cash, and you will be asked to pay for any drinks at the end of your walk before you fly out to Milford Sound. Note that should you not wish to finish your bottle of wine on the first evening, we will transport it for you to the second lodge. There is also a complimentary selection of tea, coffee and fruit juice.

The bathrooms have hot showers with unlimited hot water and flush toilets. We provide towels, soap, combination shampoo/conditioner, and hair dryers

Given our remote location it is difficult to cater specifically to all dietary requests. However, we can cater for the following if we know well in advance of your arrival:

Vegetarian will / will not eat fish

Vegan

Gluten Free

Coeliac

Dairy Free / Lactose Intolerant

At the time of booking, you will be asked to confirm any such dietary requirements. If you have any food allergies, please let us know.

The average age of our walkers is 50+ but many people in their 60s and over have also taken up the challenge. We also attract families wanting to share this unique experience together

3 Day Wilderness Experience

It takes 2 hours from Queenstown to Te Anau, then just under a further 2 hours from Te Anau to the start of the track. Given the distance, this is another reason to consider departing from Te Anau. We aim to start walking at around 11am. (Note, April trips depart from Te Anau only, and are brought forward so you start walking around 9:30am).

 

2 Day FIordland Heli Escape

 As above it takes 2 hours from Queenstown to Ta Anau then just under a further 2 hours to Milford. You will need to check in at Milford Airport by 11.30am om the day of departure.

Don’t worry, our jet boat ride is simply a means of transport which cuts out the need for a whole lot more walking! Think of it as cruise down the river and lake, and not a fun park ride.

Applicable for the 3 Day Wilderness Experience only

Yes. We ask all our guests to attend their pre-departure briefing held in both Te Anau and Queenstown at 5.30pm the day prior to your departure. This is a chance for you to make sure you are fully prepared for the walk and to meet your fellow walkers. It also gives you the opportunity to pick up a backpack and/or raincoat, should you require one. If you are really unable to attend, please contact our reservations team.

If you are on the 2 Day Heli Escape trip you will be given a safety briefing before boarding your helicopter and we will provide any equipment you need upon arival at Martins Bay

Given the location of the Hollyford Track it is important to note that we don’t have modern communication amenities such as cell phone reception. Whilst these amenities are now a standard part of our modern lives you’ll be glad not to have them for a few days, as it gives you a 100% revitalising break from your ‘other’ lives. It doesn’t take long to adjust and enjoy not having them.  Do take comfort in knowing that we do have satellite phones and radio contact for the daily operational running of Hollyford Track and of course for use in the very unlikely case of an emergency

Pyke Lodge and Martins Bay Lodge have drying rooms which are designed to dry suitable fabrics (not cotton). Please note that we do not have washing facilities.

Applicable to the 3 Day Wilderness Experience only

Yes, just let us know at the time of booking. You will have to consider any additional luggage you may have. In such instances, where possible, we may be able to store your additional luggage whilst you are on the track. Please ask at the time of confirming your accommodation.

We walk through the rainforest of our South West coast and this location can experience high rainfall.

Fiordland has one of the highest levels of rainfall in the world! Whilst this can make it spectacular and contributes to the beautiful flora, it also means that the track can be very wet, muddy and slippery.  Likewise, the creeks can rise rapidly, and therefore our groups often have to walk through water and mud – hence good quality, waterproof hiking boots are essential.

We strongly recommend all guests, both New Zealand residents and visitors, purchase travel insurance. This should guard against loss of fares paid should your trip be cancelled for any reason within our cancellation period. Insurance may cover cancellations due to reasons such as falling ill or having an accident prior to your departure, a family bereavement, missing a flight to Queenstown, and therefore missing your departure etc. once the trip has begun it should also cover the costs associated with injury or evacuation from the track.

We are proud to offer two different guided experiences based in the Hollyford Valley and Martins Bay area. If you're not sure which trip would suit you best, have a look at the summary table below for the key differences between the two:

  3 Day Guided Wildereness Experience (Hollyford Valley) 2 Day Guided Firodland Heli Escape (Martins Bay)
Trail location Hiking begins at the road end, Gunns Camp continues through the Hollyford Valley and finishes at Martins Bay All walking takes place around the wider Martins Bay area
Walking distance Total walking distance of 43km (26.7 miles over 3 days) Total walking distance of 14km (8.6 miles over 2 days)
Trail elevation Undulating terrain with a maximum height of 168m above sea level Mostly flat terrain with a maximum height reached of 50m above sea level
Trip duration 2 nights, 3 days on the track plus briefing the evening before departure 1 night, 2 days in Martins Bay
Transportation Return transport from Queenstown or Te Anau included in the trip Guests make their own way to Milford Airport