The track follows the Hollyford River from the Lower Hollyford road-end to Martins Bay (allow four days one way). Access by aeroplane to Martins Bay is possible, and during the summer season pre-arranged jet boat transport is available across Lake McKerrow. The Hollyford Track is at low altitude and can be walked at any time of the year. The track may be guided, staying in comfortable lodges, with hot showers and all meals provided. For independent walkers, there are six huts on this track, no booking is required, and bunks are available on a first-come first-served basis. Hut tickets must be purchased in advance from DOC centres.
The Hollyford Track is in Fiordland National Park, part of the South-West New Zealand World Heritage Area
Length: 56 kilometres (one way)
Number of days required to walk: 4 or 5 days
Number of huts: 6 public huts, 3 private lodges
Highest point: Low lying track (no alpine sections)
Can be guided: Yes.
Track condition: Very Good.
Track popularity: High.
Booking required: No. Hut tickets are required however.
Martins Bay, known to the Maori as Kotuku, was an important Ngai Tahu settlement on the West Coast between 1650 and 1800. It was well sited for access to the food resources of the lakes, sea and forests, as well as pounamu and takiwai stone (greenstone). Large trees on the banks of the Kotuku (Hollyford) River were utilised in canoe building, and the canoes were used on Whakatipu-wai-tai (Lake McKerrow) and Waiwahuika (Lake Alabaster).
The whaler Captain Alabaster was one of the first Europeans to explore the valley in 1863, working his way up from Martins Bay to Lake Howden and met the Maori chief Tutoko at Martins Bay. He had two daughters named Sara and May. Dr James Hector, scientist-explorer and the first provincial geologist of Otago, visited later in the same year and named the hills above the bay after these two daughters.
Hector travelled up the Hollyford Valley to Queenstown, where he reported favourably on the millable timber, and indications of gold, iron, copper and zinc in the area. He also announced that a road to the coast was now practicable, but a survey soon disproved this. However, the place name of Caples was preserved on the map by the surveyor Thomson.
The town of Jamestown was established in 1870 on the shores of Lake McKerrow, and Martins bay developed a port, but the settlements were doomed by isolation.
Although amongst the later arrivals the McKenzie brothers outstayed the others; they raised cattle and drove them to the sale yards at Mossburn over 250 km away.
In 1926 the McKenzie’s sold out to David Gunn who continued running cattle and started guiding tourists from the Hollyford Camp. Since David Gunn’s death in 1955, his son Murray has managed Gunn’s Camp, where an interesting small museum is housed, with many relics, photographs and stories from the past.
Each spring whitebaiters fish the mouth of the Hollyford River (whitebait are juveniles of native fish belonging to the genus Galaxius).
The track starts at the end of the Lower Hollyford Road, which is a two hours drive from Te Anau. Turn off from the road to Milford Sound (State Highway 94), at Marian Corner.
Several bus companies provide transport to the Hollyford Road End or to Gunn’s Camp on the Lower Hollyford Road, where cabin accommodation is available.
Jet boat services also operate up and down the Hollyford and Pyke Rivers, and a popular service is up or down Lake McKerrow, bypassing the Demon Trail section of the track.
There are also small plane services from the Martins Bay airstrip to the Hollyford airstrip, and to and from Milford Sound, Te Anau and Queenstown (see alternative options below).
Route Description (Direction: Hollyford Road-end to Martins Bay)
Road End to Hidden Falls (2-3 hours)
A bridge crosses Humboldt Creek before the track follows an old road to the start of the track. From here the all-weather track to Hidden Falls initially sidles along bluffs on boardwalks, avoiding the flood-prone areas of the swampland to the left. The track continues to the Hidden Falls stream (where the private lodge is sited) and where a swingbridge is found that leads to the Hidden Falls hut. A two minute detour to view the impressive Hidden Falls can be found before crossing the swingbridge.
Hidden Falls to Lake Alabaster (3-4 hours)
The track passes through a section of lowland forest draped with colourful ferns before climbing to Little Homer Saddle (143 metres), where there is a view through the forest to Mt Tutoko, the track then descends to Homer Creek, a small stream with the misty Little Homer Falls over 60 metres high (crossed by swingbridge). A little further is the private Pyke Lodge, and another 20 minutes walking leads to Lake Alabaster Hut.
Lake Alabaster to Demon Trail (4-5 hours)
The Pyke river is crossed by swingbridge. The track follows the Pyke, then leads through mixed forest and after two hours of flat travelling the track joins up with the Hollyford River again, now a much broader river. A further hour’s walk will reveal McKerrow Island (site of McKerrow Hut). But if the river is flooded, or rain is threatening, it is better to continue to Demon Trail hut on the shore of Lake McKerrow, 1 1/2 hours further on.
Demon Trail to Hokuri Hut (5-6 hours)
The ominous sounding Demon Trail is well named as the track through this section is rocky and undulating climbing up and down numerous ridges in bush all the way to Hokuri River. Although a lot of work has improved this section and the track is well defined, creek crossings can be dangerous, use the walk-wire crossings where provided. Hokuri Hut is near the lake shore of Lake McKerrow at Gravel Cove.
Hokuri Hut to Martins Bay (4-5 hours)
The track follows the lake shore until Hokuri Creek is found, this can be crossed by walk wire but in low river conditions can easily be forded near the mouth. After a further hour of following the lake, the track heads off into the forest and is relatively flat and easy walking until a large clearing is reached.
There are a couple of airstrips here - a private one reached first in the large clearing with a number of private lodges besides the river. There is another airstrip further along the track with private dwellings. Once the sea is reached there are good views of Martins Bay before Martins Bay hut is reached.
A track from the hut leads to Long Reef - home of the Martins Bay seal colony, on the remote and often wild coastline. Other wildlife such as dolphins and penquins may also be spotted.
Beyond Long Reef the track becomes less well-defined and becomes a route that leads to Pyke Bay. This forms part of the difficult Pyke-Big Bay route.
Fly In - Walk Out or Walk In - Fly Out
Obviously it may seem more practical to choose this option as this eliminates the need of ’backtracking’ the same route. Small Cessna planes can fly parties of trampers (maximum of about 6 including pilot) to Martins Bay before the Hollyford Track is followed back to the Hollyford Road-end. For parties larger than 5, several trips can be made.
Each flight takes around 10 minutes and incorporates great views of the Hollyford Area. The cost of hiring the plane is quite cheap and is well worthy of consideration.
Jet Boat the Hollyford River
Save walking time and enjoy the thrill of jet boating up or down the Hollyford River or across Lake McKerrow. It is possible (and quite common) to jet boat from Martins Bay up the Hollyford River, across Lake McKerrow and then continuing to the boat landing at Little Homer Falls.
The track starts at the end of the Lower Hollyford Road. Turn off State Highway 94 (The Milford Road) at Marian Corner, passing Gunn’s Camp on the way. You can leave your car at the car park at the end of the road or arrange road transport from Fiordland transport companies. Click here to list them.
Huts and Hut Tickets
The Department of Conservation provides and maintains 5 huts on the track. Each is supplied with mattresses, running water and toilet facilities. All huts are catagory three, requiring one ticket per night, or an annual hut pass. Tickets can be puchased from the Te Anau Visitor Centre :
Department of Conservation
Phone: +64 3 249 7924
or email, email@example.com
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