Walk across the longest swingbridge in Fiordland

Image: Sharon Gray | Creative Commons

Introduction

The Hollyford Track is a fantastic 4-8 day Fiordland tramp from the mountains to the sea at Martins Bay, and can be walked all year round.

Highlights

The Hollyford Track is a great tramping adventure for those who like to be a little off the beaten track, but still have a good track and huts to stay in. 

Beginning among the sheer rock walls of the Darran Mountains in Fiordland National Park, the track follows the Hollyford River/Whakatipu Kā Tuka on its journey to the sea at Martins Bay, on the wild West Coast.

With no alpine sections this track is rarely cut off by snow so you can tramp it in any season (depending on weather).

The first part of the track offers a great overnight option for families or those with limited time.

Track overview

56 km

Walking and tramping

4 - 5 days Advanced: Tramping track

Dog access

No dogs

About this track

Highlights

A journey from mountains to the sea

The Hollyford Track gives you a fantastic all round experience of Fiordland National Park.

You begin at the most impressive Fiordland terrain in the Darran Mountains area, and tramp for 4-5 days down the Hollyford River/Whakatipu Kā Tuka to the sea at Martins Bay.

You will walk through lush forest, beside a mighty river, alongside beautiful lakes then out to the wild West Coast.

A tramp you can do any time of year

With no alpine sections, this track is rarely cut off by snow so you can tramp it in any season (depending on weather).

Even in the rain this valley is still lovely for day walks or tramping, unlike walks in exposed alpine areas (however flooding can sometimes affect the track so check conditions before you go). 

Great track and hut facilities

The Hollyford Track has excellent, comfortable huts and a good track, but is still a backcountry experience in Fiordland National Park.

It’s a good trip for you if you are fit, and like being a little off the beaten track, but still want a good, well marked track and huts to stay in.

See coastal wildlife

Nearing the coast, you may be lucky enough to see native wildlife, including NZ fur seals, penguins, herons, and occasionally dolphins.

Many activities and adventures

Other activities in the Hollyford Track area include day walks, guided walks (day or multi-day), climbing, trout fishing, deer hunting and kayaking.  

Also, if you are a skilled and experienced tramper you may like to extend your adventure to include the challenging Pyke – Big Bay Route.

Description

The Hollyford Track begins at the end of the Lower Hollyford Road, off of SH 94 Milford Road, and ends at Martins Bay on the west coast.

The track is suitable for people with good fitness and takes 4-5 days one way. You can return on the same track or arrange transport from Martins Bay. 

Very skilled and experienced trampers may choose to return via the challenging Pyke - Big Bay Route.

Places to stay

All huts are on a first come basis year round, there are no reservations. There are 6 backcountry huts along the track. You can camp beside the huts.

You need hut tickets or a backcountry pass, available from any DOC visitor centre.

During holiday periods you may wish to carry a sleeping mat or tent in case huts are full on arrival.

Each hut has heating, mattresses and a pit toilet. There are no cooking facilities, carry your own portable stove.

Maps

The following Topo50 series map sheets cover the Hollyford Track:

  • Topo50 Map CB09 - Hollyford Track
  • Topo50 Map CA09 - Alabaster Pass
  • Topo50 Map CA08 - Milford Sound/Piopiotahi.

What to expect on the track

The track is reasonably well marked, but you need to know that:

  • some sections of the track are rough and muddy and not well defined - orange markers will guide the way
  • expect unbridged stream and river crossings
  • there are several three-wire bridges on the Demon Trail section
  • some parts of the track are prone to flooding in wet weather - see know before you go.

Descriptions

Lower Hollyford Road to Hidden Falls Hut
Time
2-3 hr
Distance:
9 km

Cross the swing bridge over Humboldt Creek and follow the old road to the start of the track, which initially sidles along bluffs, with swampland to the left. Sections of raised boardwalk cross areas prone to flooding.

Where Swamp Creek joins the Hollyford River/Whakatipu Kā Tuka, the track follows the river bank, with occasional views of the Darran Mountains.

At Hidden Falls Creek the track passes Sunshine Hut (private hut) then continues upstream to a swingbridge.

Hidden Falls Hut is about 15 minutes from here.

Hidden Falls Hut to Lake Alabaster Hut
Time: 3-4 hr
Distance:
10.5 km

The track passes through a section of lowland ribbonwood/podocarp forest draped with colourful mosses and ferns.

It then enters tall beech forest before the climb to Little Homer Saddle, with views of Mt Madeline and Fiordland’s highest mountain, Mt Tutoko (2723 m).

The track descends to Little Homer Falls (60 m) and continues to the Hollyford/Pyke Rivers confluence. Beyond this is Pyke River Lodge (private) and 15 minutes further on is Lake Alabaster Hut.

Lake Alabaster Hut to McKerrow Island Hut
Time:
3-4 hr
Distance: 10.5 km

This section of the track is maintained to a much lower standard than the Lower Hollyford Road end to Lake Alabaster section.

Use the orange markers on the trees to guide you. It can be muddy, rocky and wet underfoot. Tree falls may obscure the track.

Be aware that after heavy rain the river can flood and you may be stranded in the hut until river levels are lower and it is safe to cross. Back track from the hut for 15 minutes and cross the Pyke River swing bridge.

After two hours of relatively level track, the track meets the Hollyford River/Whakatipu Kā Tuka again. There are some long sections of mud. A further hour’s walk leads to McKerrow Island.

To access the hut, cross the flood channel above its entry to Lake McKerrow/Whakatipu Waitai.

Demon Trail

McKerrow Island Hut to Demon Trail Hut
Time: 
1 hr 30 min
Distance:
4.2 km

Demon Trail Hut to Hokuri Hut
Time:
5-6 hr
Distance:
9.6 km

Demon Trail is a historic cattle track. This section is rocky and undulating, but there are long sections of formed, flat track in between. It can be difficult underfoot in wet weather, with the track becoming slippery and with loose rocks.

Some of the stream crossings can be dangerous, so extreme care is required - using the three wire bridges is recommended. After heavy rain some streams may be impassable.

Hokuri Hut to Martins Bay Hut
Time:
4-5 hr
Distance: 13 km

Thirty minutes walk from Hokuri Hut is Hokuri Creek. In low river conditions cross near the creek mouth, otherwise use the three-wire crossing 20 minutes upstream.

Follow the lake shore past the bay where the settlement of Jamestown once stood.

After a further 1.5 - 2 hour's walk, the track leaves the lake and continues for another hour to the Hollyford Airstrip and Martins Bay Lodge (private).

Martins Bay Hut, situated at the mouth of the Hollyford River/Whakatipu Ka Tuka, is a further 1.5 - 2 hours from Martins Bay Lodge. Take care when crossing Jerusalem Creek as it is prone to flooding after rain.

There is also another airstrip and private baches in this area.

The track continues on to Long Reef through wind-shorn forest and provides views of the river mouth and sand spit. From July to November, seals and Fiordland crested penguins/tawaki can be seen around the coast close by.

Beyond Long Reef, the track becomes the Pyke - Big Bay Route. This route is not as well defined and suitable only for well-equipped and experienced trampers.

Know before you go

Getting there

The Hollyford Track begins at the end of Lower Hollyford Road, which turns off of SH94 Milford Road shortly after The Divide. The turn off point is called Marian Corner, and is about 87 km along the Milford Road from Te Anau.

Allow 2 hours to drive from Te Anau to the end of the Hollyford Road.

Transport services

There are regular transport services available during the summer season. During winter they are on demand only and may not be available.

There are fly-bus packages available, offering transport between Te Anau, the Hollyford Road track entrance and Milford Sound. See Transport services in Fiordland.

During summer, there is a jetboat service available on Lake McKerrow on certain days with the Hollyford Track Guided Walk. Advance reservations essential. The boat goes from Martins Bay to the Pyke River confluence. 

Safety considerations

Plan properly for your trip and make sure your group has a capable leader. Be sure you have all the necessary equipment and clothing. Physical fitness and good equipment will make all the difference to your enjoyment of the trip.

Always tell someone you trust where you are going and when you are due back.

See Safety in the outdoors for details.

What to expect on the track

Check current track conditions before you go with the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre in Te Anau.

Track conditions

  • Sections of the track can become impassable after heavy rain, especially along the Demon Trail area, and at the Jerusalem River between Hokuri and Martin’s Bay huts.
  • Some sections are rough and muddy and not well defined. Orange markers will guide the way.
  • Tree falls are possible.

River crossings and bridges

  • Expect unbridged stream and river crossings particularly during and following rainfall
  • Flooding is possible on parts of the track during and following rainfall
  • There are several three-wire bridges on the Demon Trail section
  • Hokuri Creek is bridged but if you choose to cross it, note that it looks tame but is disconcertingly swift.

Stay on the tracks. If you become lost - stop, find shelter, stay calm and wait for searchers to find you.

What to take

Be prepared for at least one wet day on your trip - Fiordland is a high rainfall area.

All trampers need to carry a sleeping bag, cooking stove and equipment, sufficient food, first aid kit and good waterproof / warm clothing including gloves and hat. What are sufficient supplies? See Mountain Safety Council for details.

Suggested packlist:

Clothing and equipment

Bring spare clothing for evenings. It is not possible to dry clothes in the huts.

  • Waterproof jacket and rain pants
  • Wool, polypropylene, fleece layers; warm hat and gloves
  • Strong hiking boots, gaiters
  • Food - lightweight, fast cooking and high energy, with extra food in case of delays
  • Water bottle or hydration pack, 1-2 litre capacity or more
  • First aid kit, survival kit
  • Sunglasses and sunhat
  • Map and compass or GPS - and know how to use them
  • Personal Locator Beacon in case of emergency, optionally Mountain Radio for weather forecast information

For the huts or campsites

Most equipment is available for rent or purchase in Te Anau.

  • Gas cooking stove with fuel and matches/lighter
  • Pot, plate, mug and eating utensils
  • Sleeping bag
  • Headlamp / flashlight
  • Toiletries
  • Camera
  • Lightweight shoes
  • Ear plugs

Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.

Contacts

Te Rua-o-te-moko / Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 249 7924
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Email:   fiordlandvc@doc.govt.nz
Address:   Fiordland National Park
Visitor Centre
Lakefront Drive
Te Anau 9600
Postal Address:   PO Box 29
Te Anau 9640
Back to top