The Hollyford Track is one of the greatest guided walks in New Zealand. In three days, hikers go from the wilderness to the sea, traversing the Hollyford Valley by foot, jet boat and finally helicopter. New Zealand writer Jacqui Gibson walked the track. Here are eight reasons you should too.


It’s not without reason New Zealand’s tourism board uses the slogan ‘100% Pure New Zealand’ to sell this small Pacific country to the world. It’s a clean, green country of around 268,000 square kilometres (roughly the size of California), with a population of only four million people. People are friendly (when you can find them). The climate is too.

To walk the Hollyford, you must go to one of the remotest corners of the planet – Fiordland National Park in New Zealand’s South Island, stopping in Queenstown on the way. If it’s blissful isolation in a pristine environment you want, then you’d be hard pressed to beat New Zealand as a destination. Fiordland’s Hollyford Track takes you one step further down that path.


All hikers start and finish the Hollyford Track in the alpine resort town of Queenstown. Surrounded by the Southern Alps and set on the shores of Lake Whakatipu, Queenstown is the kind of place you’ll want to stay awhile. It’s home to some of the country’s best luxury accommodation, food and wine. Book into the Hilton Queenstown Resort & Spa on the lakeside. Enjoy the perfect New Zealand lamb meal at Roaring Megs. Visit nearby Gibbston Valley for award-winning pinot noir wines. Top tip: reserve a day either side of the walk to enjoy Queenstown. You won’t regret it.


If you thought Queenstown was stunning, wait till you see the surrounds of the Hollyford Track. You’ll swap city lights for the twinkle of forest glow-worms. You’ll trade cobbled streets for tracks of ancient native beech forest. Over three days, you’ll take in views of misty mountains, tumbling waterfalls and sand dunes once occupied by New Zealand’s native people, the Maori. Eventually, you’ll come face-to-face with the enormous sand spit of Martin’s Bay and the thunderous surf of the Tasman Sea.


Hiking nearly 40 kilometres in three days sounds like hard work – even with someone else carrying your pack. Not to worry. Your efforts wont go unrewarded. At the end of each day you’ll arrive at a warm dry lodge to a hearty welcome from lodge hosts on hand to cook you a delicious dinner (salmon and venison are popular dishes) and pour you wine or beer from their pick of New Zealand’s best.


A goat track this is not. Forget steep climbs, precarious downhills or wading through water up to your armpits. The Hollyford Track is a low-altitude walk that follows the course of the Hollyford River. All you need is a reasonable level of fitness and some basic hiking gear. Be prepared to carry your pack on the first day only. Use a light day pack (they are supplied) on days two and three.


Love to learn the history of the places you visit? There’s plenty of opportunity to find out about the Hollyford Track as you hike. Hollyford guides are experts on the track’s flora and fauna – as well its early European and Maori history. On day one there’s a stop off at a pioneer museum. Visit the failed settlement of Jamestown on day two. Walk near the village remains of chief Tutoko, the last Maori chief of the Hollyford.


Okay, so penguins aren’t exactly wild by nature. But sighting the rare Fiordland Crested penguin is still a wonderful experience. Prepare to see these pint sized birds waddling among coastal boulders at the end of your hike on day two. Then look out for the resident rookery of native fur seals further on at Long Reef.

Photo of Fiordland Crested Penguins on boulders in Fiordland, New Zealand. FWT Magazine.

Photo: Two rare Fiordland Crested penguins seen on the Hollyford Track (c) Ngai Tahu Tourism. FWT Magazine.


If it’s variety you’re after, this walk has got it in spades. Some of it comes down to the remarkable and changing terrain. You start out in native beech forest and end up at the ocean. Some of it comes down to the range of stories told by your guides. But, then, there’s the opportunity to walk a bit, jump in a jet boat for some of it and, finally, zip off down the coast in your own private helicopter on a stunning afternoon.

Photo of Martin's Bay sand spit, Hollyford Track.

Photo: Aerial view of Martin’s Bay sand spit, Hollyford Track (c) Ngai Tahu Tourism. FWT Magazine.