Find Your Happy Place
She’s elegant and alluring – welcome to the South
The South Island of New Zealand is nature’s Disneyland – well, Disneyland without all the people that is. It’s bright, it’s vibrant, it makes your heart swell with the sheer joy of it – and while Disneyland touts itself as the happiest place on earth, I’ve visited both and the South Island is right up there for exhilarating experiences…but with a lot less people, queues and howling children.
We at New Zealand Walking Tours consider that we have perfected the art of sharing New Zealand’s most unique wilderness experiences through world-class itineraries. On our trips you’ll know that you’re on an adventure that you’ll remember for the rest of your life, but you won’t necessarily have to test your lung capacity along the way. We’re all about letting you set the pace; the walks can be leisurely, not a race against daylight – which gives you the time to immerse yourself in our wilderness playground. We have used our expertise to put together tours that showcase the eye-watering beauty that is there to be explored. More than that, we love to add the exhilaration that comes with adventure –and whilst we draw the line at adrenalin, we ensure that you leave feeling as though you have been a part of a totally exclusive expedition of discovery.
Take the Hollyford experience, for example. This is a two day out-of-this-world journey that takes place on days nine and ten of the Elegant South trip. The Hollyford Track is a much-revered tramp (Kiwi speak for walking trail), located deep in the Fiordland National Park. Fiordland is one of the southern hemisphere’s great wilderness regions; the park itself spans 1.2 million hectares, and within this expanse is an excess of exquisite scenery. Just picture dramatic mountain vistas, mile upon mile of untouched coastline, 14 fiords teeming with marine life (picture frolicking dolphins, leaping through the mist), and you will have set the scene. It is also often heralded as the ‘walking capital of the world’, crammed to the brim with options, there are more scenic tracks than you could shake a stick at. So, with all of this natural beauty bursting forth it’s little surprise to find that Fiordland has been awarded World Heritage status for stunning natural features, beauty, and as an added bonus, its role in demonstrating the earths evolutionary history.
Tucked away on the northern edge of this adventure wonderland is the Hollyford Track; lesser known than the Milford and Routeburn tracks, but in the eyes of most, equally as impressive. Unusually amongst the iconic walks, this one is mostly flat – another big bonus of this particular area is that unlike some of the other walks, the Hollyford star burns bright all year round, the fact that there are no alpine sections mean that being cut off by snow is not an issue, so it is accessible through all seasons.
While most of the tours that take this route walk from the Hollyford Road end and finish at Martins Bay, we at NZ Walking Tours have opted to design this experience through a fresh lens; With the goal of awakening every single one of your senses, our exploration of this area starts with a helicopter ride north from Milford Sound, whirring along the rugged coastline, where you will be truly taken aback by the wild seascapes. Arriving at the deserted piece of paradise that is Martins Bay at the far end of the Hollyford Track, it’s hard not to be wowed by the magical vistas. Mountainous and isolated, your Kiwi guides will be able to talk you through everything from the fascinating history of the ancient Maori and Pakeha settlements to the geological wonder of the high granite peaks and rivers that flow into the Hollyford River and out to sea. Two hours walking amongst the pristine beauty will melt the hardest heart, and it becomes really, really clear why New Zealand is referred to affectionately as ‘Godzone’ (and of course why it is now the backdrop to so many blockbuster movies). With those senses that have not yet been tended to in mind, a night at Martins Bay Lodge will thoroughly tick that box with a gourmet meal, complemented with a wee drop of perfectly selected wine.
With morning dawns a new adventure, as the pièce de résistance awaits in the form of a jet boat ride along Lake McKerrow (which is technically a fiord if you wanted to be picky) to the start point for a hike back to Martins Bay Lodge. Now anyone with concerns about jet boating can rest easy; adrenaline junky I am not (bungy jumping has to rank as the worst experience of my life), but the jet boat is just enough to set pulses racing. So feel confident that this is a super cool way to glide through the water, and an amazing way to see the beautiful scenery. Once on dry land the trail will take you through spectacular beech and podocarp forest, and alongside Lake McKerrow and the Hollyford River. You will be able to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ at the untouched flora, the pristine surrounds, and the sights, that even on a murky day are simply magical. When we arrive back at the lodge we’ll enjoy morning tea with the lodge hosts, then board a helicopter for totally new vistas, heading in a southerly direction back to Milford Sound. Once we’re back on the bus we’ll wind through the Eglinton Valley, and Southland, the relaxing drive is a great opportunity to chill out before arriving back in Queenstown.
Of course Queenstown is quite simply the perfect way to round off a trip like this. There’s no denying that this place is bursting with its own unique blend of Kiwi hospitality; from its small town friendliness to its ability to meet big city expectations, guests love to leave with a taste of this still fresh in their memory banks.