Once in every lifetime you just have to take a helicopter ride down the southern coast, looking back up the valleys and forests you tramped, the ones you might do next time, swooping past Lion Rock, and up Piopiotahi - going low, straight at the rock wall, then swinging left as the Sound opens up before you, up and over the bush bluffs, past the waterfalls, see those boats, watch that plane, swing round onto finals to land at one of the world's truly breathtaking airports. And yes, that is Mitre Peak, rising in its primordial prominence, 1600m. straight out of the sea directly at the end of the runway.
But this was just the final treat in a walk that is a succession of carefully orchestrated treats.
It starts slowly with a bus trip to the end of the road, a photo op. and then the longish walk down the Hollyford River to the Pike River Lodge. But they're clever. There are little snippets all the way, the proffered toffee as you leave Te Anau, bits of info. stories and jokes. It is a tramp (=Kiwi for a walk in the wilderness) but pretty flat and well formed.
And the lodges are GREAT. Lovely architecture, screened verandahs, clean white sheets, lots of hot water; Friand and lemon barley to welcome you, drying room, good wines and craft beers and the food...well you won't lose weight on this 43km. 3 day walk.
My favourite bit was the mature maritime Rimu trees - standing there in their delicate dominance for thousands of years, clad in their epiphytes and missing their now gone, ground living birds.
There's always something special about a walk from the mountains to the sea.
Huge slick machine behind this operation. All appears seamless and effortless; low key, friendly. Very attentive guides and drivers- loved G. and Pam, and Guy with his jet boat: "This is a working boat, twin Steyr diesels, solid as. No good for spins but great in the sea or a storm, good in the river and safe in the rapids or a chop"
Pristine country. It is a rainforest. We're just the visitors. You can drink the water. Make sure you tip your town water out first. And the eels: pink, black or brown. Fat as your thigh. Don't they know they're aquatic? Can see where the legend of the taniwha came from!
This is five star tramping. Just such admiration for the original Maori and European explorers who first came through this area. Trust me, do it! You'll love it. All credit to Ngai Tahu.
Chrispy5311 - January 2019
I'd had Fiordland on my 'to do' radar for 40 years. Call me a slow starter! Well, I made it and with my wife and a bunch of old friends and new ones we had an adventure to absolutely cherish. We were introduced to NZ at it's natural best and got see and taste it up close and personal. 'G' and Pam our guides were stars. G has more stories than Shakespeare and his knowledge of the local fauna and folklore was as deep as the vertiginous lakes around us. We got wet of course, and the legs ached on day one - but we were hardly doing it rough! I'm not going to spoil anyone's surprise with this review, but let's just say the food and hospitality are in keeping with the very high standards of this magnificent experience.
L K - New Zealand, March 2019, TripAdvisor
It was a great experience and trip. The information with the preparation was good. The pre briefing was informative. The walk itself was excellent. Stunning scenery and the guides were wonderful - very informative and attentive in a group situation. The guides were very knowledgeable in flora fauna and history of the area. The lodges were clean and comfortable and the food excellent. Wonderful trip. Highly recommended.
C Y - March 2019, TripAdvisor
What a magical experience! The scenery was stunning, the lodges were comfortable, the food was delicious (those platters!) and the hosts made us feel very welcome. Our guide Graeme was excellent, so knowledgeable and entertaining and really helped us to connect both with the place and with those who had been there before us. Combine all this with the jet boat rides and the helicopter and you have an unforgettable 3 days. Thank you to everybody involved.
C L - United Kingdom, January 2019, TripAdvisor
Having traveled to many stunning places all over the world this is definitely one at the top of my list. Not only is the wilderness pristine and of overwhelming beauty but we also felt very well guided and looked after at the lodges.
N N - January 2019, TripAdvisor
Five stars doesn't seem enough. This was one of the most well planned, professional, valuable, thought-provoking experiences I've ever participated in.
Steffan was an unforgettable lead guide, his font of knowledge about the area and its history was thorough and masterful. The track itself is stunningly beautiful. A rainforest flanked by mountains along a river so clean you can literally drink from it (and it tastes great!)
The whole production screams quality from the get-go. The company is flexible, and they really take seriously their goal of providing you the best experience. Twenty km is a long walk for the first day, and you go at a pretty good clip, but there's nothing like finding a comfortable home at the end with a private room, hot shower, and oh my god the food is straight up phenomenal. This is five-star cuisine from start to finish.
I've never experienced anything like this before, and I imagine I'll struggle to find anything similar going forward. The three days varied from meditative, to joyful, to serene, to exhilarating. I want to stress again the sheer value of the production. These guys have everything planned out, and there is a HUGE team that takes part in this. From the guides to the lodge hosts, to the jet boat captain and helicopter pilots along with maintenance staff this is a professional, experienced company pulling out all the stops and striving to give their guests an unforgettably beautiful three days.
S F - Albany New York, January 2019, TripAdvisor
I want to say a huge thank you to you and your team for the support given to me walking the Hollyford Track last week! I felt everyone involved (bus drivers, helicopter company, guides, hosts and jet boat driver) went out of their way to make it as easy and enjoyable for me as possible, even sneaking in a couple of extra treats! I was blown away, and wondered whether some of the other guests might have been a bit jealous!
- 2019, Email review
We had an amazing time walking the Hollyford Track. The scenery of course is amazing, as are the exciting jetboat and helicopter rides but what truly makes the walk is the people. We were very fortunate to have three guides as one was in training – all of them: Amy, Jenny, and Steffan, were amazing hosts; founts of knowledge on history, botany, and geology. The lodges were really comfortable – made even more special by the warm welcomes provided by Lottie and Dean on the first night, and Daniel and Maya on the second night. Fantastic meals – we had no chance of going hungry and I’d say everyone in the group put on weight!
- 2019, Email review
Just wanted to say I had an amazing time on this trip - please pass on my sincere thanks on to the lodge hosts Murray & Joy ( Pyke) , Daniel & Mia ( St Martin’s) , Brendon ( jet boat) & Pam (our second guide) - all of them did an excellent job making us feel welcome & supported from the start to the end of the trip. I also want to say particular thanks to “G” - he was a truly incredible lead guide - sharing his knowledge, stories and jokes throughout the trip. His insight and thoughtfulness made this trip inspirational, amazing and one I will remember for a lifetime - it is so rare to meet someone who has such passion & care for what they do.
- 2019, Email review
I just wanted to send you an email to thank you and your team for an amazing experience. The whole group thoroughly enjoyed the trip and have all been raving about the full experience. Our guide, Amy, was fantastic and did an amazing job keeping the group interested but also accommodating to everyone’s needs. She kept us informed along the way and was knowledgeable about a range of subjects. We all thoroughly enjoyed her. Suzanne was also a great guide and they both fit into our group well. The hosts at both lodges were fantastic and so welcoming and friendly. We seriously couldn't have asked for a better experience. What an amazing experience you guys have created. Congratulations. I look forward to bringing our wider family back at some stage in the future.
- 2019, Email review
Wow - this is a truly fantastic Guided 3 day walk that included jet boating and a scenic helicopter flight! We are Kiwis and have done other walks in the area the “hard way” (Milford, Routeburn, Keplar) so this was a first for us. Having Graeme aka “Mr Hollyford” as our guide, and keeping to less than 16 in the group, really made the whole experience - you’ll be fascinated hearing about the Maori and early pioneering history of the area, as well as local flora and fauna including bush remedies. Anyone with a reasonable fitness level can manage this, walking poles and good sized day packs are available to borrow free of charge. Highly recommended - treat yourselves to a truly memorable experience :)
K - Wellington, New Zealand, February 2018, TripAdvisor
Where do I begin to describe this amazing experience? There were 11 people in our (guided) group including my girlfriend and I. Our two guides, Mark and Cam, were absolutely outstanding. Nothing was too much trouble for them and their knowledge, humour and incredible customer service was first class. I have done around a dozen of these types of walks in New Zealand but would rate this the best as, apart from the walk itself. you also get the added bonus of jet boating and a helicopter flight into Milford Sound at the end. Note, if you have not done one of these walks and are not sure how challenging they are, this is good one to start with as the terrain is fairly flat. Great scenery, great food, great accommodation, great everything! We were lucky with the weather but that's a gamble you take with any of these walks. Highly recommended (as you might have guessed!).
G - January 2018, TripAdvisor
Excellent adventure guided by Mark and Cameron. We enjoyed the informative and fun approach of the guides, as well as amazing food (supplying Gluten free diet was no problem at all), stunning scenery, great lodges and awesome bunch of fellow travellers. Jetboating and Helicopter were such fun, and also glad we chose to stay night before and after in Te Anau, so we could explore this pretty town.
J - Auckland, New Zealand, January 2018, TripAdvisor