A Hollyford Track adventure – exploring remote Fiordland


There is nowhere else on earth quite like Fiordland. And definitely nowhere like the Hollyford Track.

A wild and remote land of steep mountains along the sea, glaciers and dense temperate rainforests and home to some of the weirdest and wildest birds, Fiordland is spectacular.

Topping the bucket list of many is to take in the Milford Track or exploring the many incredible tramps in the region. Most are based out of Milford Sound, one of the wonders of the world, few go beyond its steep walls and thundering waterfalls.

But once you do manage to voyage beyond Milford, you’ll discover a pretty special part of the world.

hollyford track

hollyford track

After a couple of tedious and slow-to-recover injuries this winter in New Zealand, by the time early summer rolled around, I was itching to get back in the hills and pop my hiking boots back on.

Unfit and definitely not tramping fit, I knew I needed to start out on something more accessible and shorter than a week-long adventure to get my feet wet again before venturing further. Combined with a tight schedule right before moving house, I only had a short window to get out in the hills.

It couldn’t have been more perfect to try out the iconic Hollyford Track on their 2 day heli-escape. This historic Fiordland tramp that has been on my mind for years.

hollyford track

hollyford track

One of the many reasons the Hollyford Track has been on my mind is the connection there between the people and the land. The Hollyford Track sits on Māori land, Ngāi Tahu land, and it is owned by Ngāi Tahu Tourism.

As the original inhabitants of this part of New Zealand, it’s pretty special how they have come to share it with the world. Ngāi Tahu’s tourism roots extend back to when their ancestors were the guides for many of the first European explorers on the South Island. Now they are guiding a different kind of explorer, the modern traveler.

This connection between the people and the land around the Hollyford Track is powerful and impactful. It certainly made my experience there all the more memorable.

hollyford track

hollyford track

The 2 day heli-escape on the Hollyford Track should top all kiwi bucketlists and is a must-do for visitors wanting a taste of the best New Zealand has to offer.

You can also walk the Hollyford Track independently over 4 – 8 days in a variety of ways staying at DOC huts along the route.

The trip begins in the most epic way possible – flying via helicopter from Milford Sound to Martins Bay. Just the roadtrip out to Milford is impressive, but to combine it with a heli-flight? Next level awesome.

hollyford track

hollyford track

We flew directly out of Milford Sound to the Tasman Sea, before following the coastline north some 30 kilometers before landing in Martins Bay.

Martins Bay is my new favorite part of Fiordland, and a place few know about. What I find fascinating is that if a few decisions were made differently, Martins Bay might have been another Queenstown and a massive hub for tourists – there was a plan for a long time to connect the Hollyford Road with the Haast Pass on the west coast.

Instead, few know about its existence at all.

hollyford track

hollyford track

Once a hub for local Māori on their pounamu (jade) trails and for gathering, by the time European settlers began to explore the area in the 1860’s, few people were left. Martins Bay and the Hollyford was (and still is) wild and remote.

For twenty-odd years, European settlers tried to make a life around Martins Bay, even building a settlement inland called Jamestown. There was hope it might turn into a commercial port, but eventually people realized it was just too damn hard with so many factors involved that it was slowly abandoned.

One of the last settlers, Alice McKenzie, wrote a book about her childhood as a settler in Martins Bay that is fascinating. I plowed through it on my evenings on the Hollyford, wondering how the hell they even managed to survive there as long as they did.

hollyford track

hollyford track

What was really cool is that on the guided track we got to see so many of the remainders and marks from the early pioneers in the area, something I probably would have never spotted on my own.

On the first day of the walk we spotted a massive maple tree in the middle of the Fiordland bush, marking the place where one of the settlers lived and planted this foreign tree.

How on earth they lived here I can’t even imagine.

hollyford track

hollyford track

After landing in Martins Bay, we were treated to a yummy lunch before heading off in the bush towards the coast for the afternoon.

In classic Fiordland weather, it absolutely bucketed us with rain. One of the wettest places in the world, rain comes with the territory here. Call me crazy, but I’m one of those people that thinks that Fiordland is more beautiful in the rain.

After all, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just being unprepared. Mostly.

9 ways hiking in New Zealand will change your life

hollyford track

hollyford track

Probably one of the best benefits of journeying along the Hollyford with the guided options is just a massive step up in comfort level than walking on your own. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the Fiordland bush, and it’s wet. Really wet.

The first thing they did once we landed in Martins Bay was provide us with long, super waterproof rainjackets that covered me from my head to knees. It was perfect.

Then, once we got back to the lodge for the night, they have the most amazing drying room, full of warmth, where you can hang out everything you need to so it dries by morning.

I really don’t love putting on wet hiking boots, so this blew. my. mind.

hollyford track

hollyford track

On the 2 day heli-escape on the Hollyford you hike about 7 kilometers per day over easy terrain. It was beautiful, and beautifully flat.

Absolutely bucketing down with rain, we made our way through the dense, lush forest, learning about the local plants and animals while hearing the stories of the settlers who tried to make a go at life in remote Fiordland.

Spoiler alert – it didn’t go well.

hollyford track

hollyford track

We finished the first day out on the coastline looking at a seal colony on Long Reef and admiring how the mountains drop to the forest to the wild seaside. It’s a magical place.

We could see the coastline is brimming with food, like paua (NZ abalone) and crayfish, along with amazing wildlife.

Rugged and wild, it’s exactly the kind of place I love to explore.

hollyford track

hollyford track

Lucky for us, the Hollyford Track has its own jetboat – which comes with an absolute cracker of a jetboat driver – to come pick us up along the coast and whizz us back to the hut lodge in time for cheese, snacks, and wine.

Hello! This is the kind of tramping I could get used to!

There are hot showers and snacks and endless cups of hot tea, inside and out of the weather. I was in heaven! We curled up by the fire and immediately dozed off.

hollyford track

hollyford track

As the sun set, an epic thunderstorm rolled in. With thunder booming and rain tapping on the roof and windows all night, it made for the most magical experience.

I love listening to the rain, and it really felt like we were in the wild as the storm rolled out to sea.

I still can’t even begin to fathom how settlers tried to live here back in the day.

hollyford track

hollyford track

That night I barely remember falling asleep, tucked into a cozy bed with the pitter patter of the rain outside. It was so peaceful.

The next morning was still, clear, and fresh, with no rain and the sun breaking through the clouds as we climbed into the jetboat again and made our way to historic Jamestown to begin our hike back to the lodge.

Walking through the ancient podocarp was ethereal. The trees shimmered with the rain from the day before and it smelled damp, earthy and alive. I felt my lungs inflate with happiness and thought to myself, yes, maybe I could live here.

Then a sandfly bit me on the face, and I thought, nope, better just for visits.

hollyford track

hollyford track

I definitely rate the Hollyford Track as one of the best hikes and experiences you can have in New Zealand. It has everything.

History, culture, forest, sea and mountains, birdlife and plants, it’s a dream spot for people like me. And it’s still relatively off the beaten path.

I will definitely be back for longer next time!

Have you ever been on an adventure like this? Did you know about the Hollyford Track? Would you be keen to head into the Fiordland bush like the original settlers? Spill!

hollyford track

The pioneering days of the 19th century were the subject of Alice Mackenzie’s book The Pioneers of Martins Bay, which recounted her childhood as a settler at Jamestown and Martins Bay. You can buy at the hut on the track.

When the tide was low at Martins Bay by Alice McKenzie

I stood upon the sandy shore
As evening shadows fell;
The sun was sinking in the west
Across the ocean swell.

O’er the sea the sun was casting
Each brightly tinted ray
As the waves came sweeping onwards
To the shore at Martins Bay.

The moon was rising o’er the hills
As the sun sank in the west,
And her silvery light was gleaming
On the ocean’s heaving breast.

And those ever moving waters
Sparkling brightly as they roar
Are dashed in foaming billows
On that wild and lonely shore.

All around are wooded hills
No matter where your eyes are turning;
You see no human habitation
Except where one lone light is burning.

Here solitude doth reign supreme,
All scenes are lonely and drear,
But there’s music in the lonlineness
Which solitude will make us hear.

A whispering sound among the trees,
There is music in the ocean’s roar,
There’s a voice in the wandering breeze
Which is sighing along the shore.

And the voice of nature speaks to us
In every flower that grows,
And the voice of God is calling us
In every breeze that blows.

hollyford track

Many thanks to Ngāi Tahu Tourism for hosting me on the Hollyford Track – like always, I’m keeping it real. Like you could expect less from me!

The post A Hollyford Track adventure – exploring remote Fiordland appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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Am I a real photographer yet?


For the longest time, I really resisted calling myself a photographer, let alone a professional photographer.

Upon reflection, I’m not quite sure why I was hesitant, but I think deep down, maybe I felt like I hadn’t “earned” it. Perhaps I didn’t even believe in myself or my work. 

What is the root of this lack of professional confidence? Instead, I stuck with the familiar title of blogger, writer, or the more generalized “that girl from the internet,” downplaying my success and my work. Just because my preferred method of photo-sharing is Instagram and I type my captions with my thumbs doesn’t make it any less valid, right?

My photography is a massive part of my business and has been for close to a decade. Yet, here we are.

imposter syndrome women

Over the past year, as I’ve done a lot of both personal and professional development, and with that comes a lot of reflection on how I talk about myself. It didn’t take long to have a staggering realization that I intentionally downplay who I am and what I do.

I feel like this is so common, especially with women, we don’t own our achievements or often minimize our successes. So often, we downplay our authority and talent in favor of being seen as approachable, feminine, and compliant. Fuck that! Every hair on my body stands on end in pure objection when I see that, and yet, AND YET, I find myself doing it all the time.

Undermining my own experience and expertise is something I often do without realizing it. Female confidence in the workplace still feels taboo. Or is it just me?

The Solo Female Traveler’s Manifesto

imposter syndrome women

This is a question I’ve been grappling with my entire life. No matter what I achieve or how far I go, somehow, it just isn’t enough. I could always be better, be doing more, be more perfect.

Why do we think like that? And why are women in particular conditioned to feel inferior? To be inferior? I object! That nagging feeling that you’re just not good enough even has a name – imposter syndrome.

Plaguing creatives for years, I have found that it hits women in particular. If only feminine confidence in the workplace wasn’t considered a bad thing. Assertive and bossy aren’t a good look for us, even though I wish it were. 

Call me cynical, but I reckon it all comes from a world that doesn’t believe in women. Yet.

It’s hard to walk with confidence, especially as a creative female when the world doesn’t have your back. It’s even harder to co-habit a space dominated by confident males. Hello, photography!

imposter syndrome women

Even though women helped pioneer photography from its inception, and some of the greatest photographers we’ve ever had have been women, nowadays it’s a male-dominated industry.

From the photos we see in the news to the ambassadors for the kingpins of camera corporations, gender inequality is very real in the photography world today.

Even the way photography gear is marketed is uber-masculine.

Surround yourself with amazing women who believe in you

imposter syndrome women

Do you think men share the same feelings of imposter syndrome as I do? LOL!

I’ve met more men than I can count who don’t even shoot in manual, take super average photos, or haven’t yet sold an image, and they have no problem calling themselves professional photographers. I’ve been on jobs with photographers with a fraction of my experience who have zero qualms about selling themselves to the moon and back in a way I never could.

Discrimination at the workplace, sexism, and stereotypes have contributed to a general lack of opportunities for women in photography.

And don’t even get me started on the looks and comments I get with my cameras. “That camera looks a bit big for you, missy.”

Really?

imposter syndrome women

I don’t know about you guys, but FUCK THAT.

Let’s start to change things. While it makes me wildly uncomfortable to be proud of my successes and achievements, I’m going to show up and bloody well own it — 10 years down the track to boot.

While this is painful, it’s part of the work. And I’m not doing it just for myself and my mental health; I’m doing it for all my fellow females out there that often struggle with the same feelings as me. It’s exhausting, and I’m over it.

Let’s go!

imposter syndrome women

I want to acknowledge myself and the work I’ve put into becoming a better photographer over the past decade.

I’m always working, always learning, always upskilling, and trying to learn new tricks. I’m privileged in my line of work in that I’ve been able to connect with some of the most talented and creative photographers in the world, many of whom have taken me under their wing and taught me so much.

And I want to fully recognize this happened of my own damn merit. I hustled my way to where I am, and through my ability to build powerful human connections, I’m able to have a real impact with my work. 

imposter syndrome women

Since I picked up my first DSLR in college, my photography had taken me around the globe and earned me over six figures a year.

I’ve licensed images to some of the biggest brands in the world and had photos featured in publications I could have never imagined. Pictures I have taken had appeared on billboards, and I’ve broken so many cameras I can’t even keep track anymore. 

I’ve even managed to dig deep within myself and find the strength to take photos of the most horrific moment of my life, finding 145 beaching whales in New Zealand, knowing that I had the voice and the ability to share their plight with the world.

The New Zealand government even granted me residency for my work as a photographer.

What was I saying about imposter syndrome? Is my newfound confidence making you uncomfortable yet? Because I sure am, haha!

imposter syndrome women

I love the ability to express myself through my photos and to be able to bring viewers along with me on my journeys. And I never stop complaining about how heavy my kit is, the true testament to a real photographer, I imagine. 

As I try to step into my role and be confident in my abilities and work, I hope you do too. Use this as a chance to be proud of yourself and what you’ve accomplished. We’re all in this together, and imposter syndrome only collectively brings us down. Let’s change that.

So what do you guys reckon, am I photographer yet or still that chick from Instagram?  

imposter syndrome women

The post Am I a real photographer yet? appeared first on Young Adventuress.





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20 must-visit spots on New Zealand’s North Island


Often when we see images of New Zealand in the news or advertised as the most magical place to visit, for the most part, we see the stunning scenery of the South Island. New Zealand North Island must do – read on.

This, of course, makes sense, as the South Island landscapes are incredibly dramatic and picturesque. But as someone who has been calling New Zealand home for seven years now, I feel duty-bound to stick my hand up in support for the North Island, which also is exceptional and has heaps on offer.

I love the North Island, and there are so many compelling spots there worth exploring.

20 must-visit spots on New Zealand’s South Island

new zealand north island must do

new zealand north island must do

In some ways, the North Island is much more diverse than the South Island and home to hidden little corners waiting to be explored by the intrepid traveler.

From beautiful coastlines to old forests to volcanic landscapes to warm lakes and rivers, the North Island is lush and green and outstanding. With a much larger population, including Māori, often, there are more opportunities for cultural experiences here too.

After seven years in New Zealand, here are some of my favorite experiences and must do’s around New Zealand’s North Island – enjoy!

new zealand north island must do

new zealand north island must do

1. Explore the central North Island volcanic region

With love for the mountains, I can’t help but be drawn to their beauty when I’m traveling. Lucky for me, New Zealand has no shortage of incredible mountains to explore, even on the North Island.

What makes the mountains around the central North Island special is that they are volcanoes. The North Island Volcanic Plateau is impressive. Seemingly emerging out of nothing, suddenly, you’re in another world, marked by three iconic mountains: Tongariro, Ruapehu, and Ngauruhoe.

Home to two national parks and ski fields, there is so much to explore in this area, from walks, hot pools, waterfalls, big hikes, and adventures galore, I never get tired of this part of New Zealand.

My favorite walk to a Ruapehu waterfall here is to Tawhai Falls.

new zealand north island must do

2. Fall in love with native birds at Zealandia in Wellington

I can quickly pinpoint the exact moment I fell in love with birds in New Zealand – when I first visited Zealandia in Wellington in 2013.

Zealandia is an urban eco-sanctuary in Wellington and conservation project. Massive, Zealandia feels like a giant national park in the heart of the capital city of New Zealand. Enclosed in a predator-free fence that keeps out invasive predators like cats, stoats, and possums, native birds like kaka and kiwi have been allowed to thrive here.

I joined in on one of their nighttime Twilight Tours and saw my very first kiwi.

new zealand north island must do

3. Channel your inner hippy in Raglan

Raglan is a coastal hub on the west coast of the North Island, and a bit of a mecca for surfers. Boasting the longest left-hand break in the world, Raglan has long been a relaxed and chill seaside surf spot.

Funky, relaxed and artsy, with good weather, Raglan is a great spot to escape to and chill out for a while, even if you don’t surf.

Don’t miss out on grabbing a cup of coffee from Raglan Roast while you’re there.

new zealand north island must do

4. Be amazed by Tāne Mahuta on the Kauri Coast

I reckon the Kauri Coast in Northland is one of the North Island’s best-kept secrets. Here I am blowing the lid on it, oh well.

Home to Tāne Mahuta, the largest known living Kauri Tree in New Zealand, the Waipoua Forest is magnificent. Go for a short walk and visit this ancient tree and marvel at this crazy canopy.

One of my favorite places to stay is to go glamping at the Highfield River Retreat.

new zealand north island must do

5. Get well off the beaten track at Tolaga Bay

Hidden away on the wild East Cape, Tolaga Bay is part of the area Captain Cook visited in 1769 on his circumnavigation of New Zealand.

Home to the second-longest wharf in New Zealand, Tolaga Bay is a classic kiwi holiday spot to chill out and relax, especially in the summertime.

Be sure to go for a hike along Cooks Cove Walkway.

new zealand north island must do

6. Hang out in a cafe in Wellington 

Before moving down to the South Island, I called Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, home for half a year. And I loved every minute of it. Except for the wind. I didn’t like that.

And one of my favorite Wellington past times was to go out for a fantastic cup of a coffee in a trendy cafe, and read or write. Wellington has so many amazing spots for coffee, and it’s part of their urban culture worth indulging in.

Egmont Street Eatery is my go-to brunch spot before exploring all around Cuba Street.

Where to wine, dine and caffeinate in Wellington, New Zealand

new zealand north island must do

7. Join in for a feast at Hobbiton

If I had to guess, I would say that Hobbiton is probably the most-visited tourist site on the North Island, if not all of New Zealand, and with good reason – it’s fantastic!

But here’s my pro-tip from a massive Lord of the Rings fan – try and go to their evening banquets, or even better, their International Hobbit Day party. It’s so refreshing to stick around Hobbiton after the sun goes down and take it all in at a big party.

So much fun!

new zealand north island must do

8. Explore around the Bay of Islands

Several hours drive north of Auckland in what seems like the middle of nowhere, and you’ll come across a truly incredible part of New Zealand – the Bay of Islands.

Subtropical and chill AF, the Bay of Islands was the first place Captain Cook landed on his exploration of New Zealand in the 18th century. Packed full of history, the Bay of Islands covers over 140 islands with lots of little towns and beaches worth exploring.

My favorite way to get out on the water is on a fishing charter; that way, I can catch my dinner.

new zealand north island must do

9. Marvel at all of the geothermal wonders around Rotorua 

Lovingly nicknamed “RotoVegas,” Rotorua is one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist towns. You almost always know when you’ve arrived because of the occasional whiff of sulfur you’ll smell in the air from all of the incredible geothermal activity there.

Home to geysers, bubbling mud pools, boiling lakes, natural hot springs, and lots and lots of steam, Rotorua is unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been.

With heaps of geothermal parks and wonders you can visit, it’s worth spending a few days around here taking it all in – Waimangu is my favorite. Venture further afield to the nearby lakes and have a lovely holiday where the water is always warm and cozy.

new zealand north island must do

10. Get your ass kicked on Mt. Taranaki

Some of the best surf breaks in New Zealand are around Taranaki on the west coast of the North Island.

Somewhat off the beaten tourist track, this side of New Zealand is pretty impressive. Overshadowed by the mighty volcano Mt. Taranaki, the area beckons all who love mountains and sea.

Over 2,500 meters high and a perfect conical volcano often shrouded in cloud, Taranaki juts out from the flat landscape. If you’re fit and healthy, you can climb Taranaki in a day in good weather in summer, though be warned; it’s a deadly mountain. There are plenty of more comfortable and more relaxed tracks around the mountain worth exploring too.

new zealand north island must do

11. Spend a summer’s weekend at the Coromandel

The Coromandel Peninsula beckons many who visit the North Island.

With beautiful beaches, small quirky towns, lush forests, and a bit of mountain, it has something for everyone up here. Cathedral Cove is a marine reserve and a popular spot to visit, and I loved visiting here on a kayak trip from Hahei.

Digging your spa in the sand for a natural hot spring at Hot Water Beach is another must-do in the Coromandel for first-time visitors.

new zealand north island must do

12. Go underground at the famous Waitomo Caves to see glowworms

Visiting the iconic glowworm caves in Waitomo tops the bucket list of many, making it a super popular attraction on any kiwi travel itinerary.

Seeing glowworms is genuinely spectacular, and not something you can experience anywhere else in the world. With heaps of adventures on offer in Waitomo, it’s the perfect spot to take them all in for the first time.

Go Black Water Rafting for a truly adventurous way to experience the caves.

new zealand north island must do

13. Visit the Gannet Colony at Muriwai at sunset

I only just visited the Muriwai Gannet Colony last year, and it completely blew my mind.

Home to over a thousand nesting gannets, a large white seabird with stunning blue eyes, the colony of these birds is impressive. A short walk will lead you up to the colony, tucked seemingly precariously along wild cliffs, as hundreds of birds go to and fro.

It’s like watching a small city in action.

new zealand north island must do

14. Go wine tasting in Martinborough

One of my favorite boutique wine-growing regions in the world is undoubtedly Martinborough in the Wairarapa, just north of Wellington.

A small, boutique wine-growing region just north of Wellington, there are over 20 cellar doors in Martinborough, all of which are relatively close together. It’s fun to bike between them.

If you find yourself in the area come November, grab tickets to Toast Martinborough, their annual food and wine festival.

new zealand north island must do

15. Road trip around the East Cape

If you want to get well off the beaten path and take in classic New Zealand, plan a road trip around the East Cape.

From Napier up through Gisborne and around the easternmost part of New Zealand, the East Cape is likely the least visited region by tourists, leaving it unique and open.

Warm and quiet, I fell in love with the East Cape on my first trip around the area. Watch the sunrise from the iconic East Cape lighthouse and be one of the first people in the world to see the morning.

new zealand north island must do

16. Get sore legs on the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Self-explanatory.

The Tongariro Crossing is consistently ranked as one of the best day-hikes in the world. While this means it’s incredibly busy, especially on good weather days, it shouldn’t deter you from tackling it. Almost 20 kilometers long, alpine and unpredictable, and logistically somewhat complicated to start and finish the track, Tongariro is consistently underestimated by those taking it on.

Be sure to be fit and do your research on what to bring and how to prepare safely for it.

new zealand north island must do

17. Drink wine on Waiheke and snooze the day away

Waiheke Island is magic!

Less than an hour ferry ride from downtown Auckland through the Hauraki Gulf will bring you to magical Waiheke – an island paradise home to beautiful beaches, a charming town, and heaps of wineries.

With white sandy beaches, warm weather and bright blue water, it’s the perfect place to head first on a trip to New Zealand to recover from jetlag and get a taste for this incredible Pacific island.

Man O’ War Vineyard was such a nice off the beaten path vineyard to while away an afternoon on Waiheke.

new zealand north island must do

18. Go for an early morning stroll at the Hamilton Gardens

Now now now, I hear what you’re saying. Gardens as a must-do? But trust me on this one, the Hamilton Gardens are not to be missed, especially if you’re a plant lover like me.

More than just another urban garden, the Hamilton Gardens are a museum of gardens, and it’s pretty epic. I can spend more than a day wandering amongst the greenhouses and lawns there, hanging out, napping in the grass, and being inspired by the plants.

It’s a rad little spot.

new zealand north island must do

19. Hang out in Mount Maunganui

Nicknamed the Mount, just outside of Tauranga, is this historic seaside town with one of the best beaches in the world. White, sandy and warm, the vibe is Bali meets California meets the Gold Coast, with a bit of classic kiwi charm thrown in for good measure.

Climb up Mauao overlooking the town and sea for epic views.

new zealand north island must do

20. Stay in a bach near Piha

Piha is a laid-back surf town west of Auckland. With black sandy beaches and a dramatic, rugged coastline, it’s a pretty epic seaside spot to get away to on the North Island.

With a classic kiwi holiday vibe, Piha is the spot to rent a bach and get away from it all. Go for a bushwalk and check out some of the local waterfalls while you’re there.

new zealand north island must do

New Zealand is a special place; we all know that. When you’re planning your next holiday here, be sure not to overlook the North Island.

From waterfalls to geothermal marvels to volcanos to heaps or cute surf beaches, the North Island has so much to offer. Hopefully, this guide is a good start of where to begin with your New Zealand North Island must do.

What did I miss? Have you been to New Zealand? What are your must-visit spots on the North Island? Spill in the comments!

20 must-visit spots on New Zealand’s South Island

new zealand north island must do

The post 20 must-visit spots on New Zealand’s North Island appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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A Hollyford Track adventure – exploring remote Fiordland


There is nowhere else on earth quite like Fiordland. And definitely nowhere like the Hollyford Track.

A wild and remote land of steep mountains along the sea, glaciers and dense temperate rainforests and home to some of the weirdest and wildest birds, Fiordland is spectacular.

Topping the bucket list of many is to take in the Milford Track or exploring the many incredible tramps in the region. Most are based out of Milford Sound, one of the wonders of the world, few go beyond its steep walls and thundering waterfalls.

But once you do manage to voyage beyond Milford, you’ll discover a pretty special part of the world.

hollyford track

hollyford track

After a couple of tedious and slow-to-recover injuries this winter in New Zealand, by the time early summer rolled around, I was itching to get back in the hills and pop my hiking boots back on.

Unfit and definitely not tramping fit, I knew I needed to start out on something more accessible and shorter than a week-long adventure to get my feet wet again before venturing further. Combined with a tight schedule right before moving house, I only had a short window to get out in the hills.

It couldn’t have been more perfect to try out the iconic Hollyford Track on their 2 day heli-escape. This historic Fiordland tramp that has been on my mind for years.

hollyford track

hollyford track

One of the many reasons the Hollyford Track has been on my mind is the connection there between the people and the land. The Hollyford Track sits on Māori land, Ngāi Tahu land, and it is owned by Ngāi Tahu Tourism.

As the original inhabitants of this part of New Zealand, it’s pretty special how they have come to share it with the world. Ngāi Tahu’s tourism roots extend back to when their ancestors were the guides for many of the first European explorers on the South Island. Now they are guiding a different kind of explorer, the modern traveler.

This connection between the people and the land around the Hollyford Track is powerful and impactful. It certainly made my experience there all the more memorable.

hollyford track

hollyford track

The 2 day heli-escape on the Hollyford Track should top all kiwi bucketlists and is a must-do for visitors wanting a taste of the best New Zealand has to offer.

You can also walk the Hollyford Track independently over 4 – 8 days in a variety of ways staying at DOC huts along the route.

The trip begins in the most epic way possible – flying via helicopter from Milford Sound to Martins Bay. Just the roadtrip out to Milford is impressive, but to combine it with a heli-flight? Next level awesome.

hollyford track

hollyford track

We flew directly out of Milford Sound to the Tasman Sea, before following the coastline north some 30 kilometers before landing in Martins Bay.

Martins Bay is my new favorite part of Fiordland, and a place few know about. What I find fascinating is that if a few decisions were made differently, Martins Bay might have been another Queenstown and a massive hub for tourists – there was a plan for a long time to connect the Hollyford Road with the Haast Pass on the west coast.

Instead, few know about its existence at all.

hollyford track

hollyford track

Once a hub for local Māori on their pounamu (jade) trails and for gathering, by the time European settlers began to explore the area in the 1860’s, few people were left. Martins Bay and the Hollyford was (and still is) wild and remote.

For twenty-odd years, European settlers tried to make a life around Martins Bay, even building a settlement inland called Jamestown. There was hope it might turn into a commercial port, but eventually people realized it was just too damn hard with so many factors involved that it was slowly abandoned.

One of the last settlers, Alice McKenzie, wrote a book about her childhood as a settler in Martins Bay that is fascinating. I plowed through it on my evenings on the Hollyford, wondering how the hell they even managed to survive there as long as they did.

hollyford track

hollyford track

What was really cool is that on the guided track we got to see so many of the remainders and marks from the early pioneers in the area, something I probably would have never spotted on my own.

On the first day of the walk we spotted a massive maple tree in the middle of the Fiordland bush, marking the place where one of the settlers lived and planted this foreign tree.

How on earth they lived here I can’t even imagine.

hollyford track

hollyford track

After landing in Martins Bay, we were treated to a yummy lunch before heading off in the bush towards the coast for the afternoon.

In classic Fiordland weather, it absolutely bucketed us with rain. One of the wettest places in the world, rain comes with the territory here. Call me crazy, but I’m one of those people that thinks that Fiordland is more beautiful in the rain.

After all, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just being unprepared. Mostly.

9 ways hiking in New Zealand will change your life

hollyford track

hollyford track

Probably one of the best benefits of journeying along the Hollyford with the guided options is just a massive step up in comfort level than walking on your own. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the Fiordland bush, and it’s wet. Really wet.

The first thing they did once we landed in Martins Bay was provide us with long, super waterproof rainjackets that covered me from my head to knees. It was perfect.

Then, once we got back to the lodge for the night, they have the most amazing drying room, full of warmth, where you can hang out everything you need to so it dries by morning.

I really don’t love putting on wet hiking boots, so this blew. my. mind.

hollyford track

hollyford track

On the 2 day heli-escape on the Hollyford you hike about 7 kilometers per day over easy terrain. It was beautiful, and beautifully flat.

Absolutely bucketing down with rain, we made our way through the dense, lush forest, learning about the local plants and animals while hearing the stories of the settlers who tried to make a go at life in remote Fiordland.

Spoiler alert – it didn’t go well.

hollyford track

hollyford track

We finished the first day out on the coastline looking at a seal colony on Long Reef and admiring how the mountains drop to the forest to the wild seaside. It’s a magical place.

We could see the coastline is brimming with food, like paua (NZ abalone) and crayfish, along with amazing wildlife.

Rugged and wild, it’s exactly the kind of place I love to explore.

hollyford track

hollyford track

Lucky for us, the Hollyford Track has its own jetboat – which comes with an absolute cracker of a jetboat driver – to come pick us up along the coast and whizz us back to the hut lodge in time for cheese, snacks, and wine.

Hello! This is the kind of tramping I could get used to!

There are hot showers and snacks and endless cups of hot tea, inside and out of the weather. I was in heaven! We curled up by the fire and immediately dozed off.

hollyford track

hollyford track

As the sun set, an epic thunderstorm rolled in. With thunder booming and rain tapping on the roof and windows all night, it made for the most magical experience.

I love listening to the rain, and it really felt like we were in the wild as the storm rolled out to sea.

I still can’t even begin to fathom how settlers tried to live here back in the day.

hollyford track

hollyford track

That night I barely remember falling asleep, tucked into a cozy bed with the pitter patter of the rain outside. It was so peaceful.

The next morning was still, clear, and fresh, with no rain and the sun breaking through the clouds as we climbed into the jetboat again and made our way to historic Jamestown to begin our hike back to the lodge.

Walking through the ancient podocarp was ethereal. The trees shimmered with the rain from the day before and it smelled damp, earthy and alive. I felt my lungs inflate with happiness and thought to myself, yes, maybe I could live here.

Then a sandfly bit me on the face, and I thought, nope, better just for visits.

hollyford track

hollyford track

I definitely rate the Hollyford Track as one of the best hikes and experiences you can have in New Zealand. It has everything.

History, culture, forest, sea and mountains, birdlife and plants, it’s a dream spot for people like me. And it’s still relatively off the beaten path.

I will definitely be back for longer next time!

Have you ever been on an adventure like this? Did you know about the Hollyford Track? Would you be keen to head into the Fiordland bush like the original settlers? Spill!

hollyford track

The pioneering days of the 19th century were the subject of Alice Mackenzie’s book The Pioneers of Martins Bay, which recounted her childhood as a settler at Jamestown and Martins Bay. You can buy at the hut on the track.

When the tide was low at Martins Bay by Alice McKenzie

I stood upon the sandy shore
As evening shadows fell;
The sun was sinking in the west
Across the ocean swell.

O’er the sea the sun was casting
Each brightly tinted ray
As the waves came sweeping onwards
To the shore at Martins Bay.

The moon was rising o’er the hills
As the sun sank in the west,
And her silvery light was gleaming
On the ocean’s heaving breast.

And those ever moving waters
Sparkling brightly as they roar
Are dashed in foaming billows
On that wild and lonely shore.

All around are wooded hills
No matter where your eyes are turning;
You see no human habitation
Except where one lone light is burning.

Here solitude doth reign supreme,
All scenes are lonely and drear,
But there’s music in the lonlineness
Which solitude will make us hear.

A whispering sound among the trees,
There is music in the ocean’s roar,
There’s a voice in the wandering breeze
Which is sighing along the shore.

And the voice of nature speaks to us
In every flower that grows,
And the voice of God is calling us
In every breeze that blows.

hollyford track

Many thanks to Ngāi Tahu Tourism for hosting me on the Hollyford Track – like always, I’m keeping it real. Like you could expect less from me!

The post A Hollyford Track adventure – exploring remote Fiordland appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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