Fiordland Explorer

7 days Wilderness Experience - By Application Only

The Experience

The Hollyford & Pyke Packrafting Expedition

The Ultimate New Zealand Adventure - 150kms of Pristine Wilderness, Remote Coastlines & Incredible Wildlife

The Fiordland Explorer guided packrafting expedition gives you access to an area normally visited only by very experienced backcountry explorers.    This expedition is the holy grail of Packrafting in New Zealand.  With four trips a year at six people max, only 24 people will have the chance to experience it.  

While for many it represents a once in a lifetime type of adventure, it is not for the meek.  Fiordland weather is unpredictable, the days are relatively rigorous, and the setting is, well, very nearly at the end of the world. But for those up for the challenge, it offers unparalleled rewards not typically found in commercial trips. 

This part of New Zealand will take your breath away and that's a huge statement in this country!  During this 6 day/5 night guided packrafting expedition you will be travelling from the mountains to the sea, up the coastline and back into the mountains.  You will paddle the Hollyford River, Lake McKerrow, Lakes Wilmot and Alabaster, and the Pyke River.   You will walk along the rugged coastline to Big Bay, cross into the Pyke Valley, and wander past waterfalls on the famous Hollyford track.

A maximum number of 6 people and 2 guides makes sure you'll get a very personal experience and have constant support on this breath-taking, challenging, and unforgettable journey. In case you wonder, day 7 is a training & transfer day.

The Hollyford / Pyke Loop Packrafting Experience includes: 

  • Pre-departure briefing
  • Transport with hotel pickups from Queenstown can be arranged for a small fee of $25.
  • Friendly & professional guides
  • Packrafting down the Hollyford & Pyke river and across Lake McKerrow, Lake Wilmot & Lake Alabaster
  • Track accommodation in Doc Huts or Tents
  • All meals on the track
  • All packrafting gear as detailed below
  • Backpacks & Rain jackets can be hired if required  


Transfer from Queenstown to Te Anau (if required), departing QT at 9 am.  Meet the rest of the group/guides in Te Anau ~11 am before a break for lunch (on your own).

Then we’ll hit the river around 1 pm for a few hours of training/river experience.  Pre-trip briefing at ~ 5 pm.

You’ll need to sort accommodation in Te Anau for this night, although if you choose to camp at one of the several campgrounds, you are welcome to use our tents!

Day 1

We’ll get on the road after coffee and enjoy a nice ‘guided’ tour with several stops as we head up along the Milford road towards our destination, the Hollyford River.

If we feel that a little more training is in order, we’ll spend an hour or so further sharpening our skills near Gunn’s Camp just before lunch.

Otherwise, we’ll jump right in (literally) for a 5ish hour paddle to our first night’s stop on Mckerrow island.

Day 2

We’ll get an early start to take advantage of calmer conditions and bypass the notorious Demon trail with a 16 km paddle across lake Mckerrow.

Then we’ll roll up the boats for an 8km walk passing the site of the historic first settlement in New Zealand, Jamestown.

Long reef point is a short stroll from the hut and offers opportunities for spotting penguins and sea lions on a rugged west coast beach.

Day 3

An iconic 12 km walk around long reef point and along a rocky coastline giving way into pristine sand beaches ends at Big Bay hut.

This is real wilderness–no trails, pounding sea, and true isolation.

We’ll start the journey two hours before low tide to ensure that we manage the tricky bits before the tide comes in!

Day 4

A big day from Big Bay!  The morning starts with a 10km along an old prospecting road (which hardly feels like a road any more!) into the upper Pyke Valley.

Here we’ll inflate the boats again and set off down the Pyke river–flanked by majestic mountains and waterfalls–across lake Wilmot, and to Olivine Hut at the water’s edge.

Day 5

After a lazy start (you’ll have earned it!), we’ll continue paddling the Pyke river to Lake Alabaster.

On the way there are opportunities to check out waterfalls and see the arduous ‘track’ that awaits trampers trying to negotiate this section–some of the markers are actually in the river!

The night will be spent either at Alabaster Hut or the aptly named Hidden Falls Hut, 10 km further down the track.

Day 6

The final day of the adventure takes in the last 10km  (if day 5 ended at Hidden Falls) or 20km (if Alabaster) of the Hollyford track.

Good footing and easy walking through stunning sub-alpine forest and over Little Homer Saddle allows you to get up close and personal with a number of spectacular waterfalls.

Day 7

Trip Information

Departure Dates:

We offer 3 departures of this expedition between the months of October & March.  

We offer 1 wintertime departure which adds an extra layer of difficulty and rewards and is only for the most experienced adventurers.  


This 6 Day Adventure costs $2,249 per person and includes the following:

  • All specialised boating equipment
  • All meals on the trail
  • Training & Group meeting the night before
  • Trip photos for free
  • All National park and camping/hut fees
  • All DOC ( Department of Conservation fees )
  • If no hut stays ( Tents are included )
  • Pre-departure briefing
  • Transport with hotel pickups from Queenstown can be arranged for a small fee of $25 per person
  • Friendly & professional guides
  • Packrafting down the Hollyford & Pyke river and across Lake McKerrow, Lake Wilmot & Lake Alabaster
  • Track accommodation in Doc Huts or Tents
  • Backpacks can be hired if required
Standard equipment supplied by Expedition x :
  • 3/2 mm wet suit for summer departure
    • and a dry suit for the winter trip
  • NRS Foam PFD
  • NRS Helmet
  • 2 split aluminium paddle or 4 split carbon fiber paddle
  • Alpacka rafts
  • NRS Spray tops ( if needed )
  • Drybags for ( Sleeping bag, Camp / spare clothing )
  • Backpack in liner ( big plastic bag )
For you to bring :

Please ask us for rental options or if you need to go shopping so we can give you some advise, if you do not have the items below.

  • 65l - 70l backpack
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping mat
  • Head Torch
  • Personal hiking gear
  • Personal sleeping gear

Need help ?

Selection Process

As you can imagine this expedition is not for everyone.  With only four departures a year and a maximum of six people on each expedition we want to ensure we take people who are physically able to complete the expedition safely and who will get the most out of this experience.

Don't be mistaken, this is not a highly organised package tour, anything but!   This is not for the meek.   This is a true wilderness adventure, we are taking you into an area with unpredictable weather that is very nearly the end of the earth.  If you like organised package tours, comfy beds and gourmet meals then this expedition is definitely not for you!

If you are prepared to push your own limits, be uncomfortable and enjoy six days of solitude for an epic adventure with unparalleled rewards then we would love to hear from you.

Our minimum requirements for this expedition are an expectation that you will be physically able to undertake the trip and understand what you are getting yourself into!  You must be comfortable in and around water, be able to carry your own backpack and gear, live without your mobile phone and ideally have some kayaking experience.

So what about it?  Are you up for the challenge?  If so, simply click on the Apply Now button below and answer a few simple questions to start your selection process.


Booking & Payments

Once we receive your application we will contact you either by phone or email to discuss your suitability and offer you a place on a trip.  Once we have done that we will send you a link to book the expedition online.  

  • A booking form and a $500 deposit per person is required to secure your booking.
  • The balance of payment is to be paid four weeks prior to your departure date.
  • For cancellations, prior to your departure date, the following refund applies:
    • Within 3 weeks = no refund applies
    • 3 – 6 weeks = deposit non-refundable, 80% of balance paid refunded
    • 7 – 12 weeks = deposit non-refundable, 100% of balance paid refunded
    • More than 12 weeks = full refund including deposit
    • Once your trip has commenced no refund applies due to any circumstance.

WE STRONGLY RECOMMEND that you arrange personal travel/medical insurance at the time of booking to guard against loss of fares paid caused by any eventuality necessitating cancellation of your trip within our cancellation period. Cancellations could be due to reasons beyond your control such as: falling ill prior to your departure / a sprained ankle whilst partaking in another activity / a family bereavement / missing a flight and therefore, missing your departure etc..


The weather in Fiordland can be very unpredictable and change dramatically, very quickly; the close proximity of towering mountains and the ocean makes for conditions and temperatures that can vary markedly during the course of a day. Fiordland is one of the wettest places on the planet.

Summer months average around 20°C but the evenings can be a little cooler. Winter temperatures average around 10°C on the coast with the evenings much colder.It is not unusual to experience both summer and winter conditions and temperatures on the same day!

It is important to be prepared for the worst conditions carry the appropriate clothing at all times. In the event of extreme weather, your safety is our priority and parts of the day may need to be changed. Any decision to do so is a professional decision made by your guide, please respect their decision as it is based on experience and with your safety in mind.

Regardless of the conditions you experience, sun, rain, a combination of the two, or anything in between, your experience on the Hollyford/Pyke Loop will be a memorable one.

New Zealand's Ultimate Packrafting Adventure - Unique, Unparalleled & Thrilling