The Hollyford Pyke

Embark on a 7-day journey to the end of the world (and back.)

The Hollyford Pyke Expedition

The Hollyford Pyke Expedition combines a 2-day professional packrafting training course (totally epic in its own right) with a mind-blowing 5-day adventure around the world-famous Hollyford-Pyke Loop.

During this 5-day/4-night packrafting expedition you’ll travel 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 iconic Hollyford track.

While the expedition is a tremendously rewarding adventure, it is not for the meek. Fiordland weather is unpredictable, the days can be rigorous, and the setting is very nearly at the end of the world. Participants carry their own gear, paddle their own boats,and should possess a reasonably high level of fitness. For those up for the challenge, this expedition offers unparalleled opportunities to escape the day-to-day and immerse yourself in the wilderness.

What you need to know

The almost all-inclusive Expedition

  • Accommodation is included – before and after the expedition in our Packrafting HQ glamping tents.
  • All paddling gear is provided – Alpacka Custom Gnarwhals
  • Backpacks are provided – Hyperlite Mountain gear Porter Packs ( 70l / 80l ) provided weighing only 1.2kg – unless you really want your own.
    • Total weight of your pack: 15kg and 20kg which includes about 7kg of paddling gear
  • Sleeping Bag / Quilts are provided for the expedition
  • Fitness plans to get you in the best possible shape are provided
  • Breakfast and dinners are provided ( in the form of Freeze-dried Meals )
  • Guidebook with lots of info to get ready – provided
  • Dry bags are provided
  • 2 Day professional Expedition Packrafting preparation course
  • 5 days Wilderness

Not provided

  • Lunches and Snacks
  • Sleeping bags for the glamping tents
  • Sleeping bag liner

The Good to know :

  • Small Groups -max 4 to 5 people per expedition departure date.
  • Great way to get fit and into packrafting
  • 5 days off work for 7 days of adventure.
  • Everything starts and finishes in Te Anau.
  • We will potentially paddle 4 different rivers.

Bottom Line:

You will only need to bring your personal clothing, a sleeping bag liner and organise snacks and lunches. That is pretty much it 🙂 unless you want to bring more of course. Once you receive the guidebook you can get organised.


This expedition is best suited for people with an already active lifestyle

Expedition Prerequisites:

  • You must be physically fit and healthy (see fitness expectations).
  • You must be able to swim and have general water confidence. 
  • Some paddling experience is an advantage (but not 100% necessary for those who meet the fitness requirements and come with an attitude for learning!)
  • You must be able to survive without your mobile phone
  • You must have a great sense of adventure (and humour too!)

Our promise:

  • Your expedition leaders are fully qualified and have spent 100s of hours in the wilderness.
  •  Leaders will carry safety equipment at all times, including first aid, a 2-way satellite communication device, and a Personal Locator Beacon. 
  • Real Wilderness and a real adventure guaranteed. 
  • We will do our best to keep you safe but you will need to help us with that 😉

Fitness Expectations and Training

Please take the following requirements as an encouragement to get into the best shape you can – we will help you get ready


This expedition tackles nearly 150 km of wilderness travel in total.  This works out to about 65km of downriver paddling, 35 km of lake paddling and about 50 km of trekking. The better prepared you are as more you will enjoy this experience. 

Find our base expectations in terms of fitness below:


You should be able to walk 20km on a reasonably easy “Great Walk” style track with around 20kg on your back in about 5-6 hours, including rest breaks.

Being able to do the above will get you through the longest day on foot, distance-wise. Several of the shorter days negotiate rougher terrain, however, and may feel significantly more difficult in sections than anything included in your training if you’re training is primarily on even ground. In this case, some ankle stability work is recommended (exercise examples in our fitness plans).


If you are new to paddling, we’ve included a training plan so you can build the required strength and stamina required for the expedition. A reasonably strong forward stroke is key, and while we’ll have some time to work on this with you during the training days prior to the expedition, you’ll need to show up with a good fitness base in your shoulders, arms, and core. 

You should be able to paddle for two one-hour efforts, separated by a short break of 5-10 minutes, with few other rests during each of the two hours.

We are supplying fitness plans and guidance to get you into shape if you are not already in great shape.

Sample Itinerary


We start at 8:30 am at Packrafting New Zealand HQ followed by a 45min drive down to our local river. You will learn basic paddle strokes, self and buddy rescue, swift water swimming position (passive and aggressive), swimming with a paddle, inflating and deflating your boat, dealing with currents, and moving your boat on a river.

We build on your training from the first day and practice all the learned skills on another local river ( The Eglinton ). Here we will practice in an environment that is nearer to what you will experience on the expedition. The afternoon will be spent preparing our food, team gear and pre-packing our backpacks for an early start the next day–our first day on the expedition.

The adventure begins! We pack the van and drive into the Hollyford valley, leaving civilization behind. After that, the day will be spent floating, paddling, and portaging down the Hollyford River, beneath the towering peaks of the Darran Mountains. We camp overnight at McKerrow Island which is about 4 – 6-hours down river.

An early start gets us 23km across Lake McKerrow to Martin’s Bay Hut. Tides will then determine whether we paddle or walk from the end of the lake to the iconic Martin’s Bay Hut. A challenging journey of again about 4 – 6 hours, but one that we should complete by lunchtime. This allows for an afternoon of leisure: explore the wild and scenic coastline, get to know the native wildlife, relax, or all of the above!

We take a break from paddling today and walk the rugged and spectacular coast to Big Bay. The trek involves scrambling and boulder hopping, but gets easier as we go, culminating in a 5km stretch of windswept beach that leads to the night’s destination – Big Bay Hut. White sand beaches, a walk-wire bridge, and swimming opportunities exist for those that still have the energy. This day is somewhere around the 4 – 6 hour mark on your feet.

Another combo day. We’ll start with a 14km walk on a track to the upper Pyke River, which usually takes about 3 hours. We then inflate the boats again and paddle about 2.5 hours downriver past high peaks and dozens of epic waterfalls. A crossing of Lake Wilmot and a quick visit to the legendary Bushman Sammy Stoat (a real-life Robinson Crusoe) round out the day, which ends at Olivine Hut. Evening options include an adventurous bush bash to Olivine Falls, or a ride across the historic cable car spanning the Olivine River.

Optional: If the group and the conditions allow, we may push on another 3h down to the Alabaster Hut,  which leaves “only” 21km of hiking for the last day.

Day 5 in reverse! We start with a paddle to, and then across, Lake Alabaster which will take about 3-hours again. We then pack up the boats and walk to Roadend, which is by far the biggest day walking (21km easy’ish going.) From here it is only short walk on the Hollyford Road to bring us back to where we started, completing the 150km long Hollyford-Big Bay-Pyke loop! We will be back in Te Anau by around dinner time, with time to spare. Either wind down from the expedition, or get organised for whatever adventure is coming next.

What will I need to bring?

  • Walking and hiking clothing (for all seasons)
  • Camping and overnight clothing (for all seasons)
  • Personal kit (incl. backpack, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, head torch, water bottle, etc)
  • And whatever else you normally take on outdoor adventures (sunglasses, bug spray, sunblock, etc)
  • Oh and also a great sense of adventure (and humor!)
  • NOTE: A full gear list will be supplied once you booked your trip.

Things we supply

  • Super light Backpacks ( Hyperlite Mountain Gear ) – unless you really want your own
  • Backup Tents (in case we aren’t able to stay in a hut)
  • Sleeping Quilts with fitted sheets
  • Sleeping mat (can be supplied by Packrafting NZ if yours is bigger than ours)
  • Stoves and gas
  • Dry bags to pack all your kit
  • Breakfast and Dinner
  • All boating gear

Other things to bear in mind

  • You need to make your own way to and from Te Anau, as this is not included.
  • We recommend allowing for an extra day after the trip, for unplanned delays as we go.
  • Breakfast and dinners are included, but lunches, snacks and tea and coffee is not included.


  • Accommodation is included in our Packrafting NZ Eco Village – glamping-styled tenting, shared facilities, and epic views. Available the night(s) before and after the expedition. If you choose to stay with us. Please choose the option to stay with us when booking. 

Ready to book?

Keen to embark on this wilderness adventure? Read all the expedition info and keen to book yourself (and your mates) in? Book below.