|Route:||Parking Lot –> Swing Bridge –> Series of Mini Waterfalls –> Elevated Track –> Lake Marian –> And Back|
|Total Distance:||2.4 km (1.5 miles)|
|Average Walk Time:||
~ 4 hours or slightly less
(with plenty of time to take great shots, light snacking & a quick swim)
|Seasonal Restrictions:||Do not walk around the edge of the lake during the snow/avalanche season (winter and spring)|
|Difficulty:||🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂|
|Scenery:||🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂|
Well, I reckoned New Zealand needs no prelude whatsoever. Everything about it just never stops to inspire me in a frivolous way. And it was probably the first time I jaunted through trails and treks every other day for a month until my feet got sore and blistered. I would imagine this to be otherwise for anyone else. So yes, a weakling I was?
But it was all worth every drop of sweat to climb. It was all worth every minor or major slipups along the way. And it was all definitely worth (at times) sacrificing sleep for the enthralling views that time sleeping will never give. Lake Marian is imperatively impeccable, and I would recommend this trek to anyone, that is without a doubt!
The closest town to Lake Marian would be Te Anau. It is also the closest town to the famous Milford Sound attraction in the South Island of New Zealand. Te Anau is a quiet, humble little town, with quite a selection of restaurants and smaller eateries. A nice place to be away from the buzz of city life, and still be able to enjoy amenities of excellent food, accommodation and at the same time satisfying those basic grocery needs.
How to get there?
Though Te Anau township is the closest to Lake Marian, the drive was still quite a far bit long from our accommodation at Kingsgate Hotel Te Anau near the town centre. A straightforward driving route on the main Te Anau-Milford Highway 94 would basically take you there in approximately 1 hr 20 mins.
Just remember to make a turn right soon after Pop’s View lookout, onto Hollyford Track when you see the signage ‘Lower Hollyford’, otherwise, you would be on your merry way to Milford Sound, which is also not a bad option. Haha!
Drive down about 1 km on the unsealed gravelled Hollyford Track a.k.a Hollyford Road and you would reach the Lake Marian carpark!
Highlights and Views
1. Swing Bridge
The start of the trek to Lake Marian requires the crossing of the swing bridge which hovered above the Hollyford River (Whakatapu Ka Tuku). The river was in its clear refreshing blue and the sounds of the waters crashing against the rocks as it rushed down with gravity was invigoratingly welcoming! What an excellent way to start a morning! 😀
I recalled I was so tempted to go down to douse my hands in the refreshing and presumably cold waters. But as I made my way down gingerly across large rocks and boulders to the edge of the river and I squatted down, I realised my hands were too short to reach into the waters. Haha! Yup, woes of having short hands.
Looking to both of my sides along the river, it seemed very unlikely I could reach down into the waters unless I sat down on the rocks or something like that. Hence, I decided to give it a miss and head back up, for the waters at Lake Marian would definitely be as refreshing too right? And definitely easier to reach in…
2. Series of Mini Waterfalls
About a short 10 minute stroll on the boardwalk past the swing bridge was the next highlight of the Lake Marian trek: the exhilarating rush of the waterfalls. It was quite thunderously deafening when we walked deeper into the track; closer to the top of the waterfall. With the morning sun beaming all so strongly, the waters that flowed down glistened crystal white. Which really was not a bad sight for a morning!
There were some people who visited this place just for the mini waterfalls. Because it was a relatively easy paved short walk, some would decide to have a nice easy morning stroll and would give the slightly more advance tramping track a miss. That could be an option, but if you are more able-bodied, then continue on the elevated track to Lake Marian ‘cause the reward at the end is just mind-blowing! Period!
3. Elevated Track (through the forest)
After the end of the series of mini waterfalls, where the initial road underfoot was still well-paved and easy to walk on, came the start of the elevated tracks to Lake Marian! Which by then, consists of gravel roads, steep inclined and at times, wet and muddy pathways. From here on, it was approximately 1.5 hours to the beautiful Lake Marian as stated on the signage.
So into the native forest we ascended, starting with steady inclines up on uneven rocky road. It was still relatively manageable at the start, with very obvious reasons. It was enjoyable and exciting to wander through the amazing forest. Even the sweat and the panting from climbing up against gravity were all part of the package of adventure! Totally enrapturing!
But the climb soon became a little relentless as time passed. However, thinking about it now just made me missed manoeuvring through the dense forest like some explorer on a mission; a mission to find the hidden gem of a lake that is! Haha! 😀
After trotting through the rocky, and at times narrow paths, feeling all sweltering, we arrived to an area of openness. There weren’t any shelter from the sun by the trees like before, and if one would just have a quick glance at the entire peripheral view on its own without being meticulous in the details, one would totally missed out the orange beacon (which we all know is there for the very reason to guide trekkers in the right direction)!
And we decided, of all places, to take respite in an unshaded open piece of area surrounded by trees and huge logs. Hhhmmm… And the idea of respite is to dance silly as if the trees were the compelled audiences there to stay. Haha… You can see the embarrassing footage in the video linked below.
Following the orange beacon prudently along, we were on our merry way back into the forest under the cool shelter from the sun. But from this section on, the path was definitely way more exciting to manoeuvre through. Much more narrower pave, and even at times having to balance on thick tree trunks and all. I imperatively enjoyed my climb for this particular trek during my whole stay in the South Island of New Zealand. I found the zeal and passion just moving through the forest. Yes, it was tiring, but I found the joy in it. I felt so alive and just plain satisfied. I really don’t know how else to explain this feeling but it was pure simple happiness! 😀
I recalled we did asked other trekkers who were descending back from the lake, how much more distance we had to cover. And the answers to that were always, “Oh yeah yeah, soon, very soon.” And after a while, we figured, “… soon, very soon.” was but a mere sentence. Totally inaccurate. Well in their defence, probably the distance was short, but maybe we were already quite worn out that “… soon, very soon.” seemed “… far, all so very far.” Haha!
We just had to ramble through and press forward!
So trust me when I say that these huge pieces of logs that you have to cross over, is a pretty good indicator that the end is near. The end to eternal ethereal beauty of Lake Marian was just so close within our reach. Honest!
4. Lake Marian
Lake Marian is an alpine lake in a hanging valley formed by glacial action. This lake lies above the bush line and is surrounded by the amazing Darren Mountains. The Lake Marian region probably provides the most enticing setting of a hidden gem in the Fiordland National Park region. Perfect for photographers!
Albeit jaded, the breeze from the lake just doused the tiredness and rekindled a whole new feeling of enthusiasm and glow! When we first saw the sight of Lake Marian, we were awestricken. Speechless. Dumbfounded.
I needed a moment to soak in the wondrous beauty of it all. The distant partially white snow-capped Darren Mountains as backdrop and the undisturbed clear waters were just in a perfect cosmos. It was really impressive how incredible Mother Nature was. And time and again, she never failed to amaze and blow me away. It was like a wallpaper that I would only imagined and dreamed about, but there it was, sprawled right in front of me in my peripheral vision, unimpeded!
The hours of climb through the forest and all the pushing through was all worth it. Worth it to be in the moment as such, and to have that memory to have at least seen and felt it just once was bliss enough.
We spend quite a long time by the alpine lake. Having our packed lunch of sandwiches, admiring the beauty, and of course taking loads of photos. Haha!
It was so beautiful, we were quite reluctant to leave. But we did have quite a journey back to the parking lot. Alas, we had to leave to make up for the time before it turned dark.
(a) Start the trek EARLY
Before embarking on this Lake Marian trek, I already knew we had to start the trek early. But because we were beat out from previous nights, we decided that we would still get up early, but… just not so much earlier.
Hence, we missed out on the magnificent reflections of the Darren Mountains on the lake waters; which could be seen when the weather was calm making the waters in Lake Marian very much still. And that usually happened at dawn when the air would be crisp and the breeze at its minimal. When we were heading towards the lake, we stopped to have a conversation with a couple from Israel. They headed to the lake extremely early in the wee morning, and were already on their way back. We saw some of the shots they took of Lake Marian early in the morning, they were GORGEOUS! Words cannot describe.
So if you want to have amazing reflection shots of the mountains imprinted on the lake waters, a good timing to arrive at Lake Marian would be around 8 – 9 am? That was according to the Israeli couple.
If not, Lake Marian is still a gorgeous sight in the late morning early afternoon; which was what we got to see. Still ain’t half bad you know. 😀
(b) Go for a SWIM
Minor regrets in life comes when you thought you were all packed for a trek, but didn’t occur to you that you could actually bring your swimming gear. I didn’t know swimming was allowed at Lake Marian, well… apparently so it seemed. If I had a do over, I would make sure I pack my swimming essentials that’s for sure. I am positively sure the waters would be so refreshing after a long arduous climb up. Totally energising!
But because we were not prepared for a swim, we only doused our hands in the waters, which was extremely chilly!
(c) Beacon of SAFETY
The start of the tramping track on this Lake Marian trek would be after the series of mini waterfalls. The pathway started to get more uneven underfoot and the route was not at all straightforward. Hence, it would definitely be advisable that one should be of moderate to good level of fitness and also have a certain level of navigation and survival skills.
Getting to Lake Marian was still somewhat manageable. We just had to find orange beacon arrows mounted on tree trunks, or any form of track markers or indicators. Of which, some were very obviously spotted, while others required a wee bit more eye for details. But either way, it was still alright, coming from someone who really do not have much jungle experience.
However, on the way back, we had probably missed a beacon and sort of side tracked a little. The pathway did not seemed at all crossable. Hence, in such situation it would definitely be wise to trust your gut, retract your steps and find the orange beacon or any indicator that you might have missed, sometimes it could be a red ribbon or something like that.
Always remember to be safe. If you don’t feel that it is right, even the slightest bit, to move forward… don’t. Trust yourself.
The Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawbai, a government agency in charge of conserving New Zealand’s natural and historic heritage, placed Lake Marian Track to be in the ‘Advanced: Tramping track’ category.
In New Zealand, tracks that are listed in this government agency website, are placed in one of six categories. And to be placed under ‘Advanced: Tramping track’, indicates that the Lake Marian Track is considered to be the second most demanding track, with ‘Expert: Route’ being the most challenging one.
Hence, it is always wise to stay safe and be mindful of the surroundings!
Trekking is always a good way to avoid huddled groups of people, and a great way to find solace. I always relish the moments spend trekking. The serenity of it all just cannot be bought with money! And I do hope to conquer more treks in the future.
Hope this prods you to get yourself out of bed early to capture some awesomeness, and just be around nature!
So remember to Travel Whenever!