The Hollyford River rises in the southern Darran Range, 8 miles south-east of Milford Sound, and flows south-east, east, and north for 45 miles to the west coast at Martins Bay. For the first 30 miles the river flows in a deep, glaciated valley between the Darran Mountains on the north and west and the main divide on the south and east. Below the Pyke junction the river discharges into Lake McKerrow, which separates the Darran Mountains from the Skippers Range to the north-east. From the outlet of Lake McKerrow the river follows a meandering course for 2 miles to the sea at Martins Bay. The major tributary is the Pyke River, which flows south from the main divide east of Big Bay for 25 miles to join the Hollyford 4 miles above Lake McKerrow. Both the Hollyford and Pyke Valleys are excavated along a major fault line, which continues south across a low pass in the main divide into the upper Eglinton Valley. The ranges bordering the Hollyford and Pyke Valleys are composed of hard volcanics, intrusives, and greywackes of late Paleozoic age. Small infaulted slivers of Tertiary coal measures are found locally in both valleys, which are covered in luxuriant rain forest up to 3,500 ft.
The Southland runholders McKellar and Gunn were the first Europeans to view the valley from a vantage point above the Eglinton-Hollyford divide, but the valley had been discovered, and was frequently traversed, by Maori parties. The first Europeans to explore the valley were P. Q. Caples, who walked from Lake Wakatipu to Martins Bay in early 1863, and James Hector, Otago provincial geologist, who made the return journey in late 1863. A branch of the Te Anau – Milford road now extends down the valley for 10 miles connecting with the pack track to Martins Bay, Awarua Bay, and the upper Pyke Valley. The only permanent settlements are the tourist camp at Deadmans, close to the end of the road, and a cattle station at Martins Bay. The valley is a popular scenic, tramping, shooting, and fishing resort. It was named in 1863 by the explorer P. Q. Caples, after a place near Tipperary, Ireland.
by George William Grindley, M.SC., New Zealand Geological Survey, Lower Hutt.