A fortune teller I am not and it's never easy to rank New Zealand's astoundingly magnificent scenic adventures, but I daresay I can predict your reaction when you reach Lake Marian: Blown Away.
The track starts with a swing bridge over the flowing turquoise water of the Hollyford River. From there you follow the well-graded track for just a few minutes along the Marian Creek where the smell of the crystal clear glacial water refreshes your senses and the roar of the waterfalls fill your ears. If roots, rocks, and persistent climbing is not your thing, you'll want to turn around at this point. There is a DOC sign indicating the appropriate place to turn back.
As you leave the easier section of the trail, the track immediately becomes narrow single track that involves navigating up steep sections of roots that require using your hands and making your way over rocks and loose gravel in dry stream beds. Our party of 8 experienced trampers, including 4 children (4, 8, 9, and 10) were able navigate this terrain in about 1.5 hours, the same time suggested by the DOC. Some parts of the track are less lush and less pleasant with dry, sharp grass that is itchy to walk through with bare legs.
A few minutes after passing the long-drop toilet, the track emerges into the heavenly space of the snow capped mountains reflecting in the turquoise glacier waters of Lake Marian.
Have a picnic, go for a swim, skip some rocks, or go at least 500m off the track and set up camp for the night. We went on a hot day in the summer and, with the right gear and know-how, I bet it's a gorgeous spot in the winter, too.
Do your kids need a little help to get to Lake Marian? Our 10 year old doesn't need distraction or bribery to go the distance, but the others don't always have enough intrinsic motivation to keep going. So how did we get the smaller kids to the top? This time the answer was stories inspired by our magical surroundings. For the 8 and 9 year old, a complex story soap opera of battle and intrigue was told. For the 4 year old, the story was a brief rendition of Rapunzel on Dad-repeat.
Why don't you test out my predictive powers and put Lake Marian on the top of your Fiordland day walk list? I'd love to hear how much you love it!
Lake Marian Track, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
Distance: 3km return
Time: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Moderate. Climbing over rocks and roots can be challenging. Use of hands required for some short sections.
Barefoot: Not tested, but the ground seemed pretty barefoot friendly.