Gunn's Camp, Hollyford Valley, New Zealand

Davey Gunn (2nd from left) in hunting party

History of Gunn's Camp

Hollyford Camp, also known as Gunn’s Camp, is a testament to the efforts of a father and son who championed the attractions of the Hollyford.

The collection of buildings began life in 1938 as a Public Works Department camp built to accommodate married men who were working on the Hollyford-Okuru Road.

A road linking Otago and Southland with South Westland had been talked about for years and during the Depression the Government started work on the project which was an off-shoot of a larger project to build a road from Te Anau to Milford Sound.

Henderson’s Camp

The collection of 25 cabins was originally known as Henderson’s Camp after Jack Henderson who was the engineer in charge of the project. World War II was declared not long after the camp was completed and the roading work stopped so that men could join the war effort.

In the late 1940s the camp was used by holiday-makers who, desperate for house parts during the postwar shortages, removed stoves, windows, tubs and roofing. By 1951 only 15 of the original 25 cabins remained.

Davey Gunn

It was in that year that Davey Gunn, a well-known back-country cattle-man who was running Herefords further down the valley bought that camp to use as a base for his farming and tourism ventures. He paid £12 for each hut and built a large communal building with iron and flooring from another abandoned PWD camp and broadleaf and red beech timber cut from the surrounding bush.

Davey Gunn had always been alive to the beauty of the district and pioneered guided walking and riding trips in the district. The camp, as well as being a convenient stores depot, also provided accommodation for the increasing number of people coming to do Davey’s trips.

Murray Gunn

After Davey drowned in the Hollyford on Christmas Day 1955 the camp was taken over by his son Murray who made improvements in his own distinctive style, some of which are legendary. One was his horse Jane, who had the word horse painted in white on one side and the word cow on the other. This, so Murray explained, was to make sure that hunters didn’t mistake her brown coat for that of a deer.

Murray also started a museum commemorating not just his father’s famous exploits but the pioneer settlers at Martins Bay and the tough and hardy road-builders.  The museum burned down in February 1990 but volunteers helped rebuild it.

After 51 years in the Hollyford, Murray retired in 2005 and the camp and museum are now run by the Hollyford Museum Charitable Trust.

Thanks to Julia Bradshaw for her contribution to this page. Read more about Davey Gunn in Julia's book, "The Land of Doing Without" which can be purchased at the camp.

Contact us to find out more about the Charitable Trust.

"Historic gem. Don't ever change. It's unique."

– A and M Hattersly, 2010