North West Circuit

  • 10 – 12 days loop track
  • Medium

The classic Stewart Island coastal journey known widely for its mud, abundant birdlife and beautiful beaches. Links with the Rakiura Track.

North West Circuit: Key information
Walking time
10 – 12 days
Loop track
Loop track
No bookings — open access
No — open access
North West Circuit: Find it
Lee Bay Road, Stewart Island / Rakiura
Main Road, Stewart Island / Rakiura
Sea level – 389m
Altitude change 389m
North West Circuit: More information


The track starts and ends at the settlement of Oban in Halfmoon Bay on Stewart Island. Boat transport is available to parts of the track on Paterson Inlet and the eastern coast, while Stewart Island Flights services Mason Bay.


Rarely far from the coastline, the North West Circuit describes an arc about the northern granite landscape of Stewart Island before cutting back across the island from Mason Bay. The North West Circuit is notorious for deep mud and wetland travel.

The first and last days of the walk are shared with the Rakiura Track, and both Port William and North Arm Huts operate as Great Walks Huts, with bookings required.

Shorter options include the Rakiura Track or a crossing to Mason Bay. 

The Southern Circuit is an extension to the North West Circuit that visits Doughboy Bay, the Rakeahua valley, and the South West Arm of Paterson Inlet. It is 65km, including the side trip up Mt Rakeahua, and 30 hours or 4-5 days walk. The Southern Circuit may be walked on its own by first crossing to Mason Bay.

Halfmoon Bay to Port William: 12km, 4 hours

The road along the waterfront leads to Horseshoe Bay and the sculpture at Lee Bay that marks the edge of the national park. The Rakiura Track leads to Maori Beach, and leads off inland. It is another 45 minutes straight ahead to Port William Hut. The site is marked by tall eucalypts, a remnant from milling days.

Port William Hut • Great Walks Hut (DOC). Capacity: 24.Bookings required.

Port William to Bungaree Hut: 6km, 3-4 hours

Maori Beach campsite • Great Walks Campsite (DOC). 4 spaces.

The track leads over a headland to Sawyers Beach, then through forest to Big Bungaree Beach. The hut is located at the northern end.

Bungaree Hut • Standard Hut (DOC). Capacity: 20.

Bungaree Hut to Christmas Village Hut: 11.5km, 6 hours

Port William campsite • Great Walks Campsite (DOC). 4 spaces.

The track leads to Murray Beach, the remains of a wharf, and an hunters camp. Here, it follows an old milling tramway into virgin forest, then sidles northward. The hut is located on the beach north of Christmas Village Bay.

Christmas Village Hut • Standard Hut (DOC). Capacity: 20.

Side trip: Mount Anglem, 11km, 6 hours return

From Christmas Village Hut, this muddy track leads to the subalpine summit of Stewart Island's highest point, just 980m.

Christmas Village Hut to Yankee River Hut: 12km, 6 hours

The track climbs to a 100m sidle, and bends westward with the coastline to another informal campsite at Lucky Beach and into dense forest. 

Yankee River Hut • Standard Hut (DOC). Capacity: 16.

Yankee River Hut to Long Harry Hut: 8.5km, 4-5 hours

The track climbs to 260m, crossing Black Rock Point to the sandhills of Smoky Beach, over Smoky Ck and onward to the hut..

Long Harry Hut [removed] • Removed!

Long Harry Hut to East Ruggedy Hut: 9.5km, 6 hours

The track climbs up to traverse and then drop down to pass the indiscernible former Long Harry hut site above Long Harry Beach,onto Cave Point Ridge and down to the coastline to travel briefly along a bouldered shoreline. Soon, the track turns south, heading back inland to a lookout over the beach. The Rugged Islands are offshore. The hut is located amongst sand dunes along a poled route.

East Ruggedy Hut • Standard Hut (DOC). Capacity: 20.

East Ruggedy Hut to Big Hellfire Hut: 14km, 7 hours

The track drops onto West Ruggedy Beach and then passes inland around the coastal Red Head Peak before crossing over the Ruggedy Range. The hut is located just beyond Hellfire Pass, on coastal ranges.

Big Hellfire Hut to Mason Bay Hut: 15km, 7 hours

The track descend to Little Hellfire Beach, over a bush saddle at Mason Head and down to the long arc of Mason Bay. This section is difficult to traverse at high tide. At Duck Creek, the turn-off inland to Mason Bay Hut is marked. This area is well known for kiwi spotting. Look for them at dawn and twilight.

Mason Bay Hut • Standard Hut (DOC). Capacity: 20.

Mason Bay Hut to Freshwater Landing: 15.5km, 3-4 hours

A long flat track leads inland past the abandoned historic Island Hill Homestead and through scrub to the Freshwater River. This section is prone to flooding. The Southern Circuit branches off here. 

Freshwater Landing Hut • Standard Hut (DOC). Capacity: 12.

Side trip: Rocky Mountain Track, 5km, 3 hours return

This track from the hut leads to rock outcrops in subalpine scrub, and panoramic views (549m). 

Freshwater Landing to North Arm Hut: 11km, 6-7 hours

Crossing the Thomson Ridge, the track leads into North Arm and sidles it to the hut, where two legs of the Rakiura track meet.

North Arm Hut • Great Walks Hut (DOC). Capacity: 24.Bookings required.

North Arm Hut to Halfmoon Bay: 12km, 5 hours

North Arm campsite • Great Walks Campsite (DOC). 4 spaces.

From the Hut, the Rakiura Track leads past Sawdust Bay to Prices Inlet and Kaipipi Bay, then on to Halfmoon Bay. 


This track needs a photograph.
ID 226

About this track

Added 1 June 2001 by matthewmatthew. 11 revisions, most recently 9 January 2023 by HonorarHonorar.
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