North West Circuit
- 10 – 12 days
- Loop track
The classic Stewart Island coastal journey known widely for its mud. Links with the Rakiura Track.
|10 – 12 days|
No bookings — open access
No — open access
|Half Moon Bay, Stewart Island|
Altitude change 389m
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, Mount Rakeahua, and the South West Arm of Paterson Inlet. It is 65km, including the side trip up 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 to Bungaree Hut: 6km, 3-4 hours
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 to Christmas Village Hut: 11.5km, 6 hours
The track leads to Murray Beach, the remains of a wharf, and an informal campsite. 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.
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 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 a river and onward to the hut in Long Harry Bay.
Long Harry Hut to East Ruggedy Hut: 9.5km, 6 hours
The track climbs onto Cave Point Ridge and down to the coastline. 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 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 on the way up to 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 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.
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 to Halfmoon Bay: 12km, 5 hours
From the Hut, the Rakiura Track leads past Sawdust Bay to Prices Inlet and Kaipipi Bay, then on to Halfmoon Bay.