Posted by: Talie Morrison | December 22, 2010

Stewart Island North West Circuit

The "chain" leaving Bluff...

The "anchor" on Stewart Island

They have a wonderful sculpture down here – that starts at the bottom of the South Island (near Bluff) and finishes in Lee Bay on Stewart Island.  It as a giant chain and anchor that gives the impression that Stewart Island is the anchor of the South Island!   Awesome!


I have wanted to walk the Stewart Island’s North West Circuit ever since I heard about it.   Do you think  the fact that it is “hard” “challenging” “muddy” and “remote” have anything to do with that?  Hum??   So I  set my self the goal of completing this hike on this trip – after all, I’m not getting any younger!  It’s a 10 day trip and 120 kilometers all told.    I was a bit apprehensive as to doing a 10 day backpack trip – that’s a pretty heavy pack to be carrying.   But I now have a wonderful new pack designed by a Kiwi – an Aarn Body Flow Pack.   It is designed to support all the weight on your hips and not on your shoulders – and to distribute the weight so that your center of gravity isn’t compromised.   I love my new Aarn!!!  (You can look it up at:

Stewart Island is the “third” New Zealand Island – it is South of Bluff, which is South of Invercargill (if you are looking at the map).   I drove down to Bluff – and put together everything I would need for 10 days (that’s a lot of food- 10 breakfasts, 10 lunches, 10 dinners!).  I left Yanqui in the ferry carpark in Bluff and basically started my trip by walking from the carpark to the ferry!

The ferry from Bluff to Halfmoon Bay (which is also called Oban) takes about an hour to get across the Furneaux Strait.   The Strait is usually fairly rough (even on a good day), and one of  my new friends next to me on the ferry turned a little “green around the gills”, and several people were using their “little white bags” (like you find in the seat packet in front of you on an airplane!)

Once I got to Stewart Island, I walked to the DoC office (Department of Conservation) where I signed an “intention sheet”.   The local DoC offices down here request that trampers sign an intention sheet so if something happens to you “out there” they have a “panic date” and know whether to come look for you or not.   Since I am usually “out there” on the trails solo, I also carry an “EPRB” (Emergency Personal Rescue Beacon) – that way if I break a leg, I can call in the helicopters (one would hope….)

So from the ferry and DoC office, I had 5 kilometers to walk on the paved (they call it “tar sealed”) roads.   I tried hitching, but it was a Sunday morning and there wasn’t much traffic on the roads.    So after my 5 kms, I was finally on the track!

The first few hours of the track were pretty easy – it is part of the Rakiura Track which is one of the Great Walks.   But then after leaving that section, it was into the mud!   Some of the muddy areas you could go around – but usually even the surrounding area was pretty boggy.   Mostly you just had to slog on through.   It was every kind of mud you could imagine – slippery, icky, gooey, mucky  (do I need to “go on”??) .  But then I knew what I was getting into!  The mud did slow you down somewhat – and after a while you just stopped trying to get around it – you just plowed right on through.

But what was beautiful about this whole track was the incredible rain forest, the beaches, the birds, and the solitude (for me at least!)   My first night (Bungaree Hut)  I was in the hut with 3 young men from Spain (they were hiking out the next day); the second night (Christmas Village Hut), a man from Switzerland (he was hiking out also); and the third night (Yankee River Hut), two DoC workers.   From then on, I didn’t see another person till day nine (Long Harry Hut, East Ruggedy Hut, Big Hellfire Hut, Mason Bay Hut, Freshwater Hut).   The two hardest days were day 6 and day 7 – they were the longest days, and of course the most rainy days.   I do have to admit that there were times on those days that I did ask myself, “Now exactly WHY am I doing this??!!”  But the good part of those days was that by this time my pack was noticeably lighter!   The more I eat, the lighter it gets! Yea.  It is quite a “balancing act” though to carry enough food, without too much weight.   I have to admit about half way through the 10 days, I was finding that I could have eaten a lot more per meal (but I don’t think the first few days I could have handled the extra weight!)

Another one of the things that I was hoping for on this trip was to see another actual Kiwi in the wild (not the “human” kind but the Kiwi bird!).   There are some Kiwis on Stewart Island that actually feed during the day, and I think I saw some  of those in the ferns that were rustling around.  But they wouldn’t come out where I could actually see them.  However, on my second to last night, as I was doing my “after dinner, dusk, kiwi spotting walk”, sure enough a little guy came out of the bushes right in front of me.   He let me watch him rustle in the leaves looking for bugs for about 10 minutes!   Very fun.   It was too dark to get photos, so I just enjoyed the experience.

My last night (#9)  on the track was in the North Arm Hut.   It had been a pretty good walk to get there since I had to climb up and over a ridge (with the usual mud and roots and slippery rocks…).   That hut is part of the Rakiura Track again – and from  not seeing a single person for 6 days, all of the sudden I am in a hut with 8 other people.   Culture shock!   But one of the beautiful things about the North Arm Hut is that there are mussels on the rocks in front of the hut.  By this time, I was never quite getting full at each of my meals (I guess I was burning a few more calories than I was eating – remember the weight factor!) and pasta was getting old after 8 nights of it.   So I collected a bag of mussels, and luckily had just enough fuel for my stove to steam them open.   A wonderful German couple shared some butter with me, and I had mussels in melted butter.   I was in heaven!   And by the time I added my pasta, I was finally satiated.

On day 10 when I finally walked back into Oban/Half moon Bay, I was really happy to have survived and totally completed the Stewart Island North West Circuit!   I guess 64 isn’t too old yet…..

Yes, I really am a "Tree Hugger"!!

Day 1 - with my heavy pack!

The start of the mud!

Start of Day 2

Start of Day 2 - that's a Paua shell I am holding.

One of the many swing bridges!

The beach at Long Harry Hut

Long Harry Hut - My favorite hut on the track - I had my own  personal beachfront property for the night!  :-)

Long Harry Hut - My favorite hut on the track! I had my own personal beach front home for a night!

That is mud interspirsed with slippery roots and rocks! This was what the track looked like for many miles!

There were ferns everywhere! Beautiful!!!

Oops this one was a little deep!

Yep - It's muddy!

Just doesn't get much more beautiful than this!!!

One of the many beautiful beaches!

Start of Day 10, at North Arm Hut. Yea!



  1. Oh Talie, this is so fun: vicariously enjoying your eco-adventures! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Wow! The mud just adds to the beautiful views from the trail and the huts! I’m so glad the kiwi came out to say hi – he was just frosting on the cake. Merry Christmas Talie 🙂

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