Posted by: Talie Morrison | March 1, 2016

Stewart Island Southern Circuit

Heather and Grady went off to do some kayaking and mountain biking, so I decided to put together a quick trip to Stewart Island and finally complete the Southern Circuit.   Remember I bailed on that one during my Christmas Trip in 2014.   I was bummed that I hadn’t completed it – so this was as good a time as any — well on second thought, maybe I should have waited for a month of dry weather — oops, I don’t think that ever happens on Stewart Island!

This is the map from the Stewart Island Brochure

This is the map from the Stewart Island Brochure

I took the Ferry across Foveaux Strait – it was pretty rough and people were grabbing the little white barf bags right and left.   I stood up in the back and watched the horizon and felt pretty good.

I spent a night camping at “Allen’s Wilderness Camp” which was pretty fun.   It was very basic, but there were hooks in the kitchen area (under roof but open air) where I could hang my hammock!

The next day, I took the water taxi to Freshwater Landing and walked to Mason’s Bay.  I noticed more mud on this stretch than I had ever seen before – maybe that was a warning to me of what I was getting myself into!     I had my hammock with me – good thing since Mason’s Bay hut was full.   I hung in the same trees that I was in last year!

The next day started with 2 hours of beach walking till I got into the bush.   Then it was basically 3 days of unbelievable mud!   Whew!   There is thick mud, thin mud, slippery mud, bottomless mud, sauce mud, wide mud, green mud (that’s mud with green plants growing on top – but it still might be a meter deep!), tarn mud, swamp mud,  … the list goes on!   The track went up from Mason’s Bay, across the tops (which were swampy – and yes, muddy!) and down the other side.   The water taxi driver had warned me about this section – he said it was terribly steep and muddy – he was right!

But I finally I gotten to Doughboy Hut – the area that I had really wanted to see.   It was beautiful!  It’s a perfect little bay, with steep mountains coming down on all sides.     I would have loved to see it with blue skies to get the real feel of the hight of the hills, but that was not to be.  There were 4 hunters at the hut, and when 4 other trampers plus me showed up – it was another full hut (there were only 8 bunks).   So even though my pack had been really heavy, I was glad once again that I had my hammock!

To get out of Doughboy Bay, the next morning I had 411 meters (1,348 feet) to climb in 1.5 kilometers (.93 miles) – yes it was straight up!   But it was steep enough that there wasn’t any mud!   Whew!  It gave you the feeling that it was easy since it was not muddy!   Once I completed the climb though, it was swamp across the tops again, and mud down the other side.   No rest for the weary,  once the track was down, it followed the Rakeahua River with more mud!   By the time I got to the Rakeahua Hut, it was raining and windy – are we adding insult to injury here???   I was glad there was an extra bunk inside as my hammock system can be really noisy in the wind!   It rained and blew all night!

My little “hut family” (3 nights all in the same hut) decided it might be best if we stuck together for the first 3.5 kilometers, since it was “prone to flooding”!   Luckily,  we didn’t lose anyone in the mud holes, and we were treated to seeing a Kiwi wandering through the bush.  Finally we reached the South West Arm of Patterson Inlet.   It still was a long wet, muddy, way – but at last Fred’s Hut came into view, and I was relieved that I had gotten there!

All three days of hiking, I was coming in 2 hours over the track times!   It was exhausting because you had to be totally focused on every step!   After the falling over backwards into the mud, I also went in up to my mid-thigh twice.  One time, I really was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to get out – there wasn’t anything to “push off” from, and one of my legs was stuck!   Since I am here writing this, obviously I was able to extract myself!

Each night at the huts, I had quite the time washing off all the mud on my legs, gaiters and clothes.   (When I got back to Bluff, I had to wash my pack!)

I had built in an extra day for this trip, in case I ran into swollen streams or really bad rain.   So I thought I would have an extra day at Fred’s Hut recuperating.    But the water taxi was able to get in touch with those of us there, and they asked to come get us a day earlier because there was another big storm on the way!   So instead of going out on Saturday and taking the ferry on Sunday, I came out on Friday and hopped on the Friday afternoon ferry back to Bluff (another “little white bag” crossing!).

Of all the tracks I have done in New Zealand, I usually am up for doing them again.   But I think that the Southern Circuit on Stewart Island will be a ONE time experience!



  1. Oh my gosh! I hate mud! I hate even small amounts of mud! I don’t know how you did this. You are totally amazing!

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