Introduction

View a daily track description and walking times for Rakiura/Stewart Island's Southern Circuit Track. It is a remote, challenging tramping experience and requires a high level of fitness and good route-finding skills.

The track traverses the low-lying Freshwater and Rakeahua Valleys, then heads across to Doughboy and Mason Bay.

The easiest way to start and finish the Southern Circuit is to arrange a water-taxi pick-up or drop-off at Freshwater Landing, Freds Camp or Rakeahua Hut. This allows you to avoid some of the sections most prone to flooding. You can also walk the circuit to and from Halfmoon Bay/Oban but need to allow another 2–4 days to complete it.

During heavy rain flooding is likely in low lying areas. Caution is required especially in the Rakeahua and Freshwater valleys.

The track crosses the swampy freshwater valley.
The track crosses wetlands in the Freshwater and Rakeahua valleys

Halfmoon Bay to North Arm Hut

Time: 5 hr
Distance: 12 km

From Rakiura National Park Visitor Centre, turn left and follow Main Road. Turn right along Kaipipi Road until reaching the sign marking the start of Ryan's Creek, Fern Gully, Kaipipi Bay and North Arm tracks. Continue until just before Kaipipi Bay. The track to North Arm is signposted on the right.

North Arm Hut

North Arm to Freshwater Hut

Time: 6–7 hr
Distance: 11 km

freshwater to freds camp. Photo: B Mudie.
These sections are prone to flooding after heavy rain

This section of track is steep and often slippery, crossing over Thompson Ridge. During periods of heavy rain, some creeks on this track may become impassable.

Freshwater Hut

Freshwater Hut to Freds Camp Hut

Time: 5 hr
Distance: 10 km

The track starts directly opposite Freshwater Hut and travels down the swampy Freshwater valley to Tolson River – this areais prone to flooding. After crossing the river by swing bridge thetrack enters the forest, traversing undulating country to FredsCamp Hut (10 bunks).

Freds Camp Hut to Rakeahua Hut

Time: 5 hr
Distance: 12 km

SW Arm from Doughboy hill. Photo B.Dobbins.
South West Arm from the top of Doughboy hill

The track follows close to the shore of Paterson Inlet’s South West Arm and then the banks of the Rakeahua River. Rakeahua Hut is about 3 km upstream from the mouth. Note: After heavy rain the area near Rakeahua Hut is prone to flooding

Rakeahua Hut

Side trip: Mt Rakeahua

Time: 5 hr return
Distance: 9 km

The track climbs through forest and subalpine scrubland to a rocky summit with great views. The track is marked by poles above the bush line.

Rakeahua Hut to Doughboy Bay Hut

Time: 8 hr
Distance: 16 km

Doughboy at last. Photo: Gary Cocker
Doughboy Bay

The track climbs gradually up the Rakeahua valley – after heavy rain the early part of this track becomes waist deep in water. The track continues through forest, semi-open scrubland and bog fields, then steeply descends into Doughboy Bay. An hut is at the north end of the beach.

Doughboy Bay Hut

Doughboy Bay Hut to Mason Bay Hut

Time: 6 - 7 hr
Distance: 18 km

The track climbs steeply up Adams Hill and across the swampy summit before descending through forest to Cavalier Creek on Mason Bay. Walk north along the beach to Duck Creek. The track to Mason Bay Hut is marked by buoys attached to a pole.

Mason Bay Hut

The track runs along beautiful Mason Bay. Photo: Gary Cocker.
The track route runs along Mason Bay

Mason Bay Hut to Freshwater Hut

Time: 3–4 hr
Distance: 15.5 km

Follow the track to the Island Hill homestead and then over flat tussock and mānuka country to Freshwater River and Freshwater Hut. Note: This track is often flooded during periods of heavy rain.

Freshwater Hut

Side trip: Rocky Mountain Track

Time: 3 hr return
Distance: 5 km

A climb from behind the Freshwater Hut, through forest andsubalpine scrubland to rock outcrops, gives panoramic viewsover the Freshwater Flats and Paterson inlet.

Freshwater Hut to North Arm Hut

Time: 6–7 hr
Distance: 11 km

This section of track is steep and often slippery. It crosses overThompson Ridge to the North Arm of Paterson Inlet. North Arm has a Great Walk hut and campsite. Note: During periods of heavy rain, some creeks on this track may become impassable.

North Arm Hut to Halfmoon Bay

Time: 5 hr
Distance: 12 km

The track traverses above North Arm to Sawdust Bay. From the former sawmill site the track cuts across a low headland to reach Kidney Fern Arm in Prices Inlet, and continues through forest for another hour before emerging at Kaipipi Bay. From there it follows the former Kaipipi Road to Halfmoon Bay.

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