The tracks and routes in the Stafford Bay area can be challenging and are recommended for fit and well-equipped trampers.

Track overview

Walking and tramping

4 hr one way Expert: Route

Dog access

Dogs with a DOC permit only. Contact the relevant DOC office to obtain a permit.

About this track


Jackson Bay to Smoothwater River tramping track

Time: 45 min, 2.7 km

The track initially climbs steeply away from the road until it joins a historic track, which once formed part of the road. Follow this well-marked tramping track to the Smoothwater River.

Kakapo Creek. Photo: K Henderson.
Kakapo Creek

Smoothwater River to Stafford Hut - inland route

Rrecommended route

Time: 3 hr, 7 km

Beyond the Smoothwater River junction the track becomes a route - backcountry experience and navigation skills are essential. Follow the Smoothwater River upstream for about 20 minutes, crossing as necessary until Kakapo Creek (the first major creek) flows in on the true left. Look for the large orange marker here.

The marked track goes up Kakapo Creek, crossing it several times as well as using the creek bed as the route. After about an hour, the track veers away from the creek to the right and starts to climb to Stafford Saddle. From the saddle, the route sidles before dropping, steeply at times, to a creek. Follow the creek downstream; it may be easier to follow the true left bank in places due to windfall trees in the creek bed.

The ground levels out shortly before the creek meets the Stafford River. Follow the river downstream, crossing where necessary until markers on the true left mark the short track to Stafford Hut, which is located 200 m upstream of the beach.

Smoothwater River to Stafford Bay - coastal route

Alternative route for experienced trampers only

Time: 4 hr, 5.8 km

Rocky coastline on Stafford Bay Route.
Rocky coastline on Stafford Bay Route

Warning: Due to the steep coastal terrain and numerous rocky and slippery sections, the majority of this route is unmarked and should only be attempted by people with a high level of backcountry experience and navigation skills. This route is only possible starting 2 hours before low tide from Smoothwater Bay and only when sea conditions are calm.

Follow the track from the car park to Smoothwater River, which takes about 45 minutes. Head downstream along the bush track that follows the Smoothwater River. Alternatively, if the river is low you can walk down the river, crossing where needed. It should take around 1.5 hours to reach Smoothwater Bay.

From Smoothwater Bay the track becomes a route. Head south to Stafford Bay - there is a difficult, rocky bluff section prone to sea surges about five minutes after leaving Smoothwater Bay, which requires fording coastal pools. Further down the coast there are two very steep headlands either side of Homminy Cove that require great care.

Once you have crossed both headlands continue south along the coast until you reach Stafford River. Stafford Hut is 150 m up the river, on the true left. 

Warning: Do not attempt this coastal track in the reverse direction. If the tide or sea conditions are not suitable you are likely to get stranded along the coast.

Getting there

Jackson Bay is 51 km south of Haast along the Haast-Jackson Bay Road.

The route to Stafford Bay starts at a small car park approximately 500 m before Jackson Bay. 

Know before you go

  • Check the latest conditions at the Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitor Centre in Franz Josef or the Haast Visitor Centre before leaving - conditions can change rapidly.
  • The best seasons to go are summer and autumn.
  • Carry a personal locator beacon.
  • True left and true right refer to the side of the valley or river when facing and looking downstream.

Crossing the Smoothwater.  Photo: K Henderson
Crossing the Smoothwater River

Experience and conditions: This route is suitable for well-equipped and experienced backcountry trampers and climbers only.

The time given is a guide only and will vary greatly with fitness and weather conditions. Tramping in this area is very demanding and you should allow plenty of time to reach your planned destination.

Maps: NZTopo50: BY10, pt BZ10 Jackson Bay

Hazards: Flooded rivers, rockfall, steep grades, coastal travel/tidal and rouge waves. This trip should not be attempted when it is raining, rain is forecast or the river is running high. The coastal route is only possible within 2 hours either side of low tide.

The route to Stafford Bay crosses rivers and numerous creeks, which all flood quickly during rainfall. Do not attempt to cross flooded rivers and side streams – wait until water levels have dropped. This route should not be attempted in poor weather.

Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.


Awarua / Haast Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 750 0809
Fax:   -
Address:   Haast Junction
Corner SH6 and Jackson Bay Road
South Westland
Postal Address:   PO Box 50
Haast 7844
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