Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island huts and camping

For much of the year the huts of the Northwest Circuit, and even less travelled Southern Circuit, are well under-utilised, weeks can go by in winter without use. In summer there’s more likelihood of fellow inhabitants, particularly Port William and North Arm, the huts for the more popular, and shorter, Rakiura Track.

Many of the huts may also be shared with hunting groups, after the elusive white-tailed deer, who can book a hunting block for up to 10 days and generally arrive by means of transportation that might not be primarily involve the use of feet, ie, helicopter or water taxi, and therefore arrive with the whole ensemble for total hut comfort which can get spread around and in any case the actual hunting may not be the primary objective.

There are specific hunting huts, Cavalier Hunters hut is representative, which means at least the Christmas Village and Mason Bay huts are guaranteed hunter free. There are also dedicated hunter’s campsites which at least have a long drop toilet and a stream nearby, but they are for the exclusive use of said hunters. January (holidays) to June (end of the deer roaring season) is the main hunting period.

Camping is technically possible in areas outside the huts but in view of the additional weight factor—-there’s a requirement to lug more than a week’s food supply over generally strenuous terrain—the soggy nature of the camping area substrate, the variable nature of the weather which when inclement can be dismal, and the general lack of other trampers in huts makes carrying a tent surplus to requirements for all but the most hardcore.

Oh, camping on the short Rakiura Track is not such a bad idea, the campsites all have a kitchen shelter, water, longdrop toilet, etc.

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Big Hellfire or Hellfire Pass Hut | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

Big Hellfire Hut, North-west Circuit, Stewart Island

Almost at the top of the hill it’s big days either side of this hut, Mason Bay or East Ruggedy.

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Bungaree Hut | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

Bungaree Hut, North-west Circuit, Stewart Island

Great site perched over Big Bungeree Beach with a terrific view along the beach and out over Foveaux Strait.

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Cavalier Hunters Hut | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

exterior Cavalier Hunter's hut, Mason Bay, Stewart Island

The Cavalier Hunters Hut is another newish Stewart Island hunter’s hut. Not for use by casual trampers. Close to Mason Bay beach, down the south end, so there’s plenty of firewood around.

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Christmas Village Hut | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

Christmas Village Hut, North-west Circuit, Stewart Island

The 1970s Christmas Village hut is close to the bouldery beach in a small clearing but a long way from anything that might resemble a “village” in it’s usual definition.

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Diprose Bay campsite | Tin Range, Stewart Island

This is about the only spot to pitch a tent, not big.  | Diprose Bay campsite, Tin Range, Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

At the Diprose Bay campsite it’s possible to find one levelish spot for a two person tent in this old cutting adjacent to the end of the tramline, but there’s not many alternative level, dry spots to whack up your tent.

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Doughboy Bay Cave | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

Doughboy cave, Southern Circuit, Stewart Island

For those with a sense of history there’s always this cave to sleep in.

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Doughboy Hut | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

Doughboy Bay Hut, Southern Circuit, Stewart Island

If you want to feel remote and away from civilisation this is as good a spot as any. There are huts further south in NZ but only with boat access.

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East Ruggedy Hut | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

East Ruggedy Hut, North-west Circuit, Stewart Island

Just behind the East Ruggedy hut is a splendid grove of mature rimu trees with an understory carpet of Blechnum, ie, crown fern. Real nice.

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Freds Camp Hut | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

Freds Camp Hut, Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

Perched over the beach with an unobstructed view across Patterson Inlet/Whaka a Te Wera it’s great place to watch the colours change with the sunrise.

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Freshwater Landing Hut | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

Freshwater Hut, Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

The hut is an increasingly large clearing adjacent to the extreme brown, ie, tannic, Freshwater River.

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Long Harry Hut | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

Long Harry Hut, North-west Circuit, Stewart Island

Maybe the most exciting hut location on the island, on a clearing near a cliff top, overlooking the ocean and looking over to Fiordland. A good opportunity to seek out that elusive kiwi, you can hear them in the evening.

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Maori Beach campsite | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

Maori Beach Campsite, Rakiura Track, Stewart Island

6 grassy camping sites away from any hut and near the beach, you will hear it crashing all night. Not much left of the nearby sawmill and school that closed down in 1931, just some rusting machinery.

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Martins Creek Hunters Hut | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

| Martins Creek Hunters hut, Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

Martins Creek Hunters Hut is not actually a DOC hut, this is a hut built by a group of hunting enthusiasts. It’s not for use by casual trampers.

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Mason Bay Hut | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

Mason Bay Hut, North-west Circuit, Stewart Island

This 1970s hut, 15 minutes walk from the actual Mason Bay Beach, is the most acclaimed spot in NZ to get down with kiwis in their natural state. Plenty of people either fly onto the beach or do the walk from the water taxi dropoff at Freshwater Landing so can have more patronage than some of the other huts.

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Mt Allen Lake, north end campsite | Tin Range, Stewart Island

The setting is great, the campsite verging on inadequate.  | Mt Allen lake, northside campsite, Tin Range, Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

Looking at a map you might initially think that the Mt Allen Lake, north end campsite is the obvious spot to camp at the midway point of the Tin Range route, but the reality is that the cleared area here is small and none too level.

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Mt Allen Lake, south end campsite | Tin Range, Stewart Island

Probably a better campsite at the south end of the lake.   | Mt Allen lake, south side campsite, Tin Range, Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

The Mt Allen Lake, south end campsite is overall a larger and more sheltered spot to pitch your tent than the north end of the lake, but the reality is that the Twin Pools Crossing campsite is much more compelling.

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new Homestead Hunters Hut | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

The new Homestead Hunters Hut is another newish Stewart Island hunter’s hut. Not for use by casual trampers. On the edge of manuka scrub so there’s plenty of firewood around.

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North Arm campsite | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

North Arm camping area, Rakiura Track, Stewart Island

Four new sandy camping sites two minutes walk from the North Arm Hut, uphill, set among rimu forest trees.

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North Arm campsite, Port Pegasus | Tin Range, Stewart Island

Guess you can clear some stray vegetation here to whack up your tent. | North Arm, Port Pegasus campsite, Tin Range, Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

At the North Arm campsite, Port Pegasus, there’s some areas devoid of most low level vegetation where it’s possible to accommodate a tent, but in general the surface here is on a significant incline.

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North Arm Hut | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

North Arm Hut, Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

Sited above a beach—too shallow to swim, but it does reveal blue mussels at full low tide on the rocks—with a corker view over the inlet.

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old Homestead Hunters Hut | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

The old Homestead Hunters Hut is not so far from the new, and is in a fairly derelict state, guess it’s strictly for emergency shelter.

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Port William campsite | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

Port William Campsite, Rakiura Track, Stewart Island

6 grassy camping sites two minutes walk from the Port William Hut, set in a, mostly, sheltered spot near the beach.

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Port William Hut | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

Port William Hut, Rakiura Track, Stewart Island 1

Sited at the location of an early settlement from the 1870s although little evidence remains except for the large gum trees.

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Rakeahua Hut | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

Rakeahua Hut, Southern Circuit, Stewart Island

An old style 1970s NZFS hut, the last on the NW/S circuits, with the open fire replaced with a firebox, and surrounded by eight ancient, majestic cypress trees.

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Tolson River hunter’s campsite | Southern Circuit, Rakiura National Park

This is the rather obscure turnoff from the southern circuit track. | Tolson River hunter’s campsite, Southern Circuit, Rakiura National Park

Not much there in the way of amenities, but it is dry, and there is sufficient space for a few tents.

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Tramline campsite | Tin Range, Stewart Island

You kind of feel you are at the end of the Earth here. Guess you are. | Tramline campsite, Tin Range, Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

The biggest campsite in the Tin Range, but not so well located, close to the southern end of the route.

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Tramline Dam campsite | Tin Range, Stewart Island

Looks as if others have found this spot over the years.. | Tramline dam campsite, Tin Range, Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

The best campsite in the Tin Range, but not so well located, close to the southern end of the route. At least it is mostly sheltered and there’s grass.

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Twin Pool Crossing campsite | Tin Range, Stewart Island

That's the setting, and there's permanent water flow there as well. | Twin Pools Crossing campsite, Tin Range, Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

The Twin Pool Crossing campsite is most obvious camping site in the Tin Range, close to the halfway point of the route. Obvious because of the permanent water supply in the creek, you could even have a dip here on a warm day in a choice of plunge pools, combined with a flattish area that is mostly devoid of scrub and tussock covering.

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West Ruggedy Cave | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

West Ruggedy Cave, Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

The West Ruggedy Cave has to be one of the whackiest places to stay you could find, an open cave with an amazing view out to Codfish Island/Whenua Hou just out to the west.

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Yankee River Hut | Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island

Yankee River Hut, North-west Circuit, Stewart Island

On a small clearing overlooking the tidal Yankee River, that drains Mt Anglem/Hananui, with a short walk to the beach where you may see the famous yellow eyed penguins, the world’s rarest penguin.