A chance to glimpse a kiwi in the wild, experience the spectacular dune environment and wild west coast beach and learn about the natural history and early European history of the area… View an array of ecosystems and wilderness habitats, from east to west coast and across Stewart Island's interior. Enjoy a variety of native and endemic birds and plants, including orchids in season. Experience a stay in a backcountry hut!
See also Kiwi, Dunes & Beach, which offers an extra day at Mason Bay to explore the dune and beach environment.
The middle section of Stewart Island from west to east coast comprises: Mason Bay, the Freshwater Flats / Freshwater Valley and Paterson Inlet.
Mason Bay has approximately 14 kms (9 miles) of curved beach, one of the most extensive natural sand dune systems in New Zealand with native coastal plants, some sea and shore birds and a population of kiwi. A great place to go kiwi spotting, enjoy the stunning seascape, watch the surface crash on the beach and feel at one with nature!
Coastal forest, tussock, grasses and scrub surround Mason Bay. Further inland, the surrounding northern and southern hills slope down to an extensive wetland area - the Freshwater Flats. A multitude of creeks that run through the flats feed water into Freshwater River. The river meanders down to its estuary at the start of Paterson Inlet, releasing tannin stained water and silt. The changing habitat, allows a variety of native and endemic birds and plants to exist in the area.
Our trips provide an opportunity to discover kiwi habitat, listen to kiwi calling in the night and with some luck, actually seeing a kiwi. Our success rate for sighting kiwi is about 90%, with 80% seen during the daytime. Kiwi are wild birds and sightings are not guaranteed. It is a privilege to see a kiwi, an experience that many clients never forget!
We offer 2 regular trip options:
Option 1: Boat In / Boat Out
Option 2: Fly In / Boat Out
Additionally: A customised option fly in / fly out, may be possible at extra cost, subject to our availability, participant numbers and timings.
Important: From 15th December 2021, all persons aged 12 years must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to stay in Department of Conservation huts and campgrounds. Vaccine passes must be presented to Department of Conservation wardens at these facilities.
Note: This is an active trip.
Note: This trip allows more time to explore around Mason Bay, at a more comfortable pace.
Mason Bay and the Freshwater Valley, Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island.
We stay at Mason Bay Hut, which is operated by the Department of Conservation. Facilities are shared with other independent hikers.
Mason Bay Hut does not have a hut booking system. In the event that the hut is full, we have stored tents and sleeping mats for our clients at Mason Bay.
Facilities at the hut include: Sleeping area, separated from kitchen/communal area. The sleeping area is partitioned into three areas, two with 4 bunks each, and one with 12 bunks. The bunks have mattresses. The kitchen has work benches, sinks with cold running water, tables and seating. There is an outside washbasin with cold running water and long drop toilets.
We provide healthy meals and snacks (plus the sweet things too), with local seafood where possible. We cater for most dietary requirements.
Meals on our trips include:
Day 1: Lunch, pre-dinner snacks, dinner, hot drinks. Snacks during the day.
Day 2: Breakfast, lunch, hot drinks. Snacks during the day.
Meal arrangements can vary depending on the timing of our trips.
Contact us for customised packages to include travel to and from Stewart Island by ferry or plane and accommodation before and / or after your guided walk.
To appreciate the diversity that Stewart Island has to offer, we recommend that you come on the following tour:
Some commonly seen birds include:
Land birds: Kiwi, Stewart Island robin, Stewart Island fern bird, New Zealand pipit, tui, bellbird, South Island tomtit, fantail, grey warbler, red-crowned parakeet, wood pigeon, kingfisher, brown creeper, Australasian harrier, skylark, chaffinch, dunnock.
Sea birds: Little blue penguins.
Shore birds: Black-backed gull, red-billed gull, variable oystercatcher, banded dotterel, Stewart Island shag, pied shag, white-fronted tern, black swan.
Note: Southern New Zealand dotterel are seen on some trips.
The flora is varied and includes podocarps on the slopes of the Freshwater Valley, manuka, wetland plants including mosses and lichen, tussock, scrub, flax, coastal and dune plants and a variety of orchid species.
"Furhana led us through constantly changing vistas of bush and wetland, pointing out native birds along the way, including the Stewart Island robin and fernbird. Nothing could have prepared us for our first sighting of a Stewart Island brown kiwi, though – foraging on the forest floor in broad daylight, while we quietly looked on.
Climbing the dunes and standing on the vast, empty beach at Mason Bay was a beautiful end to the day's walk (sore feet aside!), rounded off with a dinner of fresh blue cod at the hut where we would spend the night before journeying back the next day."
Meet at the Ruggedy Range™ Booking Office for our trip briefing.
This is an opportunity to meet your guide and other participants. We provide some general information about your hike, ensure you have the right gear for the trip, inform you about what is involved and answer any questions. The trip briefing is a mandatory part of our tour, for approximately 1 hour and generally held the day prior to your tour from 6.00 to 7.00 pm.
Meet with your guide and take our water taxi westward to the head of Paterson Inlet, then northwest along Freshwater River into the interior of Stewart Island. Richly stained by tannin, this winding primeval river is flanked by manuka (tea tree), ferns and mosses. Arrive at Freshwater Landing about 45 minutes later.
Enjoy birdlife including, the friendly Stewart Island robin and fernbirds, flora and orchids in season on your trek along Freshwater Flats to Mason Bay, through manuka scrub and board walked wetland. There is also evidence of kiwi to mull over and sometimes a surprise daytime sighting! Stay at Mason Bay Hut or camp nearby, nestled amongst forest-covered dunes a short 15 minutes walk from spectacular Mason Bay Beach. Time permitting, we take a look at the surrounding rolling dunes and beach environment and watch the surf crashing on the beach.
In the evening, the search for kiwi begins, listen to their shrill calls. Kiwi are wild birds and sightings are not guaranteed. Seeing a kiwi is a privilege and experience never to forget! Take in the breathtaking Milky Way and southern stars on clear days.
An early morning start as we continue our search for kiwi and other native and endemic birds on our way back to Freshwater Landing. Relax in our water taxi as you travel back down Freshwater River and across Paterson Inlet to Golden Bay Wharf. Transfers provided to Oban, Halfmoon Bay.
This trip is similar to Option 1, differences are noted below (please also read information in Option 1).
Meet with your guide to check in for your flight to Mason Bay. Enjoy an exhilarating, scenic flight across to Mason Bay (10 - 15 minutes). Take in stunning views of Paterson Inlet, the winding Freshwater River, wetland dunes and Mason Bay. Land on the spectacular beach at Mason Bay.
We make our way to Mason Bay Hut where we stay or camp nearby. Today, we have the day to explore the surrounding dune and beach environment, spend time bird watching and botanising, and learning about the history of the area. In the evening we search for kiwi.
An early morning start as we hike eastwards to Freshwater Landing taking our time to enjoy birdlife, flora and changing vegetation along the way, with perhaps a chance sighting of a kiwi on our journey. Relax on our water taxi along the Freshwater River and across Paterson Inlet. Arrive at Golden Bay Wharf about 45 minutes later. Transfers provided to Oban, Halfmoon Bay.
Boat in/out: NZ $695.00 per person
Fly in/boat out: NZ $895.00 per person
Boat in/out: NZ $595.00 per person
Fly in/boat out: NZ $795.00 per person
Boat in/out: Trip briefing, guided hike, transfers to/from Golden Bay Wharf, water taxi to/from Freshwater River, meals, snacks, hot drinks, hut/camp fees, use of tent/sleeping mats if required, use eating and cooking equipment, Department of Conservation fees, admin costs.
Fly in/boat out: As above, plus Mason Bay flight.
Important: If your booking is for less than the minimum for either half or full day trip, check to see if we have achieved the minimum or, we can reserve spaces, whilst we await further bookings.
2 Days + 1 Night
Day 1: 15.5 kms (10 miles) to Mason Bay and 3 kms (1 mile) for kiwi spotting.
Day 2: 15.5 kms (10 miles) to Freshwater Landing.
Fly in/boat out:
Day1: Approx. 10 kms (6 miles) around Mason Bay and 3 kms (1 mile) for kiwi spotting.
Day 2: 15.5 kms (10 miles) to Freshwater Landing. Additional 3 kms (1 mile) for kiwi spotting.
Flat except for dunes. Includes, dunes, beach, bare track, some boardwalk, large sections of mud and tree roots.
Track conditions are subject to change from dry to wet periods, with occasional flooding in the wetland area.
All trip times are dependent on tides - which vary day to day.
Boat in/out: Day 1 - depart approx. midday. Day 2 - return approx. mid-afternoon.
Fly in/out: Day 1 - depart approx. early morning. Day 2 - return approx. late afternoon/early evening.
Ruggedy Range™ Booking Office
Good fitness essential. This is an active trip especially the boat in/out option, with early morning start and late night finish.
Not suitable for children below the age of 12 years.
Additional dates (including off-season) may be available subject to feasibility and staff availability. Please contact us.
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