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Stafford Bay is approximately 50 km south of the Haast Junction near the Jackson Bay Okahu wharf. The tracks and routes in the area can be challenging and are recommended for fit and well-equipped trampers.

Track overview

Walking and tramping

4 hr one way Advanced: Tramping track
Expert: Route

Dog access

No dogs

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 (recommended)

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 metres upstream of the beach.

Stafford Hut.

Stafford Hut

Category: Standard
Facilities: 6 bunk beds, heating, mattresses
Bookings not required - first come, first served

Alternative route for experienced trampers only: Smoothwater River to Stafford Bay - coastal route

Time: 4 hr, 5.8 km

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 one and a half 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.

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

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

Getting there

The route to Stafford Bay starts at a small car park approximately 500 metres before Jackson Bay Okahu. Jackson Bay Okahu is approximately 50 kilometres from Haast Junction.

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.

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.

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
Address:   Haast Junction
Corner SH6 and Jackson Bay Road
South Westland
Full office details
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