Stafford Bay Route

Track category

Tramping track


4 hours one way


Jackson Bay to Smoothwater River tramping track

Time: 1 hour

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

Smoothwater River to Stafford Hut route

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

Time: 3 hours

Beyond the Smoothwater River junction the track becomes a route. Backcountry experience and navigation skills are required. 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. Once the saddle is reached, the route sidles before dropping, steeply at times, to a creek. This creek is then followed downstream, and due to a number of windfalls in the creek-bed, it may be easier to follow the true left bank in parts.

Flats are reached shortly before the confluence with the Stafford River. Follow the river, crossing where necessary until markers on the true left mark the short track to the hut, which is located a short distance upstream of the beach.

Return the way you came, or if the tides are right and the sea is calm take the alternative coastal route.

Stafford Bay Hut. Photo: K Henderson
Stafford Bay hut

Smoothwater River to Stafford Bay via the coast

Time: 4 hours

Due to the steep coastal environment, sections of the coastline are unmarked and should only be attempted by people with a high level of backcountry experience.

This route is only possible within 2 hours either side of low tide, and only when the sea is calm. There are numerous rocky and slippery sections, so it should only be attempted by experienced parties.

Cross the Stafford River and head north along the beach. Past Dandys Creek, you may need to head off the coast, into the bush for a short section. The headlands on either side of Homminy Cove should be crossed following the roughly marked routes across their necks (narrowest part of the headlands). There is a particularly difficult section of steep rocky coast a few hundred metres before reaching the Smoothwater. From Smoothwater Bay, follow the Smoothwater Track up the river for approximately 1 hour until the track back to Jackson Bay Okahu is reached. It is approximately 1 hour from here to the car park.

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.

Places to stay

Grassy flats nearby are also suitable for camping.

Plan and prepare

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.

Best season

Summer and autumn


NZTopo50: BY10, pt BZ10 Jackson Bay


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.

Safety is your responsibility

  • 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.
  • Carry a personal locator beacon.
  • 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 (external site) 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.

Note: True left and true right refer to the side of the valley or river when facing and looking downstream.

Related link

Stafford Bay Route brochure (PDF, 508K)


Find out more


DOC maps: Discover the outdoors - DOC's key places, campsites, tracks and huts, and visitor centres on a map


Follow the Outdoor Safety Code:
1. Plan your trip
2. Tell someone
3. Be aware of the weather
4. Know your limits
5. Take sufficient supplies

Alerts for West Coast places


Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitor Centre
Phone:      +64 3 752 0796
Address:   13 State Highway 6
Franz Josef Glacier 7856
Full office details
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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