Wills – Stafford –Motatapu December 2015

Trip Stafford Bay (Wills – Stafford –Motatapu) December 2015

Trip Stafford Bay.

Dates Friday 4th December through Sunday 6th December.

Participants Wayne, Jim, Stephen.


A route in south Westland linking Jackson Bay with Stafford Bay. A well-marked route with track and river fording and the 243m Stafford Saddle to cross. A rugged low-tide coastal route was a return option but we chose not to take it due to time constraints.


Day#1 started in sunny conditions beside the calm waters of Jackson Bay with a reasonable turn-out of sandflies to see us off. A good track through lush forest led to the Smoothwater River where the river became the route. Doubts about its level after the steady, sometimes heavy, rain of the previous day were dispelled, though the flow rate of the crystal clear water was to be respected despite not rising above thigh-level. Before long we reached Kakapo Creek where the route left the Smoothwater to continue up it. Frequent fording was required between sections of track. Eventually the track began a prolonged ascent to the forested 243m Stafford Saddle. The descent to an unnamed creek was notably steeper and upon reaching it that became the route which took us to the Stafford River which was then itself the route. We walked in water as much as out of it. As we made progress down the river the fording grew more difficult as more side creeks joined the river and on the last two we linked-up to cross safely. These were to be the last however as we reached the track leading to the 6-bunk Stafford Hut located a short distance upstream from the river mouth at Stafford Bay. A very reasonable turn-out of sandflies welcomed us and we noted the sandfly cemetery on the windowsill. With rain forecast we did a quick recce of the beach, passing a derelict tractor beside the track – a relic of deer-hunting days in the 1970s. Penguin and deer sightings were possibilities; we never saw the former but noted footprints of the latter.

Day #2 was mostly a hut day as the weather was wet. We explored a little of the coast south of the Stafford River mouth, enduring the sandflies, slippery rocks and rain. Five star fish in a rock pool were safe from the sandflies. No penguins or seals. We’d been back at the hut about 10 minutes when the rain stopped and the sun shone. A day of crosswords, conversation, reading, eating and rest.

Day #3 saw the return of fine sunny weather – and the river had not risen from the rain of the previous day! In fact we felt it was lower than when we’d walked in, easier to traverse. Wayne noted how a small tree had been killed by a deer rubbing its’ antlers against it. Overall, a laidback day retracing our route in. The sandfly welcoming party was waiting at Jackson Bay. To make our trip complete we had a fish-and-chip lunch at The Craypot, the appropriately named takeaway tram in the village. Perfect!

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