South Coast Track Fiordland NZ: Waitutu to Westies:

I can’t believe it is two years ago we were there. Time for another trip. We have not seen Long Point, the Slaughter Burn, Big River…I was reminded of this by our jet boat pilot (Roffy) posting this on Facebook yesterday. The trip out to Westies is the journey of a lifetime. Do not be put off this trip. It is wonderfully worth the effort. After the first half hour it is a fine (mostly dry) track with many interesting features. Here and there you can step a few yards off it for wonderful views of the sea.


It is possible to walk much of the distance along the beach. The first half hour on the beach is mainly stones so you may prefer the section of wet track which is an alternative. After half an hour on the  track there is an well-marked exit to the beach. You can walk all the way to the Grant Burn, just after which you can rejoin/exit the track. You can easily walk from the Grant Burn to the Aarn River and rejoin the track there (we did). I believe you could walk along further to the next major stream and easily walk up the dry ridge on the true left bank of it to rejoin the track.


Walking along the beach is probably OK from half tide (ie three hours before) to low tide and maybe for an hour after that. You have to remember that it will take over an hour to walk from the beach entrance a half hour after the Waitutu to the Grant Burn, then a bit over an hour again to the Aarn River. There are a couple of points you would not get around at a higher tide and the rocks would become very slippery, so you have to watch the tide and the condition of the sea. Only do this if you know what you are doing. Allow three hours. High tide could trap you in such a way it would be impossible to climb cliffs to escape the sea. Walking from the Waitutu to the stream after the Aarn River would cut off over 3-4 hours of what for us would otherwise be a seven hour plus walk. The two river crossings (walkwires) split the trip almost exactly in three – about 2 ½ hours each.


Just after the Grant Burn (400 metres) the next stream is flooded by its mouth being blocked. It is more or less a swim, ie not ‘Della-able’– which is why we walked along the beach. We marked the way to (and from) the beach with orange tape.

To begin: Crossing the Waitutu:


Beach at the Waitutu looking West:


Looking up the Waitutu River:


Della doing repairs to my pack on the Waitutu verandah:


View from the hut verandah of the Waitutu:


Half an hour from the Waitutu looking West (walkable):


‘Like snow upon the desert’s dusky face’


And mud actually:


Old telegraph ‘pole’. They used to just cut the top off a tree!


Crossing the Grant Burn:


Flooded stream we could not cross just after the Grant Burn:


Grant Burn looking East:


Red billed shearwaters:


A warm DOC hut we found:


It was small enough our body heat easily warmed it:


Grant Burn looking West:


Looking back towards the Grant Burn from Knife and Steel Harbour:


Approaching Knife and Steel:


Knife and Steel: the old hut (white dots) would have been a welcome sight.

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The old winch at Knife and Steel once used to pull fishing boats up on the beach.


Remains of the old hut at Knife and Steel after DOC had their way with it:


Blue crane and redbilled shearwaters:


Looking back towards Knife and Steel:

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Here and there streams simply cascade down onto the beach:


Aarn River looking West; still walkable:


Aarn River:


Remains of the Aarn River hut:


Aarn River walkwire:


Near the stream after the Aarn River someone has thoughtfully erected a bosun’s chair for the weary traveller:

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I think you could walk along the beach to the first stream after the Aarn:

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One more river to cross:

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Fungal surprises along the way:

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Most of the way out to Westies the track is dry and easy:

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With many glimpses of the sea:


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A final stream crossing:


First view of Price’s Harbour – Westies is not in the cave on this (Eastern) headland:


It is on the other side of this Western headland:


A steep descent to Westies Hut and you are there:

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See also:

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