Showing posts with label Quail Island Hut. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Quail Island Hut. Show all posts

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

The newest DOC hut: Otamahua...

Otamahua Hut opens on Quail Island

New Zealand's newest DOC hut opened over the weekend, it is Otamahua Hut on Quail Island in the centre of Lyttleton Harbour.

The recently restored Otamahua Hut on Quail Island

This is another step in the Department of Conservation/Rod Donald Trust's long term plan to provide more opportunities for Christchurch residents to enjoy outdoor pursuits on Banks Peninsula.

There are now three DOC huts within an hours drive of the city, all on the DOC Hut booking site. The other two are Rod Donald Hut overlooking Little River/Western Valley and Packhorse Hut on Kaituna Pass.

Conversion of an older building

The hut is a conversion undertaken on the old rangers house located on the northern western side of the island, it was also previously the Heritage Centre for Quail Island. The new hut has been configured as a serviced 12 bunk hut, with a separate hut wardens quarters so it can be used for work parties to the island.

It has all the features of a DOC serviced hut: bunks, tables, water source, toilets and wood burner with wood provided.

I mentioned the ongoing conversion in a post I wrote after visiting Quail Island in January 2018, it has taken nearly10 months to be completed but is now open and ready to be used over the 2018/19 Christmas period.  

The hut can be booked on the DOC hut booking page, you can book out the whole hut or just the number of beds you need.Good back-country hut etiquette is to only book the number of places you need, so just do that!

Please don't book out the whole hut so you and the missus can have some 'private time' on Quail Island...other people will want to us it as well. 

Materials waiting inside Otamahua Hut for the conversion to begin in 2017

The hut is great news as it allows people the chance to visit the island and stay overnight while experiencing what it is like to stay in a DOC hut. The track to the hut is very easy to negotiate so this hut can be used by people of all ages: families, children and older folk included.

I can see the hut being used by groups ranging from families, school groups, guides/scouts and groups of older trampers reliving their glory days...

DOC Otamahua/Quail Island Brochure

You can check out the useful brochure about visiting Otamahua/Quail Island on the DOC website...

The completed hut, cica 2019...

I recently visited Otamahua/Quail Island and took some photos of the completed hut. DOC have done a magnificent job of converting the building and a half full intentions bock attests to the popularity of the experience.

Otamahua/Quail Island Hut: a Scout group arriving at the hut

Otamahua/Quail Island Hut: interior photo of the dining area

Opening plaque at Otamahua/Quail Island Hut

Otamahua/Quail Island Hut: interior view of the kitchen

Bunkroom 1 in Otamahua/Quail Island Hut

Bunkroom 2 in Otamahua/Quail Island Hut

Otamahua/Quail Island Hut: excellent wood burner installed

Otamahua/Quail Island Hut: I love those unique and super funky shelf support arms

Rodent proof boxes for your food at Otamahua/Quail Island Hut

Otamahua/Quail Island Hut: beautiful location, excellent hut. 

The new hut is a real jewel and I imagine it will become the first back country hut many, many Cantabrians visit over the coming years...

Damn fine job to all the participants in the build!

A joint venture...

The new hut is a joint venture between the Department of Conservation, Quail Island Ecological Restoration Trust and the Rod Donald Trust. The two trusts largely raised the funds for the renovation while DOC provided the builders to undertake the work. All three will contribute to the upkeep of the hut. 

Map: Otamahua/Quail Island...The new hut is located where the old Heritage Centre was...

Collaborative joint ventures are the way forward when it comes to building new huts and tracks, this one is no exception. DOC are interested in promoting recreation while the Rod Donald Trust is doing a fantastic job of promoting outdoor pursuits on Banks Peninsula. The Ecological Trust have been working for 25 years replanting Otamahua with native trees to restore it to its pre European condition.

All three of their interests dovetail here therefore providing the motive power to get this project off the ground.

View of the interior of Otamahua Hut while under renovation, photo from Rod Donald Trust site

Here is a blub from the DOC page about the history of the hut and Otamahua/Quail Island:


┼îtamahua/Quail Island has a rich history and culture. The Island has been used as a quarantine station for sick immigrants before they were allowed on the mainland. It has also been used to house New Zealand’s only leper colony as well as training animals for early Antarctic expeditions.
The hut was built in approximately 1910, mostly by prisoners of the Lyttelton Jail. It was used as a caretaker’s cottage up until the early 1980s. Between 1906 and 1925, the caretakers provided cooked food for the lepers. In 1982, the hut was converted into the Island’s interpretation centre.

Since being converted into overnight accommodation, the interpretation panels will now be housed in the Immigrant Barracks on Whakamaru Beach (Swimmers Beach).

Completed Otamahua Hut, repainted and ready to be used...

If you would like more information check out this report on the Rod Donald Trust website or have a look at the Otamahua page on the DOC site

Go there and enjoy the views!

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Daytrip to Quail Island: 3rd January 2018

A wee stroll around Quail Island...

I often go for fitness walks along the Port Hills and have often thought it would be fun to re visit Otamahua/Quail Island in the middle of Lyttleton Harbour. The last time I was there was 1984 for a school trip. One day over the summer I thought I have to just do this, so I hopped onto the ferry and went to Quail Island.

Quail Island: access by boat only...

Quail Island from the top of Mt Herbert 2015

Quail Island as viewed from the Port Hills 2016

Quail Island is in the southern corner of Lyttleton harbour and has no direct access by land. It is the plug of the extinct Lyttleton volcano and has hosted over the years farming, whaling, animal/human quarantine, military and ship building roles.

If you want to visit the island you need to catch the BlackCat ferry service to get there.

Lyttleton, Diamond Harbour and Otamahua/Quail Island

The ferry is quite cheap at $15 per child and $30 per adult. No bookings are required you just turn up to the ferry terminus at Lyttleton harbour and pay the people on the ferry. Over the summer the ferry sails at 10.20, 12.20 and 3.30. The trip takes about 10-15 minutes to reach the island.

Please note: there are no potable water sources on the island so make sure you take enough for the duration of your visit. 

Access point for the Quail Island Ferry, Lyttleton Harbour

On-board the Blackcat Ferry to Quail Island

On-board the BlackCat Ferry to Quail Island

You get some great view of the harbour from the ferry, you can see out to the Lyttleton Heads and the full expanse of both the Port Hills and Banks Peninsula. 

Lyttleton Harbour from the Blackcat ferry to Quail Island

Approaching Quail Island on Lyttleton Harbour

Arrival at Otamahua/Quail Island 

 The ferry drops you off at the Quail Island jetty, this is a public jetty so can be used by both the public and government agencies. There is a circuit track right around the perimeter of the island called the Quail Island Track. It is 5.5 km's and takes 2.5 hours to walk around the island.

I took slightly longer as I stopped to visit the highest point of the island Pt. 86, Shipwreck Beach and other historic sites. 

The jetty at Quail Island, note the day shelter in the background

Blackcat Quail Island Ferry disembarking

The tourist hordes...Quail Island Jetty

Lyttleton from the Quail Island jetty

DOC sign, Otamahua/Quail Island jetty

Start of the Quail Island Circuit track

DOC map of Quail Island
Once on the island you can walk either direction to eventually arrive back at the jetty. I was on the 10.20 ferry and was leaving on the 3.30 pm ferry so I had all day to explore points of interest. I would suggest you do this as it gives you plenty of time to enjoy the experience.

 Quail Island: the old quarantine stables

 Quail Island: Track to old lighthouse keepers cottage

 Quail Island: The lighthouse keepers cottage
There are a lot of interpretive panels scattered around the island which give you a potted history of the island use over the years. There are also panels describing the native fauna and flora as the island is the site of a native forest regeneration programme. 

Interpretative sign on the Quail Island Track

A new DOC hut in the making...

A bit of exciting news...the old heritage centre on Quail Island is being converted into a standard 10-12 person DOC hut. The work has already started and is due to be completed some time in April/May of 2018. 

My understanding is that the hut will go straight on the hut booking system as it is so close to Christchurch but that it will not be able to be booked for a large group. This is great news as it adds a really relaxed first hut option for newbie trampers and families.

 Quail Island: the old heritage centre aka Quail Island Hut

 Quail Island: information about the conversion to a standard DOC hut
As you can see DOC is in the process of adding some insulation and bunks to the inside of this old farm house, work has halted for the Christmas break.

The building looks really cool!

 Quail Island: building materials in the new Quail Island Hut

 Quail Island: hut wardens quarters at new Quail Island Hut

Quail Island Hut aka the old heritage centre

Here is an interesting artefact...a whale bone outside the new hut. There was a small whaling operation on Quail Island back in the 1850's but this was short term as the whale population was quickly decimated.

Quail Island Hut...and old whale bone

On the Quail Island Circuit track

Once past the old heritage centre you join the Quail Island Track which skirts the edges of the Island. I walked in a counter clockwise direction so that I could have lunch at the Swimmers Bay picnic area in the early afternoon. 

Lyttleton from the Quail Island Track

 Quail Island:DOC track sign
The track is very gentle and easy to is basically a wide grassy path cut through the long grass that covers the island. There are substantial areas of native planting, when this matures most of the island will be covered with a mix of grass, tussock, bush and dense podocarp forest.

 Quail Island: the Quail Island Track

Regenerating native bush on Quail Island

 Quail Island: area of regenerating native bush

Wards Homestead was the original site of the first farm on the island, all that is left now are some foundations and an old cast iron Challenger stove. 

 Quail Island: Wards Homestead site

Challenger stove at the old Wards Homestead site, Quail Island

As you walk around the island there are some stunning views of the harbour and surrounding hills. It was an overcast day but because it was about 26 degrees Celsius it was very pleasant.

View towards Lyttleton heads from Quail Island Track

 Quail Island: volcanic outflow cliffs

 Quail Island: view of the circuit track around the island

Moody view of Lyttleton Harbour from Quail Island

The Port Hills from Quail Island

Quail Island: the rugged coastline surrounding the island

Diamond Harbour, Mt Herbert from the Quail Island Track

The slight ridge to the right of the photo below is the highest point on the island Pt. 86. There are a number of tracks which reach this point none of which are shown on the topomap for the island.

Another area of regenerating bush on Quail Island

I went for a bit of a side trip to Pt. 86 when I passed by one of the access paths. From the top you can see all of Quail Island, plus a 360 degree panoramic view of all of Lyttleton Harbour.
Quail Island: Highest point on the island- view of Lyttleton

Quail Island: Highest point on the island- Governors Bay and Sugarloaf in distance

Topomap of Otamahua/Quail Island note Pt. 86

Quail Island: Highest point on the island- view of Moepuku Point

Quail Island: Highest point on the island- Moepuku Point and Mt Bradley

Quail Island: Highest point on the island- Mt Herbert Massif

Quail Island: Highest point on the island- Diamond Harbour

Two oddities I spotted on my way to Shipwreck Beach were an old World War Two gun emplacement and a tap for the islands irrigation system. The island had awesome views of Lyttleton so I imagine the emplacement was there in case the port was ever invaded. It was probably a relay station for the 8" guns they had on Godley Heads and the smaller 4" ones on Rippa Island

Quail Island has no flowing water so it is very arid. DOC have a system of water tanks and hose connections all across he island to supply water to the regenerating bush. Once the bush is mature it will retain a certain amount of moisture naturally.  

Quail Island: An old WW2 gun emplacement

Quail Island: irrigation system for native bush

The half way point of the Quail Island Track is near Shipwreck Beach. 

Quail Island: Half way point of the circuit track

Quail Island: Half way point of the circuit track, Sugarloaf in centre of photo

Shipwreck Beach is an old graving point where derelict hulks were dumped in days gone by. As a result there are about half a dozen old wrecks there which you can clearly see in the water. Eventually these will corrode, break down and become a part of the beach sand.

Quail Island: Shipwreck Beach

Quail Island: Shipwreck beach- interpretive panel

Quail Island: Shipwreck beach- one of the ship hulks this is the Durra

The people you can just see coming down to the beach in the photo below nearly walked over the bluff in the middle of the photo. There is no official track down to the beach so please take care if you decide to forge your own. For your own safety stay on the tracks as there are some big cliffs/bluffs you could fall off.

Quail Island: Shipwreck beach- view back up to the circuit track

Quail Island: Shipwreck beach- another of the hulks, this is the Mullogh

Jon at Shipwreck Beach, Quail Island

Officially, DOC do not want you to walk down to the beach as it is a historic site.  However there are a number of paths down the hills to the beach...if you visit (like I did) stay well away from the hulks. 

Do not stand on the hulls like the people in the photo below!

Quail Island: Shipwreck beach- the indistinct track down to the beach

I continued on from Shipwreck Beach and followed the track around the rest of the island to Swimmers Beach where I stopped for some lunch and a lay in the sun for about an hour and a half.

Quail Island: on the track to Swimmers Beach

Moepuku point...closest point between the mainland and Quail Island

As I moved around to the southern side of the island I encountered a lot of Quail running across the track and perched in the trees and bushes. These are not the native quail which originally inhabited the island but exotic quail. The native Quail quickly disappeared after settlement probably destroyed by introduced rats, mice and domestic cats.

Quail Island:young Quail chicks on the circuit track

The quail are really tame, I had one male approach to within 2 metres of me. I imagine they often get fed by the people who visit the island.

Quail Island:view of a Quail from my rest spot on the track

Quail Island:one of the male Quail who inhabit the island

Quail Island:female Quail on branch of native bush
Eventually you reach Skiers/Swimmers beaches which is the end of the circuit track. I had some lunch and lay out of the sun in the warm air for a while until it was time to head to the jetty for the journey home. There is a nice picnic area at Swimmers beach with picnic tables, toilets and shade. It is only a 10 minute walk to the Quail Island jetty from this beach.

Quail Island:heading down to Skiers Beach

Quail Island: nice benched track near Skiers beach

Quail Island:Skiers Beach- the tide is out...mudflats!

Quail Island: a stone wall built by early convict labourers

At one stage Quail Island was a leper colony: it only ever had a handful of inhabitants but was a total necessity as leprosy is highly contagious and was incurable up to the advent of penicillin.  There are still some foundations left from the huts the lepers lived in near Skiers Beach. There is also a recreation of a leper cottage which is worth a visit.

Site of the Quarantine station on Quail Island

Old foundations for the quarantine barracks on Quail Island

Swimmers Beach picnic area

There are a pair of beaches at the end of the track, both are rocky and muddy but there are mature shade trees and picnic tables to sit at while having your lunch. I saw a number of people walking/swimming on the beach but they got very muddy with the tide out so bear this in mind. 

Quail Island: Swimmers Beach picnic area- note rope swing

The small building you can see in the centre of the photo below is the recreation of the old leper cottage I mentioned previously.there is a short track to this hut from near the handmade stone wall...

Quail Island: Skiers Beach from Swimmers Beach, note recreation of leper cottage

Low tide at Swimmers Beach

Quail Island: Swimmers beach at low tide

Quail Island: Swimmers beach, old stock jetty and new heritage centre

Swimmers beach is highly tidal, when the tide is in the water reaches almost to the top of the seawall, but when out there are extensive expanses of mudflats/shell banks to explore. 

I saw three idiots in boats come shooting into the bay only to suddenly come to a jarring halt as they beached themselves on one of the many sand banks. It is really shallow at low tide!

Quail Island: Pied Oyster catchers (?) looking for some dinner at Swimmers beach

The Mt Herbert/Mt Bradley Massif from Quail Island
I ate my lunch at one of the picnic tables before finding a nice spot out of the wind to sit in the sun for about an hour. As you can see I had my usual pate, crackers and drink with a nougat bar for dessert.

I loves me some of that canned Hanaff French pate...good quality and delicious!

My tasty tramping lunch: pate, crackers, nougat bar and isotonic drink
Here is a shot of one of my previous tramping locations, Mt Bradley on Banks Peninsula. Mt Bradley is the third highest point on Banks Peninsula at around 900 metres a.s.l. All of the land below the top of the mountain is part of the Orton Bradley Estate.

Close up of the Mt Bradley tablelands from Quail Island

Mt Herbert as viewed from Swimmers Beach
With the conversion of the old heritage centre to a DOC hut, the Trust which governs the island are shifting the information centre to an old immigrant barracks down at Swimmers Beach. 

They have already moved some of the displays, my understanding is that the building is due for a refurbishment some time over the next year. This is a historic building from the 1850's so I imagine very little can be changed of the original structure. 

Inside the new Quail Island Heritage Centre

Relief model in the new Quail Island Heritage Centre

Quail Island:Interpretative panel in the Quail Island heritage centre

Map of historic sites and tracks on Quail Island

Heading along Swimmers beach to the ferry jetty

The toilets at Swimmers Beach are at the Diamond Harbour end of the new heritage centre building. 

DOC boat/gear shed on Quail Island

Later in the afternoon I moved to a nice bench seat down at the far end of Swimmers Beach next to the DOC boat shed. It is a nice spot with shade and well protected from the wind.

Jon near the Quail Island DOC boat shed

From Swimmers Beach it is a short 10 minute walk back to the main jetty passing the old stock wharf and the start of the circuit track en-route.

Heading towards the old stock jetty, Quail Island

Quail Island: the old stock jetty

Quail Island:close-up of the dilapidated stock jetty

Quail Island: on the track back to the jetty from Swimmers Beach

The Quail Island boat jetty
There is a basic but nice day shelter just up the hill from the jetty, it would provide welcome shelter from the elements if the weather turned bad while you were on the island. There are benches inside with a clear view of the jetty so you would be sure to see the ferry arriving.

Quail Island day shelter- exterior

Inside the Quail Island day shelter...plenty of seating!

Quail Island day shelter
You would be well protected from the elements in the shelter regardless of the wind direction as it is surrounded by mature pine trees.

Quail Island: The jetty from the day shelter
This was my first tramp for several months and it was a very pleasant experience. The track around the island is easy to follow and never too strenuous. It took me about three hours to circumnavigate the island but that was walking very slowly and going off on tangents to visit points of interest.

I was on the Island from about 10.40 till 3.30 in the afternoon, but if you ran around the island or walked very quickly you could complete the circuit in less than an hour and a half.  I totally recommend a visit to the island take your kids and a picnic lunch...go for a stroll and sit on Swimmers beach and enjoy the view.


Access: Water taxi from Lyttleton, the trip takes 15 minutes ($15 child, $30 adult)
Track Times:  5.5 km's or 2-3  hours from jetty to jetty
Hut Details: Quail Island Hut: (building Jan 2018) it will have 10-12 bunks, wood burner, water tank, wood shed, toilets
Miscellaneous: The hut when finished will be on the DOC booking system, must be booked for overnight visit.There are presently no potable water sources on the island so take plenty of water