Quail Island Walk

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Intensity: Walking track

Duration of walk: 2 hours 30 minutes return

How to get there:  Ōtamahua/Quail Island is an inner harbour island, reached via a short ferry ride from Lyttelton Harbour. Ferries operate seven days a week during the summer months by Black Cat Cruises.

Description of walk: Quail Island is Canterbury’s largest island but is easily explored in a day. It is a loop track so can be started at any point. From the heritage centre, take the track that passes across the front of the building, through open grassland and along the basalt cliff tops to the Ward brothers' old cottage site. From here the track leads to the northern point of the island and the bird observation barricade, there are magnificent views extending down the harbour and across to Rapaki.  Take a turn  to the south-west and by-pass the stock dam to reach a vantage point where there is an superb view of the ‘ships’ graveyard’, which contains wrecks of at least fourteen ships. Continue along to the southern-most point of the island above Walkers Beach and past the quarry workings. The grave of Ivon Skelton, the only leprosy sufferer to pass away on the island, is found here within a neat picket fence. Around the point the track turns north behind the skiers beach to the terraces where the leprosy colony buildings once stood, here you can see a replica cottage. Turn left to climb a short distance to the dog kennels’ site, and view a replica kennel. Return back to the main track through the oak grove, and descend to Whakamaru Beach and human quarantine barracks. Wind around the beachfront past the historic stock jetty and back to the ferry jetty.

The Island also offers a shorter Discovery Trail which has a series of quiz panels to test your thinking and can be a bit of fun for children. Pick up a Kiwi Ranger booklet at the Heritage Centre and there are activities to keep children entertained for the day and help them learn about the island. There are also safe swimming opportunities and plenty of sheltered picnic spots to really make a day out of your trip to Quail Island.

Facilities available & Important information:

  • No animals allowed
  • No unauthorised mountain bikes
  • Take all your rubbish home
  • No fires, except gas-fired BBQs in picnic area on Whakamaru Beach
  • Do not use the historic jetty
  • Do not remove rocks in the sea wall along the beach
  • There are toilets on the island
  • No camping on the island

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  • By Ian McLennan 23/07/2014

    During your walk, keep a look out for the planting being done by the Quail Island Ecological Restoration Trust. They have planted 80,000 trees on the island since 1998, and maintain a network of traps to keep predators away, so the island is pest free apart from mice. Keruru, korimako, riroriro, piwakawaka all thrive on the island in the absence of pests like stoats and rats. If you have time, go up to the summit where there are panels showing all the geographical features of the harbour basin. A great day out!