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Ōtamahua/Quail Island Tracks

Ouail Island, Charteris Bay, Lyttelton Harbour, Canterbury 8012 New Zealand

Free to Visit
  • Independent
  • Not Wheelchair
  • Public
  • No Wifi
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“Explore historic sites such as the ships' graveyard and the quarantine barracks, as well as swimming and waterskiing beaches and a bird-watching barricade. The easy grade makes these walks suitable for small children and family groups.”

Whakamaru Beach (Swimmers beach)

Time: 5 min

Grade: Short walk

Although the track from the ferry jetty is a little steep, it's worth the climb down to the beach and the track surface is suitable for mountain-buggies. The beach is a safe place for swimming as it shelves out gently and the bay is reasonably sheltered from the winds that might whip up the harbour waters. It is a great spot to spend some time, have a picnic lunch, fossick amongst the rocks or beach-comb for shells and to explore the interpretative displays in the historic Barracks buildings.

Ōtamahua/Quail Island Loop Track (full island circuit)

Time: 2 hr 30 min

Grade: Walking track

The Ōtamahua/Quail Island Loop Track circumnavigates the island and takes approximately 2.5 hours to complete. The track can be walked in either direction, but most follow the road from the Ferry Jetty towards the Caretaker's Cottage.

After a short, steep hill follow the track to the right towards the historic stables. The track will lead you behind the stables and through an old pine windbreak before arriving at the Caretaker's Cottage.

At the Caretaker's Cottage the track passes across the front of the building, through open grassland and along the basalt cliff tops to the Ward brothers' old homestead site. From here it leads to the northern point of the island and the bird observation barricade. Views extend down the harbour and across to Rapaki.

Further along the track you will reach a vantage point where there is an excellent view of the ships' graveyard, which contains wrecks of at least thirteen ships scuttled off-shore.

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 recorded as having died on the island, is found here.

Around the point the track turns north along Skiers Beach to the terraces where the human quarantine buildings once stood. View the replica leper hut (built by students of Catholic Cathedral College) and walk past the stone terraces admiring the craftsmanship of early twentieth century prisoners from the Lyttelton Gaol.

From the east side of the terraces, a sign points the way to the replica dog kennels' site. This short climb leads to the site where Shackleton and Scott housed their dogs prior to departing for their Antarctic expiditions.

Return to the main track then descend to Whakamaru Beach and human quarantine barracks. Make sure to stop at the barracks to visit the interpretative displays illustrating the rich history of the island.

Finish your loop by following the beachfront past the historic stock jetty and back to the ferry jetty.

Summit Track

Time: 15 min

Grade: Walking track

Starting from the Caretaker's Cottage, walk the old tractor path as it gently climbs towards the highest point on the island where you can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding low mountains and Lyttelton Harbour.

The Summit Track can also be accessed from Whakamaru Beach via the Dog Kennel Track.

Dog Kennel Track

Time: 10 min

Grade: Walking track

This track offers access to the replica dog kennels historic site, and is a short cut across the island if you have limited time.

Getting there

Ōtamahua/Quail Island lies within Whakaraupō/Lyttelton Harbour, close to Christchurch City.

Black Cat Cruises operates a regular cash-only ferry service from Lyttelton Wharf between October and April (groups must book). Outside this period there are no regular sailings but groups may still book. Check with Black Cat Cruises when planning your visit.

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Ōtamahua/Quail Island Tracks

Ouail Island
Charteris Bay, Lyttelton Harbour
8012 New Zealand
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