The Cascade Plateau Loop - 5 days

Fiordland Coast Walks - Cascade Plateau Loop

Fiordland Coast Walks

This walk takes you to places rarely visited and to a plateau with intricacies and an environment that will leave you breathless. It comprises of rocky coastline, off-track bush hiking, a high open plateau, wide vistas, beautiful empty sandy beaches, the stunning Cascade River and deep blue sea coast.

If you would like something different while still experiencing this unique coastline, then this walk is for you. We are running three walks this coming season and numbers are limited.


The Basics



5 days, 55 km.

 On Demand 


Group size:

$1,995.00 per person

Maximum 5 people plus guide.
Minimum 3 people plus guide

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult.
A higher level of fitness and experience is required for this walk, which involves some off-track hiking.
Equipment: Camping gear and provisions are generally carried by all in the group, in addition to personal gear.

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Day 1: Queenstown to Stafford Bay
We depart early from your Queenstown accommodation for the scenic drive through Wanaka and Haast Pass to the untouched wilderness of the West Coast.

Departing from Jackson Bay, we hike up and over a small hill to the Smoothwater River, which meanders gently down a delightful valley. From here, if tides and sea allow, we can head downstream to Smoothwater Bay and around the coast through sheltered coves, like Homminy Cove to Stafford Bay. Alternatively we head upstream a short way, cross the Stafford Saddle and follow the Stafford River down to the rivermouth where a DOC hut and campsite await us for our first night. The beach here is ideal for an evening beach fire.

Distance 11 km (4-5 hours walking time)
Accommodation DOC hut at Stafford Bay, or camping beside the rivermouth.
Difficulty Moderate - mostly track and riverbed. Some rocky and sandy coastline if the coastal route is taken.

Day 2: Stafford Bay to Cascade Plateau
We hike further down the coast along stunning, empty and wild stony beach, flush with wildlife, to Teer Creek. The coast runs below the Carmichael and Cascade Plateaus, giant glacial moraines laid down over successive glaciations. They are laden with the full array of flora and fauna which spills down onto the beach. This is also a known location for the endangered tawaki (Fiordland crested penguin) and  from here towards Cascade Point a colony of almost 3,000 New Zealand fur seals.

At Teer Creek we head a short distance up this small wild river and then hike off-track up a bush-covered spur to the openness of the Cascade Plateau . This is hard work, but the untouched podocarp forest is well worth it. Once on top we head over open ground with low and ancient vegetation, clear-running lively creeks and wide vistas to our campsite under the stars for the night.

Distance 10 km (6-8 hours walking time)
Accommodation Camping
Difficulty Moderate to advanced – the morning is mostly rocky coastline. The climb onto the plateau is a difficult off-track route for a short period. Across the plateau is moderate off-track open country.

Day 3: Cascade Plateau to Cascade River mouth
After waking atop the plateau, buzzing with excitement, we make our way west along ridge and south across gulley and stream, with an eye to the horizon marker where we drop steadily towards Lake Jumbuck and its quiet dark waterways. Then ancient sea-cliffs are followed, which take us to one of New Zealand’s premier beaches (in our opinion). The water here is deep and powerful – the marine life similar... The southern end of the beach brings us to the wide deep and long Cascade River. We cross to our campsite for the night amongst the old beach huts, which still see human activity at certain times of the year.

Distance 11 km (6-7 hours walking)
Accommodation Private hut at rivermouth, or camping nearby.
Difficulty Moderate to advanced – across the plateau it is open but uneven. Down and through to the beach is similar off-track hiking and the beach is stunning.

Day 4: Cascade River to Barn Bay
We leave the relative calm of the Cascade River mouth and hike south past lota Bluff to the isolated beach at Maori Creek, passing along a stretch of coast known for its pounamu and deep sea canyons close to shore. It is a place of marine interaction – with the sea and its inhabitants. The afternoon takes us a short distance around a bouldery coast to the reefs, lagoon and beach, all laden with sealife, at Barn Bay for our last night beside the Hope River,. We stay in either the rustic and cosy fisherman's hut or camp nearby. There is time for exploring and enjoying this fascinating place.

Distance 10 km (4-6 hours walking time)
Accommodation Private hut at Barn Bay.
Difficulty Moderate. Except for sandy stretches at the beginning and end this day comprises of boulder-stepping and rocky coastline.

Day 5: Barn Bay to Queenstown
We leave early and hike either alongside or up the bed of the Hope River until we veer further inland along the base of the hills and around the expanse of New Zealand’s largest wetland, The Hermitage Swamp. Then we walk through some early civilisation by way of the West Coast’s southern most farming operation and then back across the Cascade River towards the road-end at the Martyr River.

From here you can rest in contentment during the journey to your Queenstown accommodation.

Distance 18 km (6 hours walking time)
Difficulty Easy to Moderate Track.