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Quail Island Adventures
Quail Island Adventures
Quail Island Adventures
Quail Island Adventures
Quail Island Adventures
Quail Island Adventures
  • Quail Island Adventures
  • Quail Island Adventures
  • Quail Island Adventures
  • Quail Island Adventures
  • Quail Island Adventures
  • Quail Island Adventures

Quail Island Adventures

About Quail Island

  Spend a fascinating half-day exploring Quail Island. Named after the now extinct native Quail (koreke) by Captain William Mein Smith, the island was originally used as a quarantine station and as a small leprosy colony by the early European settlers.

At the same time as the lepers were confined to their one small bay, Antarctic explorers, Scott and Shackleton took advantage of the island to train their sled dogs and ponies before setting off on their ill-fated voyages. The last polar explorer to quarantine dogs on the island was American Commander Byrd, whose huskies were interned on the island between 1928 and 1930.

From 1934 till 1975 Quail Island was leased out for farming, and then converted to a recreational reserve. Today the focus is on restoring native vegetation and the island is home to many native birds including the fantail, kingfisher, silvereye and many sea birds including the rare white flippered little blue penguins.

Take your lunch and swimming costumes with you for a great family day out.

"We went to Quail Island with 40 winners from the Natural Confectionery Company competition. The Black Cat Captain and staff were really friendly, and the trip over was fun. Once we got to the island, we split into two groups, those that wanted to wile away the time playing games, swimming and picnic-ing at Swimmers’ Beach (just an easy 10 minute walk from the jetty) and those that wanted an Island walk (1.5 hours around the circumference of the island) and then back to Swimmers’ Beach for lunch and swims.

The walk around the island was really interesting as the island is steeped in fascinating history. Once back at Swimmers’ Beach we played games and swam and ate – the kids loved the tree swing there too.

Everyone was amazed at how beautiful the place was, and Swimmers’ Beach, with its white sand and pretty moored boats, gently sloping grass with loads of shade and amazing views of Lyttleton, is the perfect place to spend a whole day.

Everyone I spoke to said they were going back to tell family and friends how fantastic it was. Personally, I thought the place was pure magic." Rachel (AMG Group) November 2011

Tour Highlights

  1. quail1Walkway
    The Quail Island Walkway starting at the new wharf offers a circumference walk (2 hours round trip), and a shorter one-hour option. The easy walk takes in a view of the shipwrecks, leprosy graves and the kennels used for Scott's quarantined dogs.
  2. Volcanic Cliffs
    There are excellent examples of volcanic cliffs, which show how the island was formed 16 million years ago.
  3. The Wards Settlement
    The Ward brothers bought part of Quail Island in 1851 and erected a small cottage. They farmed the island for just 2 months before tragedy struck; the 2 brothers where drowned taking firewood to the island.
  4. Ballast Quarries
    Early sailing ships arriving into Lyttelton often had to load up on return journeys with ballast rocks to keep their ships stable. Two sites on the island can be seen where tonnes of rock was taken from 1850 -1874.

  5. Shipwrecks
    Investigate 8 shipwrecks, which can be seen on the western side of the island.

  6. Leprosy Colony
    In 1907 the island was home to the first and only leprosy colony in New Zealand. One lonely soul died here and his grave can be viewed on the island. Up to 9 patients were housed here at its peak.

  7. Antarctic Links
    Robert Falcon Scott used Quail Island for quarantining and training dogs, ponies and mules for his Antarctic expeditions in 1901 and again prior to his ill-fated expedition to the South Pole in 1910. A replica kennel can be seen. Ernst Shackleton also used the island for this purpose in 1907.

  8. Human and Animal Quarantines
    In 1874 a quarantine station was built to isolate those immigrants who had spent 3 months at sea in cramped conditions with lack of fresh food and exercise. These conditions increased chances of disease and sickness. All imported stock from England had to be quarantined before arriving in Lyttelton.
  9. Maori Use
    The island was used for the collection of food - seabird eggs and fishing mostly by Maori children. The Maori name for the island is Otamahua, which means 'place to gather sea-bird eggs'.
  10. The Quails
    In 1842, the first European to set foot on the island, Captain Mein Smith, flushed a number of now-extinct native quail from the bush and named the island after the birds.

Quail Island may be reached by launch from Lyttelton every day phone 328 9078.

For more information on Quail Island see


How to Get to Lyttleton


Lyttelton is around 15 to 20 minutes drive from the centre of Christchurch. See for detailed information about how to drive yourself. Print this map out to help you navigate.
We are located at B Jetty, Lyttelon Harbour.  at the end of the tunnel turn left onto Norwich Quay.  The 2nd turning to the right is the Oxford Street overbridge, you will need to park on Norwich Quay and walk over the bridge.  follow the footprints on the pavement and signs to Black Cat ferries and Quail Island.
Alternatively you can catch the number 28 bus.


Schedule and Prices

From October - April, Ferries will depart Lyttelton for Quail Island 7 Days a week.

Please purchase your tickets on board the vessel.

No booking required.
Cash Only - No EFTPOS.

Depart Lyttelton Depart Quail Island
October - April 10:20am 3:30pm 7days a week

December & Janurary

10:20am & 12:20pm

12:30pm & 3:30pm

7 days a week

May - September

No scheduled sailings. 

Groups - please phone for a booking




(5-15 incl) $12.50

Includes return ferry transfers and walking map.

Prices are in New Zealand dollars and include GST.

All Children must be accompanied by an Adult.




What to Bring

Quail Island AdventuresPlease bring your own food if you plan on spending the whole day on the island. If you're planning to visit for half a day bring a drink and a snack.

There are no shops on the island but you can purchase snacks at our booking office. You should also bring warm clothes as it can be cool on the island especially with the prevailing sea breeze. Bring your swimming costume because there's a great beach on the island.

Safety advice and information

No glass, including bottles, drinking glasses and eating utensils may be brought to Quail Island. Please use plastic containers only and take them with you when you leave.

Quail island AdventuresGas BBQ’s are permitted on the beach area and in the designated areas round the historic barracks. No other type of BBQ is permitted.

No open fires may be lit, even on the beach.

Visitors are advised to keep to pathways. If you wander off the pathways, please watch out for the native tree plantings.

All rubbish must be removed from the island at the conclusion of the visit. (Don’t forget to bring some Council regulation sized rubbish bags).

Parties visit the island for evening BBQ’s/picnics completely at your own risk. The Department of Conservation, the Quail Island Trust the Ferry Service operators take no responsibility for the safety of visitors while on the island.


Make a Booking

No booking required.
Please purchase your tickets on board the vessel.
Please head down to the wharf  over the bridge and onto the ferry boat.

** Please note,  We do not have eftpos facilities on the boat. **

Akaroa Ph: +64 3 304 7641  |   Lyttelton Ph: +64 3 328 9078  |   Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it