Mason Bay is a sweeping, 12 mile crescent of sandy beach on Stewart Island's
west coast. Two sheep runs began here in the 1870s, one continuing through
until 1985. In the early days wool was taken through the surf by boat to
waiting ships. In the 1920s a dray road was built, providing access to the
Freshwater River, at the head of Paterson Inlet.
In later years wool was flown out from the beach. This high-cost exercise
cost nearly as much as was fetched at the wool sale. Not what you would call
a profitable venture. However, Tim and Ngaire Te Aika, who lived there for
twenty two years, loved the life-style.
Tim knew where all the local kiwi nested. You could see them any night
from the front porch of their small homestead. The Mason Bay population is
as dense as any in the country. Now the sheep are gone, grass is growing
taller, and the kiwi are harder to spot. You still have an excellent
chance of seeing them near Mason Bay hut. They often come out on the beach,
too. Not surfing, but foraging for sandhoppers and other food.