Christchurch's Quail Island opened by Department of Conservation for weekend stays

It was once used to quarantine leprosy patients, but Christchurch's Quail Island is now welcoming families for a weekend stay.

The Department of Conservation (DoC) has just opened a hut on the Island with a colourful history.

"It's got a pretty exciting future, this island, in terms of a pest-free peninsula and where it fits in with that bigger picture," says DoC consultant Andy Thompson.

"To have families out here enjoying it, that's a dream come true for us."

On Saturday morning DoC opened the Otamahua Hut - a 108-year-old caretakers' cottage that's been transformed into a 12-bunk tramping hut.

DoC operates more than 1000 huts across New Zealand, and this is one of a very few that aren't in the high country - it's just a five minute ferry ride from the wharf in Lyttelton.

"It's not often you get to have a Robinson Crusoe experience by just by being here at night," says Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage.

"City noises are over the harbour but being completely isolated and able to enjoy nature."

Minister Sage hopes more people will visit and make use of the 200-acre island's walking tracks.

The hut restoration was made possible with a grant from the Rod Donald trust and the work of the Quail Island Ecological Trust.

The public can start booking a $15 a night stay from Monday.