3 multi-day walks on Stewart Island
There are three excellent multi-day walks on Stewart Island and one of them is officially Great.
Words: Cheree Morrison Photos: Supplied
THE RAKIURA TRACK
Considered one of the most family-friendly of the nine official Great Walks, The 32km Rakiura Track climbs to only 200m above sea level so it’s perfect for first-timers or families wanting to get their kids into a mini pair of hiking boots. The track is walkable year-round, but the weather on Stewart Island is famously changeable so be prepared and plan well, regardless of which track is being explored.
The Rakiura Track takes approximately 3-4 days over three sections. The track begins at Lee Bay where a chain link sculpture marks the start of the 32km journey. It’s 8km to the first hut (Port William), 13km to the North Arm Hut and 11km to the Fern Gully car park – just a 2km walk from Oban.
It is possible to walk to both Lee Bay and Fern Gully from Oban. Walkers who want to conserve their energy for the track can arrange with the Bunkhouse Theatre to catch a tuktuk, or there are some accommodation providers who offer transfers. There are two huts and three campsites along the way – all must be booked in advance.
NORTH WEST CIRCUIT
Prefer a bit of a challenge? The North West circuit follows the first section of the Rakiura Track, before continuing around the coast to Mason Bay then crossing inland to Freshwater River and on to Oban. This is a track for the more ambitious, covering 125km over 9-11 days. There are rumours of thigh-deep mud and high-tide detours, but it crosses some of the island’s most beautiful and isolated areas.
Mason Bay is a highlight; this wild and always changing beach was once home to determined farmers, but all that remains now are the kiwi. There are a number of tours available to Mason Bay – Rakiura Charters and Stewart Island Flights both offer transfers and tours, as well as a number of water taxis.
Still not sated? The Southern Circuit can be completed as an addition to the North West Circuit or as a separate undertaking. The 71.5km loop starts from Freshwater Landing and takes about 4-6 days. This track is not for novices; it’s prone to flooding after periods of rain and is steep in sections. Transfers to Freshwater Landing are available from Rakiura Water Taxis and Aihe Water Taxis and, as always, huts and campsites must be booked in advance.
WHERE TO START
The Rakiura National Park Visitor Centre is where all great (and responsible) walkers begin their journey by collecting tickets, maps and checking the latest weather and track conditions. If the weather packs in and there’s time to kill, they’ve got a comfortable sofa and a stack of environmental films and documentaries. Hunters and gatherers also need to make visiting a priority – hunting permits are issued on site.
15 Main Road, Oban. (03) 219 0009
The Four Square has food and supplies, but check out the hut facilities prior – don’t be that person with canned goods and no can opener.
20 Elgin Terrace, Oban. (03) 219 1069
This is an extract from the 2018 edition of the Insider’s Guide to New Zealand.