The Rakiura Track is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. Located in the Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island, this is a trek that is further off the tourist trail than other walks in the country.
Stewart Island is the third largest island of New Zealand, and is 30 kilometres south of South Island. A remote area when compared to the main islands, and not being a major hotspot for tourists, means you will enjoy spending time in a haven for wildlife and untouched natural habitats.
The Rakuira track is circular route of 32 kilometres, making it ideal for those new to multi-day hiking.
- Native forests and natural habitats
- Diverse wildlife and rare species
- Old Maori settlements
- Sandy beaches
- Evidence of old logging industry. You will see abandoned artefacts in some places along the track
As this is a more remote area than many other places in New Zealand, you will be able to enjoy the trail without tourist crowds.
There are two possible starting points. One is at Lee Bay, around five kilometres for the Rakiura National Park Visitors Centre. The other is two kilometres from Oban, at Fern Gulley. Shuttles are available to the trailheads, but it is also easy to walk there. You can hike the trail in either direction.
The terrain is fairy level, with no large elevation gains or descents. There may be the odd, short steep climb in places. After rain, the trail can get very muddy in places. This can make it slippery.
It is not possible to resupply with food or drinks when you are hiking the Rakiura Track, so you will need to carry supplies with you. It is easier and cheaper to get your food supplies form Invercargill where there are supermarkets, as there are only smaller shops in Oban.
There are plentiful water sources, so as long as can filter and purify, you won’t have to carry three days’ worth of water.
Oban is the nearest town to the trail, and is reachable by ferry from the South Island town of Bluff. The ferry runs at least three times per day. Tickets need to be reserved in advance.
You can also reach Oban by plane. Domestic flights run from Invercargill Airport, and takes 20 minutes.
If you only want to do the first section as a day hike, there is a water taxi from Oban to Port William. This means you can hike your way back to Oban.
The Rakiura Tack is a 32 kilometre loop that takes two to three days to complete.
There is also an option to extend the hike by an extra 9 days or so, by joining either the North West Circuit or the South Circuit.
Grade and difficulty of the walk
This route is graded 2-3/5.
Well waymarked, it is straightforward to find your way on the Rakiura Track.
The only time that the path may become challenging in places is after rain, when it can become muddy or boggy, but much of the path has been gravelled to prevent this.
This trail is not strenuous, but you should be fit enough to hike for a few hours each day carrying food and bedding supplies.
If you are camping, then you will need to carry a tent. To enjoy your hiking experience of the Rakiura Track, it is a good idea to pack light.
You do not need to be an experienced hiker to complete the Rakiura Track. Neither do you need expert trekking gear, other that some decent footwear and light layers.
The gentle terrain and close proximity of overnight stopping points makes this track a great introduction to multi-day hiking if you have not done so before.
No navigational skills are needed, simply follow the trail markers.
You do not need a permit to hike the Rakiura Track, although booking and fees apply if you wish to camp or use the huts.
Guided or Self-Guided
As this route is easy to follow, most hikers choose to walk self-guided.
Guided tours are available through tour operators. The benefits of this is having an expert to teach you about the area, other people to keep you company as you hike, and baggage transfers.
Meals are also often provided, and you don’t have to book your own accommodation.
Whatever the season in New Zealand, you can expect a variety of weather!
Summertime is warm and the winters are mild, so this trail can be completed all year round. The peak hiking season is between December and February, as this is when the conditions are most favourable.
Most rain tends to fall in spring and autumn, but as long as you are prepared for any weather, it is still a great time to hike the Rakiura Trail.
A typical itinerary would be:
The hike can be divided into the following stages. You can complete as much or as little as you prefer to create an itinerary.
Oban to Lee Bay – this is a 5 kilometre hike to the beginning of the trail. There is a shuttle option too.
Lee Bay to Port William Hut – 8.1 kilometres
Port William Hut to North Arm Hut – 13.1 kilometres
North Arm Hut to Fern Gulley – 11 kilometres
Fern Gulley to Oban – 2 kilometres
There are three campsites and two huts along the Rakiura Track. Spaces need to be pre-booked either online or at the Department of Conservation office in Oban.
The campsites are located at Maori Beach, Port William Camp and North Arm Camp.
The huts offer shared accommodation for hikers and have basic facilities like running water, however you will need your own cooking/stove gas and your own toilet paper! The huts are at Port William and North Arm.
There are accommodation options in Oban, such as B&Bs and lodges. This is great if you want to rest before you set out for your hike, or to relax afterwards.
The beauty of the Rakiura Track is that you are immersed in in stunning natural habitat that is alive with birds and plants. You may even spot the endangered Kiwi bird.
Visit the nearby island of Ulva, a place where you can see rare species of wildlife.
See the historic saw mill, five minutes from Maori Beach.
Look up at the night sky. You may see the Aurora Australis, also called the Southern Lights.
|Skills Required||Hiking, Walking|
|Difficulty||2/5 - 3/5|
|Starts at||Oban, New Zealand|
|Finishes at||Oban, New Zealand|
|Length of route||32 Km|
|Average time to complete||2 - 3 Days|
|Possible to complete sub-sections||Yes|
|Highest point||200 metres|
|Equipment needed||Camping equipment, GPS device, Trekking gear, walking boots, Water Supplies|
|Countries visited||New Zealand|