The Rakiura Track is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks (of which there are nine) and offers some of the most gorgeous, remote scenery in the country. The track runs a loop around the Eastern part of the island and traverses through bird-filled native bush and along postcard worthy coastlines.
If you’re into hiking and want to see some of the more untouched areas of the country, you should definitely book a trip to Stewart Island. This isolated little paradise will keep you busy for days with its scenery, wildlife and friendly locals. Read on for everything you need to know about hiking the Rakiura Track on Stewart Island.
Basic facts about the Rakiura Track
Distance: 32km (loop)
Time: 3 days/2 nights
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate – most people (including children) of average fitness should be able to complete the hike.
Accommodation on the Rakiura Track
You must have an accommodation booking before you start the trek and there are rangers who check each night. There are two options for accommodation along the Rakiura Track. You can stay in huts provided by the Department of Conservation or carry your own tent and camp in the designated campgrounds along the way.
The main deciding factors will be your budget and hut availability. The huts are basic dorm rooms with mattresses (you need to bring a sleeping bag), sinks and an indoor seating area with a wood burner. There are no cooking facilities along the track. Toilets are long drop toilets located outside the hut. The huts cost $24 NZD per person per night and can get fully booked so check online if they’re available for your dates.
The campgrounds cost $6 per person per night and have a sheltered area for cooking and a long drop toilet. They also have water for drinking and cooking. There are three campgrounds along the way which may get booked out so it pays to book these in advance. The booking can be changed if there’s still availability.
Port William or Maori Beach?
If you’re camping you’ll notice there are three campgrounds and only two nights accommodation needed. You will need to spend a night at Long Arm and then you can choose between Port William or Maori Beach. Maori Beach is directly on the track and Port William is a 40 minute walk (one way) from the track. Maori beach only has room for a small amount of tents while Port William is bigger and next to a hut.
We chose Maori beach as it saved us some extra walking and meant there were far less people at the campground. It made the walk on the first day very short (2.5 hours) but it was a beautiful day and the campground is right on a stunning white sand beach so we spent the afternoon swimming and relaxing. There was one other person booked into the campground and no ranger came to check bookings.
Port William is a further half an hour walk along the track and then 40mins off the main track so it adds another hour or so to your first day. The beach here is also nice and there are more people around. It’s totally up to you which one better suits your needs but we really loved our stay at Maori Beach.
Rakiura Track Day one Oban to Maori Beach/Port William
Time: 2.5 hours
This was an easy day and we had the most perfect weather. The road from Oban leads to Lee Bay (about 30mins) and passes the Moturau Moana Garden lookout which is worth stopping at. If you want to save time you can organise a taxi to take you to the start of the track at Lees Bay.
From Lee Bay the track winds through bush along the coast of the island giving you little glimpses of secluded white sand bays and the crystal clear oceans beyond. If you’re lucky you’ll spot some NZ bird life before emerging at Maori Beach for a swim and relax.
You can stop and camp here for the night or continue for another 1.5 hours to Port William Hut and campground.
Rakiura Track Day Two – Maori Beach/Port William to Long Arm
Time: 5-6 hours
Day two of the Rakiura Track is the hardest but nothing too challenging for regular hikers. There are some steep uphill climbs and this area of the track can get very slippery. It rained most of the day while we were hiking and in just our sports shoes we got fairly wet and muddy. On a dry day this is probably a beautiful walk through dense native bush but for us it was hard slog with promise of a shelter and some dry clothes at the end.
The trail is clear despite the mud but there is very little shelter along the way so be prepared. (packing list at the end of the post).
Rakiura Track Day Three – Long Arm to Oban
Time: 3-4 hours
The last day of the hike is straightforward and not too challenging. After a bit more mud you’ll emerge to the coastline to see colonies of birds and views of ocean. There isn’t a lot of uphill and the final half an hour is along sealed road back into the town.
What to pack for the Rakiura Track
Weather on Stewart Island is notoriously unpredictable and changeable. Make sure you’re prepared for wet weather and chilly nights. Here are some things you’ll need for the Rakiura Track.
A good raincoat – there isn’t much shelter along the way and there’s a high chance of being caught in a downpour. We carry fold out ones which are great for saving space. Click here to get one.
Appropriate footwear – this is personal preference as the actual track isn’t very difficult, it can be hiked in trainers or sandals. But if it’s wet you’ll be thankful for waterproof footwear and/or gaiters.
Sleeping bag - Whether you’re in the huts or camping you’ll need your own sleeping gear. It gets pretty chilly at night so make sure you have a good sleeping bag that folds up small for carrying - like this one.
Cooking equipment – there are no cookers at the huts so you need to carry your own gas and cooker. There is drinking water at the huts and campgrounds. We carried a small fold out element that attached to the top of our gas canister. Check it out here.
Food – make sure you have enough to eat for 3 days, there’s nowhere to get more!
Insect repellant – There are a lot of sandflies at the campgrounds which can get really annoying in the evening.
Toilet paper – all the toilets were stocked while we were there but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
A red light – if you plan to go kiwi spotting you’ll need a red light or to cover your torch with red cellophane. The ranger at Long Arm provided some to people when we were there so ask if you forget to bring some.
Spotting Kiwi on the Rakiura Track
Stewart Island is one of the best places in NZ to spot kiwi in the wild. They are often seen along the Rakiura Track and are even known to come out in broad daylight! While we were there some other people saw one during the day and we saw one when we went out with our (red) torches at night.
History along the Rakiura Track
Stewart Island was once home to a large sawmilling industry and the evidence of this can still be seen along the track. Maori beach and the track along from Port William have old machinery from the early 1900s in its original position along with information on display.
Port William is an ancient Maori hunting camp and was also used by sealers and whalers during the 1800s. The chain link sculpture at Lee Bay recognises the Maori legend of Maui who fished up the North Island, using the South Island as his boat (waka) and Stewart Island (Rakiura) as his anchor.