Your ultimate guide to hiking the Rakiura Track
Introducing the Rakiura Track
Tracing a loop on the eastern side of Stewart Island, the Rakiura Track is the shortest of New Zealand’s Great Walks. What it lacks in length it definitely makes up for in natural splendour. If you find yourself with a quiet day on the Rakiura Track, you will feel like the last human on earth. This ancient part of the world has remained largely unchanged for thousands of years. Along the track you’ll find wild coastal rainforest scenery, relics of an early sawmill industry as well as some incredible flora and fauna. You may even spot a kiwi.
Length & Difficulty
The Rakiura Track is 32km long and is usually completed over two nights and three days. When planning your trip, it is recommended that you also factor a night in Oban, Stewart Island’s only settlement, at either end of the trail, see Accommodation. You’ll also need to allow at least a day to travel to the island from mainland New Zealand, see Getting Here.
The terrain along the trail is easy to moderate, and most people with a reasonable level of fitness should be able to complete the hike with no issues.
Accommodation & Facilities
You will need to have accommodation booked before you start the walk. Places can fill up quickly, particularly in the peak summer months. On the Rakiura Track, you have two options. You can sleep in the huts provided by the Department of Conservation (DOC), or you can carry and pitch your own tent in the designated campgrounds along the way.
The Department of Conservation huts provide basic facilities. The sleeping quarters are dorm room bunk beds with mattresses. You will need to provide your own sleeping bag. Sinks with cold running water are provided, along with an indoor seating area with a wood burner. There are no cooking facilities in any of the huts, so you will need to bring your own camping stove.
Ruggedy Range operates the Stewart Island Outdoor Shop where you can hire / buy cookers / gas along with a wide range of outdoor gear and freeze dry food.
You can book the huts and campsites directly with the Department of Conservation.
Walking the Rakiura Track
You can begin the track in either direction. The two ends of track are located in Lee Bay and Fern Gully, both of which are walkable from Oban. Most people will start anticlockwise from Lee Bay, which is about a 5km walk from the centre of town. If you would prefer to save your legs for the main event, or you are on a strict time budget, we can organise a shuttle for you, see Getting Around.
Lee Bay to Port William Hut (8km)
Pass Māui the demigod’s famous chain link sculpture on the costal path at Lee Bay as you begin your first day of the hike. Follow the coastal path to Little River, where you’ll cross a footbridge and make your way to the beautifully tranquil Maori Beach. A former sawmill settlement in the early 20th century, relics of this time can be spotted in the area. Continue along the coast where you will eventually come to Port William Hut.
Port William Hut to North Arm Hut (13km)
Your coastal adventure turns inland today as you continue through a lush mix of regenerating podocarp forest and dense virgin forest. You will be able to see yet more milling evidence along this part of the trail. The track follows the old tramlines that were used for transporting the products of the mill. Begin your descent to North Arm, a former food gathering site for early Māori, before arriving at North Arm Hut, your accommodation for this evening.
North Arm Hut to Fern Gully Carpark (11km)
As you leave North Arm Hut today, you’ll hike through kāmahi and rimu trees as you take in the beautiful views of the inlet. You’ll follow the track down the coast as you look out for old sawmill relics along the way. The track here interspersed with beautiful bays as you head towards Kaipipi Bay. You’ then follow the old Kaipipi Road back to Fern Gully Carpark. Kaipipi Road was once the busiest road on the island, acting as the main link between the sawmills and the bay. It’s a 2km walk back to Oban from this point. Wildlife on the Rakiura Track
Wildlife on the Rakiura Track
In addition to spectacular scenery and a fascinating human history, the Rakiura Track is also home to some impressive flora and fauna. You’ll see towering podocarp trees, ferns and mosses as you hike through the ancient coastal vegetation and regenerating forest.
Keep your eyes peeled for the native bird species resident here, including tui, bellbirds, fantails, kereru (wood pigeon), South Island tomtit, red-crowned parakeet, South Island kaka, and of course the Stewart Island tokoeka, our local kiwi species. New Zealand sealion and fur seals are occasionally spotted basking on the shores too.
Knowing what to look for and where to find it can be difficult for those not familiar with the local area. The knowledge and experience of a local guide can certainly enhance your Rakiura Track experience. With a guide you will learn about the fascinating flora, fauna and human history of the area in real time as your make your way along the track.
At Ruggedy Range we have been guiding clients on the Rakiura Track for many years, see Rakiura Great Walk. In addition to our wealth of experience and knowledge, on our overnight trips we also take care of the following:
Whether you are going solo or joining a guided hike, you will need to make sure that you pack the appropriate kit for your trip. Remember to bring extra food, clothing and equipment just in case something goes wrong. The weather on Stewart Island is changeable all year round and can get quite wet. Make sure that you are prepared for all weather conditions.
At Ruggedy Range, we also operate an Outdoor Shop where most of the gear needed on the hike can be purchased or hired.