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Bathing Beach, Stewart Island

Bathing Beach, Stewart Island

Stewart Island is at the extreme south of New Zealand, and I reckon most people think that it’s too cold and windswept to have really good beaches. That’s not true at all – we visited Stewart Island in winter and found some amazing beaches — beaches that wouldn’t look out of place somewhere far more tropical. Bathing Beach is one of the best we saw, and it’s only a 15-minute walk from the main town.

Walking to Bathing Beach

The walk to Bathing Beach from downtown Oban takes you over Church Hill, where you’ll get views of the town and harbour from above. We saw some birds up there too – parakeets mostly. At the end of the road you’ll see a track, and from there it’s a few minutes’ walk through the bush to Bathing Beach.

View at Church Hill, Stewart Island, New Zealand

The view from the last part of this track is pretty awesome.

Bathing Beach viewpoint, Stewart Island, New Zealand

Bathing Beach

While this beach looks beautiful from above, it’s not too shabby at beach-level either. Bathing beach has some of the best sand of all the beaches on Stewart Island and the water is clear and inviting – not inviting enough to have a dip in winter though.

Bathing Beach, Stewart Island, New Zealand

At low tide you can walk between the two sections of beach, but at high tide you’ll have to take the track (we missed it the first time – it’s about halfway along the first bit of beach, no sign).

Track to Bathing Beach, Stewart Island, New Zealand

The second section of Bathing Beach is a bit longer, and at high tide the inlet came right up, creating a sandbar appearance. From there you can either go back the way you came, or there’s a track which goes on the left-side of the inlet. Again, there are some great views from this track, especially on a perfect sunny day.

Bathing Beach clear water, New ZealandBathing Beach view, Stewart Island, New ZealandBathing Beach sandbar, Stewart Island, New Zealand

That track takes you to the main road – you can also reach the beach this way but there aren’t any signs (the track is close to the bridge). We also walked around this area on a different day and the inlet looked interesting in the late afternoon light.

Bathing Beach inlet view, Rakiura, New Zealand

The Cemetery

If you’re looking for another angle on this scenic part of Stewart Island I’d recommend walking up the cemetery. It’s only a 15-minute or so detour and you’ll get a great view of the beach from above. We also saw a kingfisher nearby.

A kingfisher on Stewart Island, New ZealandStewart Island Cemetery view, New Zealand

Other Beaches Nearby

From Bathing Beach you can walk along to Butterfield Beach, Braggs Bay and Horseshoe Bay. The Horseshoe Point Track starts close to Bathing Beach – it’s a great option if you’re looking for a half-day walk in Rakiura.

Are you planning a trip to New Zealand? Check out our two-week South Island itinerary!

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Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.