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