Rakiura, AKA Stewart Island, is New Zealand’s third largest island. It may be big, but with only 22 km of roads, there’s only so much of it you can see. One of the best viewpoints on the island is only a 15-minute walk from downtown Oban – don’t miss Observation Rock when visiting Stewart Island!
The Walk to Observation Rock
From town you have two main options – walk up Golden Bay Road and turn left towards the viewpoint (it’s well signed) or walk up Excelsior Road, which is steeper and more direct. Once there, it’s a short walk through the bush to an amazing viewpoint.
The view from Observation Rock takes in the island-sprinkled waters of Patterson Inlet, with Golden Bay, Thule Bay and various small islands in the foreground. Houses poke their noses out from tree-covered hill — it’s one of the greenest, most unspoilt “town views” I’ve seen anywhere in the world.
There isn’t much else to do up there but admire the views. There are a couple of wooden benches to sit on, and if you’re lucky you’ll get some birds for company. We visited Observation Rock a few times and it looked a little different each time — since it’s so easy to visit I reckon you’ll want to visit this place more than once if you’re on the island for a few days.
We’d heard Observation Rock is one of the best places to watch the sunset on Stewart Island, so we headed up there at about 5 pm (it was winter). While we didn’t see the actual sun set (it was behind some trees), the light was really nice up there and it was a relaxing place to be while the sky changed colour. You can also see the aurora from up there, but you have to be lucky with the timing.
Where to go next
From Observation Rock you can walk down Golden Bay Road towards both Golden Bay and Thule Bay. There are some nice views from the road, and you can walk back via the Golden Bay – Deep Bay Track. Golden Bay is where the boats to Ulva Island leave from, so it makes sense to visit Observation Rock on the way to or from there.
Are you planning a trip to New Zealand? Check out our South Island travel guide!