We wanted to do the Rakiura Track on our recent trip to Stewart Island. It was winter though, and I’d read reports of military-grade bed bugs destroying many a recent hut experience. Instead, we opted for a Rakiura Track day walk, and our research led us to the section between Port William and Lee Bay and then back to Oban.
Getting to Port William
We organised a boat to drop us at Port William, which is around an hour from Oban. Before we even left the harbour we were joined by a few albatross. It was freezing out on the back deck, but the sun soon emerged and we enjoyed the views of forested coves on one side and a few small, far-off islands on the other.
The boat trip cost us $60 each and we organised it a day before going (to make sure the weather was good). In summer you have to book a bit earlier, but there are companies which do it. You can check out the company we went with here (we paid our own way).
Port William is the location of one of the two huts on the Rakiura Track. It’s a nice spot, especially early on a calm morning. There was a row of albatross bobbing about in the water and the whole place was deserted except for a couple of boats. Port William Hut is also nearby, although there isn’t much of a reason to visit if you’re not staying there.
It took us around 45 minutes to walk between Port William and Maori Beach. There wasn’t a whole lot to see, but that would soon change. When arriving at Maori Beach, you’ll first notice the swing bridge crossing the river. There are great views here, and the river below the bridge was a deep tea-coloured brown (because of tannins).
From there it’s all the way along Maori Beach. It’s known as being on of the best beaches on the Rakiura Track and it didn’t disappoint! At the far end of the beach there’s a small shelter, and a sign which points you to some old sawmilling machinery.
To continue, you’ll need to cross the small river (at low tide) or take the high-tide detour.
Maori Beach to Lee Bay
For the next half an hour or so the track winds up and around the hill above Maori Beach. There are some great views on this part of the track, although it was hard to find a sufficient clearing in the trees.
You’ll be rewarded for you efforts though – definitely some of the best views you’ll see anywhere on the Rakiura Track. You’ll soon walk down to another beach and then over another hill, which will bring you to Lee Bay.
Lee Bay is one end of the Rakiura Track, so if you’re doing the whole track you’ll either start or finish there. The obvious feature is “the chain”, which symbolically connects Stewart Island to the South Island (the other bit of it is in Bluff).
The beach is a great too, one of the best we saw on Stewart Island. I reckon this would be a good place to visit even if you’re not doing the hike, especially if you’ve rented an e-bike or a car.
Lee Bay to Oban
You can organise a taxi to pick you up from Lee Bay, but we decided to walk the extra 5 km or so. It was a good decision, as there’s heaps you can see from the road. The first stop was Horseshoe Bay, where we’d return a few days later to do the Horseshoe Point Track.
Next up we stopped off at Moturau Moana Gardens, the southernmost public gardens in New Zealand. There isn’t a whole lot to see there, except for this awesome view over Oban.
From there we passed by Butterfield Beach and Bathing Beach, and soon made it back to or accommodation. It was a long day, but we saw some of the best parts of the Rakiura Track and had perfect weather – you couldn’t ask for much more out of a day trip!
Rakiura Track Day Walk: FAQs
- How long did it take? It took us around three hours to walk from Port William to Lee Bay, and another 1 hour 45 mins to walk from Lee Bay to Oban.
- Is it hard? The track is mostly flat, although there are a few uphill sections. Apparently it gets muddy, so wear decent shoes.
- Are there other day walk options? You could also take a boat to North Arm Hut and walk back to Oban from there. I investigated both options and settled on the Port William to Oban leg – it just seemed to be more interesting, with a greater variety of views.
- Are there many birds? There are birds everywhere on Stewart Island! We saw a few on the track itself, and a woman we met said she saw a kiwi just before we were talking to her. We saw more birds on the streets near Oban though – you don’t have to go far to see them in these parts.
- What about doing the whole track? We considered it, but I’d recently read that there’s a massive bed bugs problem there. Hearing that tends to dampen even strongest desire for a multiday hike. We were happy with our Rakiura Track day walk and may return one day to do the other sections.
Are you planning a trip to New Zealand? Get heaps of travel tips in our South Island travel guide!
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