ElevationAscent: 3,544' 1,080 m
Descent: -3,539' -1,079 m
High: 597' 182 m
Low: 0' 0 m
GradeAvg Grade: 6% (3°)
Max Grade: 43% (23°)
“One of New Zealand's nine Great Walks, the Rakiura Track takes runners on an unforgettable tour of Stewart Island.”— Kristen McGlynn
The small town of Oban on Stewart Island has accomodations supplies, equipment and transportation as well as the official DOC visitor center where you'll have to pick up your permits/passes.
The trail can be done in either direction, and there are options to arrange for transportation via water ferry if you don't want to do the full loop.
Come prepared for rain, mud, and sand flies. If camping, be sure to hang your foot to keep it away from the inquisitive possums.
For more information, click here.
Continue up Main Road, staying right at the junction with Airport Road until you come to the turn off for Kapipi Point Road. This wide dirt road is a gentle ascent and relatively easy-going. There is a picnic table at the end of the road where you can take a breather before starting on the Rakiura Track.
From here, the track heads immediately into what feels like a jungle of ferns and dense, green forest. The start of the track is wide and well-maintained with crushed rocks to keep some of the characteristic Stewart Island mud at bay.
The trail winds gradually along the headland of North Arm, passing by Kapipi Bay and Prices Inlet where you'll get glimpses through the trees of the clear water and the shores across the inlet. The track continues through dense woods of primarily Rimu and Kāmahi trees interspersed with moss and ferns. Keep an eye open for the remnant of the mills that used to operate in the area.
The trail then turns north, passing the tidal mud flats of Sawdust Bay, where you might spot wading birds like oystercatchers at low tide. You can access the water at Sawdust Bay, making it a nice spot to stop for a break or snack. From here, the trail continues winding along the coastline until coming, first to the North Arm campsite, and finally ending at the North Arm Hut.
From North Arm Hut, the track heads east and north from Paterson Inlet, taking runners from the scenic coastline to the dense and verdant "rainforest" that makes up the interior of Stewart Island.
This amazing podocarp forest is actually in the process of regenerating from heavy logging activity although you might not be able to tell as the woods are already incredibly green, lush, and dense. On the eastern side of the track, you'll come across remnants of the logging operations, including two decaying log haulers and the old tramlines that were used to haul the massive felled trees out to the coastline.
The track itself is narrower and quieter along this section than along the coast. While you'll enjoy the morning birdsong if you run early enough, by the mid-morning to afternoon, the track becomes very quiet, and you'll enjoy a sense of solitude. You also will likely be astonished by the many shades of green as you head further into the lush inland forest. The podocarp forest is covered with a stunning variety of moss and ferns in addition to the towering native trees.
On this section of track, you'll also likely encounter another Steward Island feature—mud, and lots of it. Gaiters are recommended and in the rainy season, come prepared for mud that can be knee deep in places. The DOC has done significant work to lay plastic netting and rocks to help mitigate the muddy sections, but there will come a point where you can't really avoid it, so be ready to get a bit muddy before you are done.
As you near Wooding Bay and Port William, the track will split. Take a right toward Lee Bay Gate. The trail heads down to a suspension bridge and a short run along Wooding Bay and the beautiful golden sand of Māori Beach. At the southern end of the beach, there is a small creek that can be easily waded at low tide or crossed via a bridge at high tide.
After this creek crossing, the trail climbs up and around Peter's Point and follows the coast toward Lee Bay. There are some especially scenic coastal views from this vantage point as well as views back toward Mount Anglem to the northwest if you glance back over your shoulder. On the other side of the inlet, you'll pass the junction with the Garden Mounds Track and continue along the coast until you come to Lee Bay and the iconic chain link sculpture that marks the northern trailhead.
From here, you have about a three mile run along the roads to return to Oban. After a short climb up a dirt road from the trailhead, take a right onto Horseshoe Bay Rd. and follow this easy paved road back to town. This last section is still scenic, and the road shoulder is wide in most places making for an easy return.
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Land Manager: Department of Conservation - Rakiura National Park