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A Trip to Stewart Island: Walking the Roads of Rakiura

A Trip to Stewart Island: Walking the Roads of Rakiura

I’ve recently returned from a week exploring Stewart Island, New Zealand’s third (and most southerly) main island. I’ll be writing heaps about it on my other blog,, but here I just wanted to give you a quick look at what Stewart Island is like, by showing what you can see while walking around the island (the tiny part of it that has roads, at least).

Stewart Island only has 22 km of roads. I walked along most of them during my time on the island — this is what I saw.


Oban is the only town on Stewart Island, with most people living in the village or close to it. It’s a cute little place, built around Halfmoon Bay and up and over the surrounding hills. There are some viewpoints close to downtown Oban, including Observation Rock, the Cemetery and Bathing Beach.

Observation Rock is one of the best viewpoints on the island I reckon. It’s a short walk from town and you won’t get a better view of Paterson Inlet. 


The walk to Bathing Beach is great as well. It takes you over Church Hill and then down to the stunning beach — easily one of the best we saw on the island.

As well as these attractions, you’ll get good views just by walking up some of the roads close to town. You’ll also see plenty of birds, including kaka, tui, kingfishers and parakeets.

The Road to Golden Bay (And Beyond)

It takes around 15 minutes to walk from town to Golden Bay. It’s a popular walk, as this is where the boats to Ulva Island leave from. A visit to Ulva Island, a predator free haven for birds, is a one of the must-do things on Stewart Island.

From Golden Bay you can continue to Thule Bay  — it’s nice to get a different angle to the view you saw at Observation Rock.

Ringaringa Point

Another good road to walk down takes you past the golf course to Ringaringa Bay. From there you can walk to Wohlers Monument and Ringaringa Point, where you’ll get some great views of Paterson Inlet.

The Road to Horseshoe Bay and Lee Bay

There’s around 3 km of road between Oban and Horseshoe Bay, and there’s heaps to see along the way. You can swing by Bathing Beach on the way, and after that you’ll see Butterfield Beach.

From there you can either continue along Horseshoe Bay Road or turn right and walk to Braggs Bay. There you’ll find the Horseshoe Point Track, which takes you the long way round to Horseshoe Bay.

Also make sure to stop at Moturau Moana Gardens — there’s an awesome view back over Oban from there.

From Horseshoe Bay it’s a short walk over to Lee Bay, the start of the Rakiura Track, the southern-most Great Walk in New Zealand.

Ackers Point

The other main road-walking route on Stewart Island is the walk to Ackers Point Lighthouse. The road takes you past some picturesque bays — it reminded me of the harbour-side road on the Otago Peninsula.

At the end of the road there’s a track leading to Ackers Point. The track passes by Ackers Cottage (one of the oldest buildings in New Zealand), a really nice beach and plenty of viewpoints. You’ll likely see lots of birds on this track too.

Further Afield

I highly recommend a trip to Ulva Island. It’s only a 7-minute boat ride from Golden Bay and it’s an awesome trip. It should take around 3 hours to walk the tracks on Ulva Island and the boats are cheap.

Another good option is a day walk on the Rakiura Track. I took a boat to Port William and then walked back to Oban. It was a long day but definitely worth it. 

Getting Around Stewart Island

I prefer to walk, but if you’re short on time you can organise a taxi, rent an e-bike or car, or join a tour. 

Are you planning a trip to Stewart Island? Let me know in the comments below!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.