Mountain Top Goat

Learn How To Complete Rakiura Track In One Day

by Mountain Top Goat
beach on the rakiura track

The Rakiura Track is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. It’s a 32-kilometer loop (20 miles) that takes three days to complete. Well, if you want to do it in three days. I decided to do it in just one day, and I will tell you how you can do it.

Where is The Rakiura Track?

Located on Stewart Island in the Rakiura National Park, this trek is further off the tourist trail than other walks in the country.

For those who aren’t familiar with New Zealand, Stewart Island is the third-largest island in New Zealand. Situated 30 kilometers (18.5 miles) south and one hour by ferry from the South Island. It is famous for protecting native bird species such as Kiwis and Kakapo. And yes, New Zealand has more than two islands!

Pretty remote area when compared to the main islands. However, not being a major tourist hotspot means you will enjoy spending time in a haven for wildlife and untouched natural habitats.

Sunrise in Oban
Sunrise in Oban – Stewart Island

Overview of The Rakiura Track

Among the Great Walks, Rakiura Track is one of the few that can be hiked all year round. It can be comfortably tramped in three days and is suitable for walking in either direction. It doesn’t require a high degree of fitness, but completing it in one or two days may be more challenging.

There are two possible starting points. One is at Lee Bay, around 5km (3 miles) from the Rakiura National Park Visitors Centre. The other is 2km (1.2 miles) from Oban, at Fern Gulley. Shuttles are available at the trailheads, but it is also easy to walk there.

Bring your swimwear if you intend to walk it in three days because the beaches you pass on day one are ideal for relaxing. You’d also have plenty of time because the trek is a little over 8km (5 miles) that day.

Maori Beach
Maori Beach

How I Walked The Rakiura Track in 1 Day

When traveling on a hop-on hop-off bus through New Zealand, you will meet some nice and “crazy” people like yourself, who got the same idea…to hike the Rakiura track in one day. Excellent, right?! So, let’s do this!

Morning Start

We headed off at 5:30 a.m., the three of us. The plan was to spot a kiwi before the sun rose and not come back to Oban too late in the evening.

The morning was pretty fresh, not too cold, but not a T-Shirt material either. It was the 3rd of April, so already autumn in New Zealand.

We arrived at the starting point around 6:30 am. It took us a while to get there because it was still totally dark, and we didn’t want to use our headlamps. Bright lights scare kiwi birds, so you need to use low-red light or cover your phone light with red cellophane to avoid shining, which is what we did.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t see any kiwis that day, but we could hear them very well. They were everywhere around us.

We reached the historic sawmill at 7:30 am before the sun came out at Maori Beach. It was gorgeous. Kiwis stopped with their high shrieking, and the morning suddenly became peaceful. At the end of Maori Beach, the track crosses a river on a swing bridge and enters the bush again. 

Sometime before 9:30 am, we arrived in Port William at the end of Magnetic Beach. It was an excellent place for a breakfast break and to take some photos on a doc nearby.

a beach on rakiura track
Beautiful beach along the way

Late Lunch on The Beach

We regained the energy, and it was time to continue. However, from Port Wiliam, we had to backtrack some 45min to the junction to continue walking south on the Rakiura Track.

It was the most challenging stretch of the trail, maybe even for experienced hikers. At 1 pm, we passed the Halfway Tree. There was some hilly terrain and a beautiful walk through dense native bush, and at 2:30 pm, we reached the North Arm Hut. Two-thirds of the track were behind us.

There are two short trails to two small beaches around the hut. I went to one of them to eat my lunch and rest my legs. It’s quite something when you have the whole beach for yourself.

halfway tree on rakiura track
Halfway Tree (missing the letter H, unfortunately) – meaning you’re halfway through the hike

The Last Section of The Trail

The afternoon at the beach was lovely, but it was time to hit the road because there were still 13km (8 miles) to go. This part was not too challenging. The track immediately headed upwards into the beautiful forest. Later on, you pass on some deserted inlets and beaches before the trail goes inland and into the woods.

The end of the Rakiura Track is at Fern Gully Carpark, 2km (1.2 miles) away from the town of Oban, which you reach by walking on a paved road. At around 6:15 pm, I was back at the hostel. We started the hike as a group, but after a while, we split. One decided to run, one to go for a swim, and I just took my own pace and enjoyed the beauty of nature.

We rewarded ourselves with fish and chips for dinner at the Kai Kart in Oban. One of the best fish and chips places in New Zealand.

fish and chips restaurant in oban
Fish and Chips restaurant, the perfect spot to eat after the successful hike

Grade and Difficulty of The Rakiura Track

The track looks relatively level when you look at the map, with the highest point being less than 300m (984 ft). However, quite a few of these small ascents and descents along the way make the total elevation 1,300m (4265 ft).

For the Rakiura Track, you don’t need to be an experienced hiker or have special hiking gear. Instead, average fitness level, some decent footwear, light layers, and you are good to go.

Proximity to overnight stopping points makes this track a great introduction to multi-day hiking if you have not done so before. No navigational skills are needed. Just follow the trail markers.

Guided or Self-Guided

Most hikers walk this route on their own because it is so easy to follow. So did I.

Guided tours are, of course, also possible through tour operators. However, if you want to trek on certain days, you’ll need to book far in advance, especially if you’re hiking during peak season, which is December-February.

hiker sitting on the doc of the bay
Beautiful views

Accommodation on Rakiura Track

There are three campsites (Maori Beach, Port William Camp, and North Arm Camp) and two huts (Port William and North Arm) along the Rakiura Track.

I haven’t stayed in either place overnight, but if you do, they are among the most affordable huts on the Great Walks, costing roughly 25 NZ$.

And If you decide to camp, it will cost you 6 NZ$ per person for adults. For children, it’s free. So pre-book your place either online or at the Department of Conservation office in Oban.

There are no shops to resupply with food or drinks at Great Walks huts or campsites. Also, it’s a shared accommodation, and except for running water, you’ll need your own cooking/stove, gas, and toilet paper.

There are smaller shops in Oban, so try to get your food supplies there. You can also do it in Invercargill before jumping on a plane or in Bluff at Four Square supermarket before you board the ferry to Stewart Island.

inside of a hostel in oban
Great hostel in Oban, highly recommended!

What Is The Distance Between The Stages?

I’m going to divide this hike into five walking sections/stages:

First, Oban to Lee Bay – this is a 5-kilometer (3 miles) hike to the official entrance, and it takes around 1 hr –1 hr 30 min from Oban. There is a shuttle option too if you want to save some time.

Lee Bay to Port William Hut – 8.1 kilometers (5 miles)

Port William Hut to North Arm Hut – 13.1 kilometers (8 miles)

North Arm Hut to Fern Gulley – 11 kilometers (7 miles)

Fern Gulley to Oban – 2 kilometers (1.2 miles)

What to Pack for The Rakiura Track

Since New Zealand is known for “four seasons in one day” weather, be prepared for every climate. Walking for more than a day requires at least one set of clothing for the day and a second outfit for the night.

Trailrunning shoes are perfect, either waterproof or with gaiters. Leave your hiking boots at home. Flip-flops are great for huts, beaches, or to have something comfy to change in after wearing shoes for hours.

Sleeping bag & sleeping pad if you plan to stay overnight in the huts or campsites. For the cabins, you’ll need a sleeping bag. Bunk beds have matrasses.

Utensils for cooking and eating and food to last for three days. You’ll need two 1L water bottles. It’s possible to refill your water bottles in the huts. Of course, you can always take the water bladder if you prefer.

Insect repellant, because there are sand flies everywhere. Red torch for kiwi spotting. Small first aid kit with sunscreen, blister plasters, and pain relief cream.

Toothbrush & toothpaste, shower gel/soap, toilet paper, and small towel (please do not wash in lakes or streams).

Extras: Camera, sunglasses, chopstick, baseball cap, earplugs, and eyemask.

nature along the rakiura track
Beautiful nature

Was it Worth it?

Hell yeah! If you ever decide to visit NZ, go to Stewart Island. From spotting kiwis to bird watching on Ulva Island and stargazing, hiking through beautiful forests, and having the whole beach to yourself.

Four hundred people are living on Stewart Island and 13,000 kiwis. So kiwi spotting is one of the main reasons I wanted to do this walk. Stewart Island is the only place where you may see kiwi in the wild during the day. 

I met a 65 years old lady from the UK at the Kai Kart fish and chips in Oban. She said she went on vacation to New Zealand when she was in her twenties. She visited Stewart Island and booked accommodation for three nights. Same as I. Three nights turned to two months because she took a job at the hostel. And then two months turned to forever. She fell in love with the island. She never went back to the UK. Stewart Island became her home.

No, there isn’t any story coming now on how I also stayed there. I continued with my NZ trip afterward, and three weeks later, I flew back home.

Stewart Island is a magical place and well worth visiting. So when you’re in New Zealand, don’t skip on it!

finish line of the rakiura track
1-day Rakiura track – mission accomplished!

You will find more information about walking the Rakiura Track on the official website. And you can also read more about my solo New Zealand adventure here.

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