The Rakiura Track located on the southern banks of Stewart Island, is one of the Great Walks of New Zealand with good reason. Commitment is the first step in completing this track, as a foot ferry is the only access to the island and often the seas are treacherous at 47 degrees south.
Luckily trekking in New Zealand is easier than navigating it’s waters, and with an abundance of hut systems it’s the closest thing I have come to luxury backpacking. Despite some previous rain making the trails a muddy labyrinth, the Rakiura track was a leisurely one. High rewards and some effort gave us beach trails, immersion in the emerald forests and refreshing swims in the turquoise lagoons, there is even a dock for fishing at the first hut. If ever you wander to the southern most island in New Zealand, I suggest you take a backpack and lots of snacks.
Lee Bay to Port William Hut
Day one began at the only hostel in town arranging safe keeping of our diving gear and bikes while we took off for our trek. What would’ve been a much longer day was happily cut short. As we made our way up one of many hill on our way to the trailhead, we were picked up by a trail angel. A woman in a truck pulled over and simply waved us onto the back of her open bed truck with a smile.
Grateful and happy in the sun, we trekked what now became the easy 8 kilometers to the first hut. An easy journey along warm sandy coastal flats gave way to beachside trails, and we quickly came upon our first hut. Claiming our beds in the bunk room is always our first ritual, following by a refuel on snacks and water and then unpacking all our comforts for home away from home.
Taking a dip in the vibrant blue-green lagoon called to us, as we peeled off our socks and shoes as fast as we could enjoyed our first swim of the trip. Salt clung to us like the rim of a margarita, both from our sweaty day and our dip in the ocean. Hoses are available at most huts, like I said luxury, so we happily froze in our cold water shower.
Fishing is available off the dock at this hut, and luckily we caught the memo and brought a small fishing line for some afternoon fun. Mostly for sport and entertainment, we caught nothing with our low efforts. We did get to watch the sunset and make friends with a couple, Matt & Ffion from the UK, who became our trekking partners for the duration of the trip, which I always count as a big win on the road.
Port William Hut to North Arm Hut
Breakfast came with four legged visitors, as we lazily started our second day of trekking. Day two was our longest day of the trek, as well as the highest elevation gain. Good conversation, chummy debate, many snacks, and lots of navigating creative paths through mud fields fueled us all the way to North Arm Hut.
Another beautiful day on the books landed us in this stunning cove, allegedly surrounded by Kiwi birds. Protected from the wind it was a bit warmer than our first day and this time everyone joined us for a swim. Stories were shared while we all lounged in the warm waters and we all settled into the camaraderie that easily comes on the trail.
Wild Kiwi Calls
Stewart Island is known for its Kiwi sightings during the twilight hours, as they are located so far south that the Kiwis need more time for rummaging through the forest for food. In an attempt to see a wild kiwi, the four of us spent over 4 hours wandering slowly through the woods on the trails around the hut. We weren’t lucky enough to spot one, but they did taunt us with their cries while we quietly tried to follow their calls to the source. In the end, the kiwis were stealthy but we were mesmerized by their songs and that was enough.
North Arm Hut to Oban Town
Wet and muddy is the best way to describe our third day. Muddy trails in New Zealand are no joke, one wrong step and you’re knee deep with a backpack on. Jumping, balancing on logs, wrong turns and backtracking to try another route is all part of the trek, but needless to say not much was captured as my hands were needed as much as my legs to get back to town.
Returning to Oban we headed straight to the cafe to treat ourselves to an after hike happy. A spicy chai latte was the correct choice, I can still feel it warming my soul and my core just looking at the photo. Our new friends were catching the evening ferry, so we exchanged instagrams and then as travel goes we hugged and parted ways. Knowing ourselves well, we booked an extra night at the hostel after our long hike. Showered and with a couple glasses of wine, we happily settled in for our final night on the island.
Waking to a sunny morning but rumors of rough seas ahead, we decided to seize the opportunity to soak up the goodness while we could. Sipping coffee leisurely, bathed in sunlight in the protected hostel courtyard after a long three days trek is quite possibly one of my favorite feelings, and is precisely how I spent most of my final morning.
Eventually the hostel needed to be cleaned and check-out was upon us. Jade carving at Rakiura Jade had been on my list when we had arrived on the island, but we packed our itinerary with so many things it was sadly left undone. We did however decide that it would be our final stop. We met the owner, Dave who is just the salt of the earth. When (not if) I make it back to Stewart Island, I will be doing his carving class, however until then I will treasure the stunning and incredibly unique jade feather Oli gifted me that morning.
Dave made it very clear that the feather must be submerged in the ocean everywhere we go to bless our journeys. The man knows his jade, so I didn’t diss the woo woo and immediately went to the ocean to bless my jade piece and our travels. ❤