Stewart Island is renowned for its strenuous, uber-muddy walks in Rakiura National Park. However, after living for 10 years on the Island, Jess Kany knows a few trails closer to town worth a look and suggests you leave the Great Walks to the mudophiles. The itinerary is nothing to sneeze at: hills and stairs will haunt your calves. These walks wend through rainforest and along spectacular coastline.
Dawn: Open the curtain and peek outside. Rakiura is the ‘land of the glowing skies’ and the sunrise often inspires a sleepy scramble for the camera.
Dawn plus 5: Go back to sleep (if you can, the kaka make a racket).
0800: Head to the South Sea Hotel for Stewart Island blue cod topped with egg. Get your second cup of Joe to go, mosey along the waterfront and have a nosey at the wharf, watching the comings and goings of fishing boats, fairy penguins and ferries.
0845: Pop into Ship to Shore for snacks and sandfly repellent. Outside, head left. Follow Horseshoe Bay Road over three steep hills. The last will drop you into Horseshoe Bay. Turn right, follow yellow sign for Horseshoe Point Track. Horseshoe Point and Deadman’s Beach are nice spots for a pause; if it’s windy there’s a protected bench at the top of the stairs after Deadman’s.
1230: Seafood chowder at the South Sea Hotel.
1400: Leave hotel and go right. Turn up Peterson Hill to Deep Bay Track. Back on a road, turn right, down the hill, to pick up Golden Bay Track. Back on the road turn left, walk to Watercress Beach (follow sign toward Thule) and hop in a sea kayak (pre-arranged through www.rakiura.co.nz). Tootle amongst lovely wee islands, spotting penguins and shags. Afterwards, return to town via Raroa Reserve Track and Fuschia Walk.
1900: Beer and sustenance at the pub.
Summertime, just on dark: Drive to Acker’s Point Trailhead. Take a torch and walk to the lighthouse: just on full dark the titi fly home, crying their eerie call. Walk back slowly and quietly, you share the trail with penguins, titi, whitetail deer, and, if you’re lucky kiwi.
Bring a feed of fish and chips from the Kai Kart, a fern book, a bird book, sandfly repellent, and Stewart Island rainwater (from the shop; it’s a fundraiser for the local community centre). Drive to the entrance to Rakiura National Park (10min from town). Walk to Little River, picnic, return. (If you are a slow walker, there is a bench halfway for a turnaround point). This is a beautiful toe-dip into New Zealand’s newest National Park.
Explore Paterson Inlet’s exquisite Ulva Island. Scheduled water taxis leave from Golden Bay (10min walk from town) throughout the day. Cost is approximately $25 per adult return. Wander around yourself or do a guided tour with Ulva – yes, it’s really her name – a knowledgeable and lovely lady of Rakiura Maori descent. www.ulva.co.nz