The circuit follows open coastline, crosses forested interior and meanders along the sheltered shores of Paterson Inlet. It passes sites of historical interest and introduces many of the common sea and forest birds of the island. Parts of it cross Maori land and access is courtesy of the owners.
Places to stay
There are two huts (Port Willam and North Arm) and three campsites (Maori Beach, Port William and North Arm) on the Rakiura Track. Note, campsites are not adjacent to the huts. Camping is only permitted at the designated campsites. When camping, you may not use hut facilities, but a cooking shelter, water supply and toilet are provided at each site.
Time: 3 - 4 hr
Distance: 8 km
Passing through the chain link sculpture at Lee Bay, the track follows the coast to Little River, which is crossed by a bridge. At low tide it is possible to walk around the beach and pick up the track at the point.
From there the track heads around Peter’s Point and on to Maori Beach. The creek at the southern end of Maori Beach can easily be waded at low tide, however at high tide, continue along the track until you come to a small foot bridge. A track leading to a rusting steam boiler, a relic from the sawmilling days, can be found just few minutes on from the turn-off to this bridge. Maori Beach campsite is situated in a grassy clearing close to the beach.
A larger bridge spans the tidal stream at the northern end of the beach and from here the track climbs a small hill and continues on to the intersection with the track to North Arm. Turn right and you will gradually drop down to the campsite above Magnetic Beach in Port William/Potirepo. Port William Hut is just a few minutes beyond the campsite.
Port William Hut to North Arm Hut
Time: 6 hr
Distance: 13 km
This section of track starts on the hill between Maori Beach and Port William. Trampers usually stay the night at Port William Hut and then backtrack the 40 minutes to the turn-off.
The track passes through a variety of vegetation including previously milled and virgin podocarp forest. Remnants of milling activity are seen along the track as it follows old tramlines for the logs being directed to their various destinations.
Log haulers on Google Street View
A campsite, with shelter and toilet, is sited above North Arm Hut.
North Arm Hut to Fern Gully car park
Time: 4 - 4 hr 30 min
Distance: 11 km
This section of track provides trampers access to the shores of Paterson Inlet.
The track sidles around the headland from North Arm to Sawdust Bay.It passes a sawmill site which was operated between 1914 and 1918. The track continues through rimu and kamahi dominated forest emerging at the sheltered bays of Kidney Fern Arm and Kaipipi Bay. At Kaipipi Bay two sawmills employed more than 100 people in the 1860s.
The track between Kaipipi and Halfmoon Bays follows the former Kaipipi Road, in its heyday the most used and best maintained on the island.
From Fern Gully carpark it is another 2 km along the road (turn left into Main Rd) to get back to Oban township.