Free Things to Do on Stewart Island (and a Few Cheap Things Too)
The great thing about Stewart Island is that, well, of course, it is a stunning off-the-beaten-track location and furthest south you’re ever likely to go. But what’s more, you don’t have to spend a lot of money when you get there. Even beyond this list, there are heaps of affordable activities to really enjoy your time out here. For the sake of those free (or super cheap) activities, we have put together this list of free things to do in Stewart Island.
Once you have got over to Stewart Island and had a browse through our Stewart Island – Guide for Backpackers, there are a number of stunning walks to go on without the extra cost of transport. Plus, with a free museum, an abundance of wildlife, cheap entertainment and stunning beaches, you can definitely stretch your stay in Stewart Island for longer with these free and extremely affordable activities. By the way, don’t miss these 5 Stewart Island Must-Dos.
1. Relax on Bathing Beach
Bathing Beach is only 5-10 minutes walk from Oban. The walk takes you to an often secluded beach with crystal clear waters and access to a shipwreck at low tide. It’s a great place to go for a swim or relax on the beach. It’s also one of the 10 Incredible Things to Do on Stewart Island.
Location: On the east side of Oban, walk past the wharf and up the road to the right going up the hill. The road leads to a walking track which takes you to Bathing Beach.
2. Go to a Quiz Night
“The Pub” is not only a great place to meet locals and eat some fish and chips, but it’s also a great place to test your general knowledge on quiz night. The Pub Quiz is every Sunday night from 6.30pm.
Location: South Sea Hotel, Elgin Terrace, Oban (waterfront)
3. Go to the Rakiura Museum
This free-entry museum tells the story of the early Maori, sealers and whalers, shipbuilders and their trials and tribulations of settling on an isolated southern island. The Rakiura Museum is open 10am-1pm daily and 12pm-2pm on Sundays.
Location: Ayr Street, Oban
4. Watch Little Blue Penguins
Take an evening walk to Ackers Point from Oban (3 hours return) is likely to coincide with seeing little blue penguins returning to the shores (take a torch with your but once you see penguins, don’t shine your torch at them). Otherwise, you may also see little blue penguins just past the fuel tanks on the main wharf. Just watch them from the tanks – do not go on the rocks with them). For more places to see penguins, check out Where to Find Penguins in New Zealand.
Location: The walk to Ackers Point follows the coastal road at the east end of Oban. Follow the coastal road past several bays, then the road finishes and a walking track to the Ackers Point Lighthouse begins.
5. Play a Round of Bowls or Golf
Round up a group of new backpacker mates and pretend that you are retired for the afternoon. The Post Office hires out bowls sets and golf sets for around NZ$5 per person. Now, that’s an affordable way to spend an afternoon on Stewart Island!
Location:The bowling green is beside the Post Office on the corner of Elgin Terrace and Ayr Street.
6. Walk to Lee Bay (5-6 Hours Return)
For a day walk in Stewart Island without having to pay for transport, take the walk to Bathing Beach (see above). Cross Bathing Beach and take Horseshoe Bay Road north for about 1.5km, turn into Bragg Bay Road just uphill from Butterfield Beach. Continue along the road on the coast of Bragg Bay where The Horseshoe Point track starts at the end of the road. This incorporates many stunning little beaches until you get to Horseshoe Bay. Follow Horseshoe Bay Road and up Lee Bay Road where you will reach the entrance to the Rakiura National Park and its gateway.
Location: Description above.
7. Watch “A Local’s Tail”
For NZ$10 per person, we think this activity can be classed as a cheap thing to do in Stewart Island. Go to the Bunkhouse Theatre and learn about Stewart Island’s history with a quirky local film! Screenings are at11am, 2pm and4pm.
Location: Bunkhouse Theatre on Main Street.
8. Look for Kiwi Birds
Stewart Island is your best chance for seeing kiwi birds in the wild while in New Zealand. These elusive creatures are mostly seen after dark or in the early morning. Triall Park on Golden Bay Road is a likely place to see them (for free). Otherwise, kiwi spotting tours and a trip to Ulva Island are your best bet.
Location: Triall Park
10. Watch the Sunset from Observation Rock
Observation Rock is best climbed when there is something to observe… like sunrise and sunset! This 15-minute walk is short but steep. The views over Oban are worth the climb!
Location: On the corner of Leonard Street and Excelsior Street. Follow the signposts.