© NZPocketGuide.com
© NZPocketGuide.com

Exploring Oban on Stewart Island

© NZPocketGuide.com

159 Days on the Road

Our 365-day road trip is taking us south – further south than most people ever go. The next stopover the Southern Ocean would be Antarctica. But you’d never think that the golden sandy shores with the crystal clear waters of Stewart Island would be the place. Well, it is and we’re going there today!

The bottom of the South Island

Like the eager beavers that we are, we arrive in Bluff two hours earlier than the check-in time for the ferry to Stewart Island. Bluff really has that “end of the line” feeling with the land gently submerging into the sea. Plus, the highway into Bluff is State Highway 1, also the name of the highway we took out of Auckland on the very first day of this trip. If that’s not a monumental moment in this trip, then we don’t know what is. It feels like five years ago rather than five months ago that we started this insane journey of 365 days doing 365 activities. Sh*t, we have done a lot.

However, not everything is hunky dory on this noteworthy day. Robin is still suffering from man flu so we spend the morning curling up and trying to keep warm in the campervan until 9.15am rocks around. Time to get onto the ferry!

Failing to pack light, again…

We’ve really tried to pack light for our three nights in Stewart Island, but still we have three backpacks and a box of computers that we’re loading into the large metal crates. (The hardship of running a business while on the road is that you can NEVER pack light). Then we watch as the metal crates are lifted by crane into the small ferry.

Onward to Stewart Island

The ferry ride with Stewart Island Experience is only about an hour, with a few notes and bad jokes of commentary from the skipper’s assistant. He shows us the sights of Bluff and the islands surrounding Stewart Island along the notoriously rocky ride over the Foveaux Strait.

Pulling into Oban, Stewart Island’s one and only town with a permanent population of 400, it actually feels like we are going on holiday during our year-long holiday. We see pristine beaches surrounded by forest, fishing boats lazily rocking from side to side, the sun is now shining down on us unlike in Bluff this morning.

Welcome to Oban

From the ferry, we pick up our bags and head to the Stewart Island Backpackers to check-in. Luckily, nothing is too far in Oban.

We have quite the packed itinerary on Stewart Island in the next few days: jade carving, flying, hiking, kiwi spotting, and going to Ulva Island. But thankfully for Robin and the fact that he feels like death right now, we are just going to explore the town of Oban, check out one of those pristine beaches, and finish with a local movie at the Bunkhouse Theatre. It’s an easy one, but something very similar to what people would do if they only had one full day on Stewart Island.

Stewart Island, here we come!

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Budget snacking and Bathing Beach

First things first, we need something to eat! We have a quick snack with budget in mind from the lovely Stewart Island Four Square. Our dining table of choice is on the waterfront looking out across a beach and out into the harbour.

After munching on our reduced-price pizza slices and salmon pie, we head along the coast and up a hill towards Bathing Beach.

Birds, birds everywhere!

A short climb on the east side of Oban reveals some pleasantly pretty views over the harbour and down into the clear waters. We can see every detail of the kelp drifting back and forth in the water below. As for the land, we are surrounded by bird song, especially that of the tui which warbles and clicks in the strangest tones. We are in bird heaven right now!

The views suddenly change from the populated Oban to the deserted Bathing Beach. The tide is coming in quickly on a long stretch of golden sand lined with rugged cliff faces and forest. Tui fly over our heads and herons glide over the rocks below as we make our way down to the paradise beach.

A deserted beach in paradise

We just take it easy, having a stroll and a sit on the beach, not putting Robin through any more than he needs to. It really does feel like a paradise holiday on our own private island. Are you sure we are still in New Zealand? For the entire time that we sit on the beach watching the clear turquoise waters roll in, we don’t see another soul. And we are only a 10-minute walk from Oban!

The Bunkhouse Theatre

After an easy breezy walk back to the Stewart Island Backpackers and watching the kaka parrots harrass a couple of backpackers who are smoking outside, we have a power nap (Robin, because he’s ill and Laura, because she’s lazy) before the movie starts at the Bunkhouse Theatre at 4pm!

A red carpet into a building decorated with photographs of people holding up their reviews written on a large chalkboard indicates we have arrived. The showing is A Local’s Tail, which all we know is it is about a dog.

A Local’s Tail

We make our way into the movie theatre with complimentary blankets and super spacious seats. (Honestly, we have found that local New Zealand cinemas really know how to make awesome cinemas).

The 40-minute movie starts with a hilarious voice of Lola, the dog, giving us the history of Stewart Island through “what she’s heard down at the pub”. (We say “she” because Lola implies a lady, but the voice given to her is most definitely a man). It’s a fresh, creative and fun way to tell the story of early pioneers instead of trying to get your head around it in a “settlers museum”.

Preparation for the adventure ahead

Hopefully, this relaxing day has helped Robin rest up for the crazy days we have ahead. Tomorrow, we carve our very own greenstone pendants, then we have a flight over to Masons Bay where we land on the beach and stay in a hut overnight. Hopefully, we’ll spot some kiwi birds too. See you then!

Ah, Stewart Island, you are so pretty

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