Oban is the one and only town in Rakiura.
Don’t be fooled by the name. It is the South Sea as in the current Southern Ocean, not the tropical version.
The hotel is therefore a sturdy double-fronted building, providing comfortable shelter from what can be hostile elements outside – although the garden tables are a sure sign that Rakiura/Stewart Island also enjoys a beautiful time.
Situated near the base of the pier where the Bluff ferry arrives, and directly opposite the sandy beach of Thomson Bay, the South Sea Hotel is the focal point of Oban and a hub of local life.
It peaks on Sunday evening when the pub fills with teams of six, New Zealand Islanders and Visitors (as they call us), eager to beat their rivals on the usual Quiz Night. The questions range from near and far: the standard Trivial Pursuit type mixed in with others about local and current events and places. It’s loud, lively, fun and hugely popular, and creates a friendly vibe throughout the evening.
* Stewart Island/Rakiura: Wonders of the Third Island
* How to have an island holiday in New Zealand
* Why you’ll be busy in laid-back Oban, Stewart Island
*World famous in New Zealand: Stewart Island e-bikes
Because it’s a big weekly event for the island’s 440 permanent residents, and it’s a quick way to connect with the locals. Then you can chat and get the inside scoop on whatever interests you, and will likely end up envying their fierce pride in the island.
In addition, the hotel is an ideal place to eat, ideally freshly caught seafood, generously served. And when the evening finally ends, all you have to do is climb the stairs or down the hall to your simple but comfortable accommodation.
You will follow in the footsteps of Prince Harry, who showed up to participate on a Sunday in 2015. By all accounts, a great evening was had by all.
On the way/nearby
It’s about getting out into nature. If you’re not up for the three-day Rakiura Track, there are plenty of shorter options. Stroll around the headland to Horseshoe Bay for stunning views of tropical-looking clear blue seas and sandy beaches with only birds for company.
Or hire an e-bike and ride to the famous anchor chain sculpture, or along the other side of Halfmoon Bay to the start of the short walk to Ackers Point Lighthouse, for scenery more beautiful, penguins and seals.
Too much effort? Take a bus tour of the 27 kilometer island road for more inside commentary, or poke around the small, well-presented museum. And there is always the island of Ulva nearby, for its incredible birdlife.
Traditional hotel rooms start at $80, or there are motel units, a cottage, or beach house to stay in.
Best time to go
A Sunday evening for the quiz (register your team before 6pm) or at the end of a day spent outdoors exploring the delights of Rakiura and working up an appetite. Be sure to book ahead if you plan to participate or just watch the 32km Rakiura Challenge race on October 1.
Stay safe: New Zealand is currently under Covid-19 restrictions. Follow the instructions on covid19.govt.nz.