For those unfamiliar with New Zealand’s geography I’m sure you are aware if our 2 main Islands, cleverly named the North Island and the South Island. Amongst the hundreds of smaller islands there is also the 3rd largest island, Stewart Island. Captain James Cook was amongst the first Europeans to sight it and recorded it’s where abouts in 1770.
Stewart Island is also commonly known by its Maori name, Rakiura. Rakiura is referenced in the Maori Legend of Maui which is the story of how New Zealand’s 3 main Islands come about:
“From his canoe in the South Island Maui caught the great fish (the North Island) and raised it from the sea, Rakiura/Stewart Island was the anchor stone that held him firmly in place”
Stewart Island is a magical place to visit all year round. It only has one small township called Oban which has a permanent population of 402 people but during summer can increase to much more! Although this small towns economy relies largely on fishing, farming and forestry, it has come to flourish off tourism. The beautiful shores and feeling of becoming one with Mother Nature inspires adventurers to visit the island in the masses. If you are planning on visiting this beauty for yourself, I have put together a few tips and must do’s while you’re there.
Firstly, how to get there:
There are ferry’s that run from Bluff to Stewart Island and will take approximately 1 hour from harbor to harbor. Some companies will also offer transport from Invercargill, Te Anau or even Queenstown. Real Journeys can also offer tours while on the island. Depending what time of the year you happen to be heading down, the Real Journeys ferry runs from 2 – 5 times daily so there will always be a time to suit you. If you’re worried about becoming seasick or the boat just isn’t for you, take a look at flying over and arrive fresh. The views are amazing, and you’ll be treated to an aerial view of the island including Doughboy Bay, West Ruggedy and the Little Hellfire Beach.
Things to do:
Rakiura Track: One of New Zealand’s Great walks. It is a 32km loop track the follows exquisite coastline, ducks and dives through native forest and allows a look into the immense Maori history of the island. You can pay to stay in the huts or if you would rather there are some campgrounds that have shelter and toilets. At night keep and ear out for the call of the evasive Kiwi and spot their footprints along the track.
Stewart Island Wild Kiwi Encounter: It’s quite rare to see a kiwi in the wild. Most New Zealanders won’t see one in their lifetime. That’s what makes this tour so special, so join the Kiwi Encounter Tour and have a once in a lifetime experience. It starts with a short cruise to Little Glory Cove where the friendly staff will enlighten you on the rich history of Stewart Island. As the sun sets it’s time to reach for the touches as you take a 45min walk out to Ocean Beach. Walking through the forest at night is an amazing experience as all of your senses are on overdrive. Usually Kiwis can be seen feeding among the grasses and seaweed.
Explore Ulva Island: Ulva Island is a small island that is part of Stewart Island. It is easily accessible by boat and includes a cruise of the stunning Paterson Inlet and all of its hidden beauty. Keep an eye out for any seals and penguins. Ulva Island is home to a Wildlife Sanctuary that homes different species of native New Zealand birds and rare plants. Its untouched beauty will blow you away.
If heading off on a tour isn’t your thing and the plan is to get away for some peace and quiet, there is plenty of that to! A range of accommodation is available on the island so you can find something to suit your needs. Take leisurely strolls into town and along the beaches. Get to know the locals and take in the fascinating history. There is something in Stewart Island for everyone to enjoy.Back to Local Insights Page