Stewart Island has quickly risen up the ladder as a must see destination for Kiwis. As New Zealand's third largest island it is considered to be a bucket list item for many kiwis. I have been to Stewart Island 8 times and can’t wait to get there again.
Stewart Island has a relatively temperate climate. The last time I visited was June 2015 and it wasn’t at all cold. Heading to bluff to catch the ferry, we first stopped at the famous signposts at the bottom of the country depicting distances to places all over the world.
This is also the location of the Bluff chain sculpture. A symbolic link to Stewart Island.
The Ferry to Stewart Island takes around an hour across the Foveaux Strait and delivers you directly to the main settlement on the island known as Oban at the head of Halfmoon Bay. Everything here is in walking distance, accommodation, cafes, the Department of Conservation Information centre and the local 4 square shop.
There are a number of dining options on the island. We were there for 2 nights and enjoyed a delicious meal at the Church Hill Restaurant one night and really good pub tucker at the South Seas Hotel on the second night.
Stewart Island can be visited on a day trip and along with the Ferry there is the option to fly in and out of the Island with Stewart Island Flights. But to see the best bits, we think it is essential to spend at least 2 nights there. This will allow time for a tour to key locations on the island such as Lee Bay and the start of the Rakiura Walking track where you can also see Te Puka – the Anchor Stone and chain links leading into the water.
There is also Observation Rock above the township with fantastic views over the land, beaches and water. With plenty of interesting sites and wildlife and lush native bush and beaches along the way to experience – including the original phone communication device on the island – the main truck line.
A short walk from Oban leads you to Golden Bay which is the main departure point for water taxis to Paterson Inlet and more importantly the opportunity to visit Ulva Island – part of the Rakiura National Park.
The wildlife on the island is a magnet for bird lovers who come from all over the world to tick off an abundance of rare species. Saddlebacks, Kaka, Weka and Stewart Island Robins are common.
There are also 40 breeding pairs of the Stewart Island Brown Kiwi. Although kiwis are general nocturnal, on Stewart Island they are both nocturnal and diurnal. It is believed they have evolved to be active during the day time due to the very short nights experienced this far south during the summer months. The nights are not long enough for them to feed. We were very lucky to come across one of the kiwis on the path through the island. An experience that won't be forgotten.
Inspired New Zealand Tours offers a South Island Discovery Tour which includes a 2 night visit to Stewart Island. The tour is 12 days long starting and finishing in Christchurch and includes visits to Tekapo, Dunedin, the Catlin Coast, Invercargill, Stewart Island, Te Anau, Milford Sound, Queenstown and Franz Josef on the West Coast.
Check the website for available dates https://www.inspirednztours.co.nz/tours/south-island-discover-including-stewart-island
It was a privalige to have Chris as our tour manager. His knowledge, sense of humour, and attention to detail, made our tour a wonderful experience. All our group gelled together from the start and he took our humour and antics very well.
David, Distant Journeys client, United Kingdom
Your driver Chris was extremely likeable and considerate, very well organised with facts at his fingertips. He cared about his passengers and how they were faring
Gill, Distant Journeys, United Kingdom
Peter was a very safe and skilled driver. He remained calm at all times and had a great sense of humour.
Lesley, United Kingdom