Stewart Island is New Zealand’s third island. The North Island and South Island are both well-known and well-travelled, but visitors often miss visiting the southernmost island in the country. Stewart Island is just a quick ferry ride from the South Island and is home to gorgeous beaches, wild kiwi and penguins, lush rainforests, native birds and so much more. It’s the perfect getaway and you can do all the highlights as quickly as in a weekend, but of course, if you have more time you’ll get to enjoy what this beautiful place has to offer at a leisurely pace. Here are our favourite things to do on Stewart Island.
Walk the Rakiura Track
The Rakiura Track is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. It is a 32km loop that takes you along pristine beaches and coastline as well as lush rainforest and native trees. There is a myriad of native birds to keep an eye out for on this track, including kiwis, weka, kaka and more. While this hike is meant to be done over 3 days, you can easily walk out and back as far as you wish to suit your schedule. Rakiura is the Maori name for Stewart Island and means “glowing skies” – something that you will certainly see during this walk!
Visit Ulva Island
Ulva Island is just off the shore of Stewart Island and is wildlife sanctuary. What makes this place unique is that you’ll get to see what nature looks like without human influence and predators. Ulva Island has never been milled and has been proudly pest-free since 1997. Because there are no introduced animals like rabbits or dogs, the wildlife that roams around this island are relatively safe from harm. There are healthy populations of kiwi, saddleback and yellowhead – birds that typically struggle on the mainland.
While kiwi birds are quite rare to see on the mainland, the Stewart Island Brown Kiwi can be commonly found roaming the streets at night. You can try your luck by walking around town at night, or you can book the Wild Kiwi Encounter tour that takes you to a private cove that kiwi are often found feeding amongst the grasses and seaweed. Because kiwi are nocturnal birds, this tour begins at dusk. You’ll take a scenic cruise on a catamaran across Paterson Inlet to Little Glory Cove and walk for about 45 minutes with a nature guide before emerging on Ocean Beach. This beach is well-known for being a place for kiwi to feed and roam at their leisure. Searching for kiwi is one of the most popular things to do on Stewart Island.
Kiwi in the wild
Tour the Village
Oban is the main town on Stewart Island and is home to just a few hundred people. Take a tour of the village and the surrounding bays and learn about Stewart Island’s rich history and environment. You can book a tour that includes a knowledgeable guide and takes you to highlights such as Observation Rock and Horseshoe Bay, or hire a scooter or rental car and explore the island by yourself. Both are excellent options to see the town and its surroundings.
Accommodation and Travel
Ready to plan your trip? Book the Stewart Island Lodge for a peaceful bed and breakfast accommodation. Located just a five minute walk from the town centre, it’s the ideal place for you to base yourself for the weekend.
In addition to all these adventures, you can also search for little blue penguins at dusk, hunt for the Aurora Australis southern lights on a clear night and sunbathe on the beaches. With so many great activities on Stewart Island, it’ll be easy for you to fill your weekend itinerary.