Picturesque Stewart Island is well off the beaten track, but just 30 kms (19 miles) from the southern tip of New Zealand’s South Island. Most of the Island is part of the Rakiura National Park with settlement mainly confined to Oban, the only township.
The island’s densely forested hills, tiny population and untouched coastline of rocky outcrops and creamy golden sand beaches make it a natural refuge for marine and bird life and a wonderful destination for people who value nature and wild places.
Once on the island, join us for a range of land and water based experiences. Enjoy a leisurely cruise of beautiful Paterson Inlet and Ulva Island or explore the island on our Village and Bays Tours. Alternatively travel independently with our rental cars, mountain bikes and scooters.
If you’re staying the night, the Stewart Island Lodge has the premier position overlooking the town and Halfmoon Bay.
Getting to Stewart Island
Stewart Island is a relatively undiscovered tourism destination far off the beaten track. Despite seeming remote, it is in fact highly accessible.
Just an hour by ferry from Bluff or 20 minutes by air from Invercargill, it’s easily a day trip. Getting to Bluff or Invercargill airport is similarly hassle-free with regular coach connections from other centres.
Stewart Island Experience ferry arriving in Oban
Stewart Island’s rich human heritage dates back to the 13th Century when Maori referred to the Island as Te Punga o te Waka a Maui (the anchor of Maui’s canoe) or Rakiura (land of the glowing skies). Maori visited seasonally, attracted by the delicious titi – the chick of the sooty shearwater.
Captain Cook was the first European to sight the Island in 1770, but thought it to be a part of the South Island so named it South Cape. In the 1800’s Europeans arrived to exploit the booming seal and whale industries.
Fishing has always provided a source of income for permanent residents and today the blue cod, crayfish and oyster industries support the Island along with farmed salmon and mussels.
Much of the Island has been long set aside as nature reserves so farming and clear felling forestry have not destroyed the native forests. Now, 80% of the Island is protected as Rakiura National Park.
A small tourism industry has slowly grown over the last 100 years – the Island is a haven for visitors who love its slow pace and connection with nature.
Flora and fauna
High rainfall and relatively warm weather makes for dense forestation right across the island. Native plants include the world's southernmost podocarps (southern conifers) and hardwoods such as rata and kamahi in the lowland. A great network of trails makes for fabulous bush walking in pretty much all weather.
There are many species of birds on Stewart Island that thrive because of the absence of cats, rats, stoats, ferrets, weasels and other predators that man has brought to the main islands. Concerted conservation efforts by the Islanders and New Zealand’s Department of Conservation keep predator numbers down and support threatened species.
The birds of Stewart Island include weka, kaka, albatross, the flightless Stewart Island kiwi, silvereyes, fantails, and kereru (wood pigeon). The endangered Yellow-eyed penguin has a significant number of breeding sites here and there are large colonies of Sooty Shearwaters on the offshore Muttonbird Islands.