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Stewart Island - New Zealand's little known island

Date: 12 April 2019

It’s a long-standing debate here in New Zealand: Which is better, the North or the South Island? While residents on both sides will vehemently argue for their home island, it’s easy to forget that New Zealand has a third, beautiful and undisturbed island that just might take the cake entirely and might be the most patriotic of all.

Stewart Island is New Zealand’s third island and it’s the perfect escape for those looking to get off the beaten track to get a real taste of what New Zealand was like before humans and industry arrived. As a dark sky sanctuary, Stewart Island offers pristine night skies and even the elusive Aurora Australis (Southern Lights) are often visible.

How to get there

Stewart Island is 30 kilometers off of the southern coast of New Zealand’s South Island, and despite its remote nature, it’s actually fairly easy to get there. A daily one-hour ferry will take you from Bluff to Stewart Island across the iconic Foveaux Strait, making this trip super easy even if you only have the weekend to spare. Once you arrive, a quick trip to the Oban Visitor Centre will be a good start to help your planning. The friendly staff are only too happy to point you in the right direction so you can make the most of your trip.

Most of Stewart Island is national park and while it is vast, it has countless activities to keep you busy, whether you want to keep moving or simply relax and take in the magnificent wildlife around you. Definitely begin your trip with a cruise out to Ulva Island, a wildlife sanctuary.

Opt in for a guided trip and along the way, you’ll see hidden coves and unspoilt beaches and if you’re lucky, perhaps even a fur seal or penguin. Ulva Island is a refuge for many native birds and rare plants.

Stewart Island kiwi

Stewart Island is home to some of the rarest birds in the country, but it is most famous for the iconic New Zealand creature - the kiwi. Many people come from all over to see this rare, nocturnal bird in its natural habitat, and you have a much higher chance of stumbling across one here than anywhere else in New Zealand. The best way to increase your chances is to hop on a cruise across Paterson Inlet to Little Glory Cove where a guided walk at dusk will lead you to a secluded sandy beach which is the feeding grounds for many kiwis in the area.

For those looking to hike, Stewart Island has unlimited options from the three day Rakiura Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, to the more leisure guided day walks. Tramping is a great way to see the wildlife on Stewart Island and will give you the best glimpse into Stewart Island’s rich history and remote nature.

Where to stay

At the end of your day, relax at Stewart Island Lodge, a peaceful bed and breakfast and perfect base for all of your Stewart Island activities. The lodge has impressive views of Half-moon Bay and Foveaux Strait and is also the home to many native birds such as the kaka, a native parrot, tui and kereru. It’s the perfect place to relax and contemplate the beauty of the rugged and wild Stewart Island. But be warned, you’ll never want to leave.

About the author: Liz

Liz Carlson is the creator behind Young Adventuress, one of the biggest travel blogs in the world. An American based in the mountains of Wanaka and always on adventures around New Zealand, she is passionate about Instagram, strong coffee, and saving the kākāpō.

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