Five reasons to visit Stewart Island

Stewart Island is New Zealand’s third-largest and southern-most island, made up of rugged peaks, verdant rainforests, rushing rivers and golden beaches.

This isolated part of the world is well worth the trip across Foveaux Strait.

Below, we’ve put together five reasons why you should visit Stewart Island.

It’s a chance to get off the beaten track

There are less than 400 permanent residents on Stewart Island, and most of them live around the main town of Oban. An incredible 85 percent of the island is designated National Park. With this amount of wilderness, you will be able to feel like you’ve truly left the hustle and bustle behind you. With 700 kilometres of coastline and 280 kilometres of walking track (and only 20 kilometres of road!), you’re able to immerse yourself in areas few travelers ever reach.

There are more kiwi than humans, and birdlife galore

This is one of the few places you are almost guaranteed to see kiwi in the wild – in fact, there are more kiwi than humans, an estimated 20,000, thanks to the absence of mustelids (ferrets, weasels and stoats) that were introduced to the rest of the country. The Stewart Island brown kiwi, or tokoeka, is slightly larger than the North Island brown kiwi. When not scuttling through the forest they can often be spotted on the beaches, hunting with their long beaks for sandhoppers in the kelp.  In particular at Halfmoon Bay, or more so at the offshore predator-free Ulva Island, you can see abundant tui and native wood pigeon, bellbirds, little blue penguins, sooty shearwater, grey warbler, fantails, weka, kaka and red crowned kakariki – even the rare long-tailed bat if you’re lucky.

Amazing southern hospitality

If you haven’t met southern locals yet, you’re in for a treat - they’re your true New Zealand “salt of the earth” characters. Whether they’re fishermen down at the local pub or the owners of your hotel, they’re very friendly and fiercely proud of their piece of paradise. Make sure you sample the cuisine – you haven’t lived until you’ve tried fresh Bluff oysters (famous throughout the whole of New Zealand and even warranting their own festival in May) as well as blue cod and Stewart Island salmon, which all flourish in the year-round cool and pristine waters.

Fascinating history

Although fishing and tourism are the main industries now, Stewart Island has many a story under its belt – exploring the island you can stumble across historic sites such as remains of timber logging operations, or an old tramway from tin mining at Port Pegasus. There’s Ackers Cottage, one of the oldest buildings in New Zealand, built in 1835 by Lewis Acker. In 1924 a Norwegian whaling station was installed at Paterson Inlet. The track to Kaipipi Bay follows an old logging road which in the late 1800's was the best road on the island, providing access to two sawmills at Kaipipi Bay and employing 100 people. The harvesting of Titi (sooty shearwater) by local Maori has also gone on for centuries, and in fact still happens today.

A scenic flight in and out

Not just an excuse to avoid a rough ferry crossing through Foveaux Strait back to Invercargill, a scenic flight showcases the landscape and can be that perfect introduction – or tear-inducing farewell – to your Stewart Island experience. Seeing all that natural beauty from the air lets you get a true grasp of the scale of island, take some epic snapshots, and pinpoint spots you’d like to explore on ground level.

Stewart Island is a place like no other and well worth the visit for any lover of nature, history and culture.

MoaTrek visits Stewart Island on its Stewart Island Odyssey tour, complete with small group of likeminded people and friendly kiwi guide. The Stewart Island Odyssey explores the lower South Island region, and is a great way to get off the beaten track and visit this nature-lovers hideaway with everything taken care of. Get in touch – we’d love to chat about your dream Stewart Island experience!