Stewart Island Southland
Stewart Island Flights Stewart Island One Way Stewart Island Flights
Stewart Island Southland
Stewart Island Flights Stewart Island One Way Stewart Island Flights
Discover the island of the kiwi

Stewart Island

Stewart Island is also known as Rakiura in the Maori language, which means 'the land of the glowing skies.' It's a place where time slows to the rhythmic flow of nature, where sunsets blaze through the skies and where billions of stars light up the night sky. Hike through unspoilt stretches of coastline or sit in stillness and let birds' songs lightly touch your ears.

Where is Stewart Island?

View of green grass, blue water and mountains
Spend at least two nights in Oban as you explore the rare gem that is Stewart Island
A bird with a white head with its claw wrapped around its beak
Tread lightly around the island which is a sanctuary for wildlife especially birds


At 1746 square kilometres, Stewart Island is New Zealand's third-largest island and is located about 30 kilometres southwest of the South Island across the Foveaux Strait. Perhaps one of the most unique things about it is that 85% of the island consists of the national park, known as Rakiura National Park.

It's a birdwatchers and hikers paradise, with the brown kiwi outnumbering humans and the walking tracks far exceeding the roads. When you spend a night or two in Oban, you'll be lucky to strike up a conversation with any of the population of 400 friendly inhabitants.

Kiwi on Stewart Island | New Zealand wildlife
As a visitor it is important to respect the home of the protected kiwi
A small brown weka bird scratching its head
Encounter a curious weka as you hike the coastline

Things to do

Explore the Rakiura Track

The Rakiura Track is a 32-kilometre-long circular track that is usually completed over two nights and three days. Some super fit and adventurous people might try tramping the Rakiura Track in one day, but we'd recommend going slowly and spending time taking in the scenery, the flora and fauna and simply enjoying the experience. Start at Lee Bay and hike through untouched beaches, over rivers and bridges and past historic remnants. Tramping through native forests and bushes, from Port William Hut to North Arm Hut and then on to Oban.

Be prepared for days packed with adventure

Bookings for the huts and campsites are important, especially during the peak period of the Great Walks (late October to late April). Pack some warm clothes and extra snacks (the weather can change quickly), don your hiking boots and sunglasses and venture out to a little piece of paradise.

A walking path in a dense forested area
Part of the charm of Stewart Island is that it is an untouched nature area
A small brown weka walking on a pebbled path
Enjoy close encounters with birdlife on this predator free island

Taste the best blue cod in the world

Either you're going to be one of those people who want to go out fishing for their blue cod or one of those who want to take it on the go. There are several fishing charters available on the island if you have time to go on a fishing expedition otherwise grab it to go at Kai Kart or the South Sea Hotel. Locals in the know will tell you that the blue cod from the waters of Stewart Island is the best in the world.

Be dazzled by the night sky

When on Stewart Island don't forget to look up. It offers one of the darkest locations in the world to view the night sky. It was named a Dark Sky Sanctuary in 2019 and due to the lack of light pollution, the starry nights are an unforgettable experience. Have the rare pleasure of observing the billions of stars that make up the Milky Way and the magnificent Aurora Australis that is often seen streaking through the evening skies.

Night sky over a bay of water with millions of stars in the sky
Savour the pleasure of counting stars in the Stewart Island/Rakiura evening skies

Spot weka, robin and tui

An interesting fact about Stewart Island is that the kiwi outnumbers humans 50 to 1, making it a bird lover's haven. Carry your binoculars, bird books and sun hat and embark on an adventure of a lifetime. Watch native birds such as the weka or Brown Kiwi (Tokoeka) in their natural forested habitat or visit the Southern Sanctuary for a special kiwi spotting experience.

A bird in the branch of a tree in a green forest
Take a guided walk on the island to learn about more about the abundant bird and plant species
© Matt Crawford

Ulva Island

Ulva Island is a rare chance to experience New Zealand as it might have been 200 years ago. It's a predator-free sanctuary known for its prolific bird life and is just a 10-minute ferry ride from Stewart Island. The Ulva ferry departs regularly from Golden Bay or there are options for a water taxi. The best way to describe the island is pristine. Situated on Paterson Inlet and part of Stewart Island, a visit here will reset how you think about nature.

There is no accommodation available on the island nor are there any shops. Pack a picnic basket or snacks for the day and enjoy a family outing. Follow an active population of kiwi, saddleback and yellowtail birds as you walk the three-hour track.

Spend a few glorious hours exploring the pristine Ulva Island
© Miles Holden
A man and woman admiring a small bird on a walking path next to the green forest
Keep your eyes pealed for the kaka, kiwi birds, kakariki, Stewart Island robin and so much more
© Miles Holden
Gorgeous nature | New Zealand holiday

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How to get there

Getting to Stewart Island is easier than you might think. There are regular daily flights or ferries to the island. Take a 20-minute flight from Invercargill or a one-hour ferry ride from the Bluff. If you are staying in Wellington, Christchurch or Queenstown you can take a direct flight to Invercargill or a connecting flight from Auckland.

You will not be able to transport your car on the ferry but you can hire rental cars, mountain bikes and scooters at the Oban Visitor Centre. While there are 280 kilometres of hiking track on Stewart Island, there are only 20 kilometres of road.

A white seaplane on brown sand
Reaching Stewart Island is a quick and seamless 20 minute flight from Invercargill
© Raymonds Advertising
A ferry on blue water on a clear sunny day
Enjoy a pleasant ferry ride to Ulva island

Where to stay?

Make your trip extra special by experiencing a unique stay from our large collection of hand-selected accommodations located in South Island and beyond. Your travel specialist will match you with accommodation that suits your wants and needs. A journey where your accommodation is an experience in itself.

Table and chairs set up outside near a fireplace
At TravelEssence UK we specialise in small scale accommodation off the beaten path

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