In the Māori language, it’s known as Rakiura which means ‘the land of glowing skies’. You’ll get an inkling why when you see the Aurora Australis which often appears in these southern skies.
Over 85% of the island is National Park, and most people come here for the hiking and birdwatching. The island has just 17 miles of road, but 174 miles of walking tracks suited to short walks, day walks and multi-day hikes. Walk the three-day Rakiura Track and you will get the full experience of Stewart Island’s wild beauty.
RARE ISLAND BIRDS
Stewart Island is a haven for brown kiwi or Tokoeka, which outnumber humans on the island and are active day and night. Blue penguins and the rare yellow-eyed penguins waddle among the rocks. Offshore on Ulva Island, you’ll find a predator-free bird sanctuary with dozens of native species.
The 400 or so Stewart Islanders are a proud and independent bunch, but they’re friendly too. There’s only one settlement of any size on the island – Halfmoon Bay, sometimes called Oban, which offers a wide variety of accommodation.
If you’re walking the tracks, the Department of Conservation (DOC) provides huts for overnight hikes. DOC has a visitor center on the island where you can find out more.
One of the best ways to experience Stewart Island is with a boat cruise. You’ll explore secluded bays and beautiful inlets – and, if you’re lucky, you may see penguins, dolphins or even an albatross.
Stewart Island, New Zealand, can be reached by ferry from Bluff, or by light aircraft from Invercargill. Ulva Island is accessible by water taxi.