Stewart Island Must-Do's

Date: 12 December 2019

Stewart Island is New Zealand’s third-largest island and home to some of the most amazing experiences to be found in this part of the world. Because it’s a bit off the well-trodden tourist track on the South Island combined with its limited accessibility (by water) means that you have to WANT to go to Stewart Island to get there. But those who are determined and make the time to travel to Stewart Island are rewarded with some of the most pristine and pure nature to be found in New Zealand, which is saying something. Here are some must-dos for your next voyage south.

Take the ferry across from Bluff

First things first, you’ve gotta earn your trip to Stewart Island by weathering the ferry journey across the Foveaux Strait, the small but mighty stretch of water separating the island from the South Island. Somewhat notorious, it’s only about an hour's journey across and depending on the weather, you might be holding on by the seat of your pants. It’s the perfect introduction to this very cool part of New Zealand, and you’ll spot plenty of stunning seabirds on the voyage across.

View of boats in Stewart Island marina

Look for kiwi every night

You gotta stay a couple of nights on Stewart Island to have the chance to spot the elusive nocturnal and flightless kiwi, New Zealand’s national bird. The Stewart Island kiwi or tokoeka is the largest kiwi in New Zealand, and while they are endangered, the best chance you have of spotting them in the wild is here on Stewart Island on one of the guided kiwi tours.

Kiwi on a beach during the Wild Kiwi Encounter at Stewart Island

Take some walks and go for a wander

Stewart Island is a tramper or hiker’s paradise, with trails crisscrossing all over the island, from the easy day trips and Great Walk to two-week-long missions through mud pits and tidal beaches encircling the island. There’s something for everyone here, and because it’s not really mountainous, the trails are flatter and somewhat easier. You can’t come to Stewart Island and not go for some walks.

Visit Ulva Island

Ulva Island is a special island sanctuary open to the public just off the coast of Stewart Island. It’ll give you a taste for the real New Zealand and what New Zealand once was. A guided day trip here is a must-do on any trip to Stewart Island, and you’ll marvel and the unspoiled forest and have the chance to meet some of the native creatures, like robins, saddlebacks, yellowheads and maybe even a kiwi or two.

Group walking through bush in Stewart Island

Stargaze and marvel at the bright night skies

Stewart Island in Māori means “the land of glowing skies” because here as far south as you can go in the main part of New Zealand is where you can see the Aurora Australis or Southern Lights. While you’re up looking for kiwi at night, take the time to wander down to the beach and away from the lights of Oban to stargaze. Without much light pollution, you’ll have an incredible view of the stars here.

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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