What if I told you that New Zealand also has a third island? Although it is the third largest island in New Zealand, yet Stewart Island is the least settled. Located just 30 km south of the Southern Island across the Foveaux Strait, Stewart Island has a permanent population of a mere 381 people as of 2013 census. The island remains largely undiscovered; thus, a hot Eco-tourism destination.
About Stewart Island
It is situated just 30 km south of the South Island across the Foveaux Strait. 85% of the island area is covered by the newly-declared national park of New Zealand, the Raikura National Park, the main reason why the island remains largely undiscovered and hence is a hotspot for eco-tourism enthusiasts.
The ancient Maori name of the Island is Te Punga a Te Waka a Maui which is translated as ”The Anchor Stone of Maui’s Canoe”.
Although the legend of Maui takes a central stage in the Maori Mythology, the island is often referred by Maori people by the name of Raikura which means the Land of the Glowing Skies. You will feel the prominence of this name only when you see the Aurora Australis in the Southern Skies of Stewart Island.
The Stewart Island has a total area of round 1680 Sq. km with a hilly terrain and an oceanic climate. There is only one major settlement known as Halfmoon Bay or Oban which houses all the inhabitants of the Island.
There is also an abundance of wildlife on this island due to the presence of Raikura National Park. Some of the significant birds include sooty shearwater, snares, weka, kaka, albatross, Stewart Island Kiwi (also the national bird of New Zealand), fantails, kereru, and the yellow-eyed penguins. The animal species of the island include brushtail possums, white-tailed deer, red deer, short and long-tailed bats and different variety of galaxies.
How to Reach Stewart Island?
One of the cheapest ways to reach Stewart Island is via a ferry ride between Buff and Stewart Island which operates numerous times a day. Another option is via Invercargill, a Stewart Island flight which operates three times a day. The best and the most expensive option is a helicopter ride from Buff to the Stewart Island which can be done any time of the day with suitable weather conditions.
Best Time to Visit Stewart Island
June, July and August are the best months to visit this island. During these months the temperature is a bit colder than usual but not as cold as other places in New Zealand. If you want to avoid the crowds, visit the Island during the warmest months of January, February and March.
Places to Stay in Stewart Island
Just reaching or leaving Stewart Island takes about half the day, so it is recommended that you stay for at least 2 to 3 days to be able to explore this wonderful Island. There are a number of things to do and explore and you can’t do them all in a single day. All the hotels in Stewart Island are located in the settlement of Oban, and you can find any type of room according to your budget. There are luxurious lodges, open-air camps, luxury hotels, motels, backpacker hostels, and apartments ready to accommodate the visitors, to name a few. Some of the best hotels include Bay Motel, Soth Sea Hotel, Stewart Island Backpackers, Anchor Stone, Kelvin Hotel, Bella Vista Motel, and Asure Townsman Motor Lodge.
Things to do in Stewart Island
1. Visit the Rakiura National Park
New Zealand’s newest and 14th national park, Rakiura is one big mass of land covered with forest which occupies nearly 85% of the island. You can hike around this national park and see some of the native species of plants and animals present in the island. There are numerous multi-day as well as single day treks that will help you fully explore Stewart Island.
Suggested Read: 10 Trails Where You Can Go Hiking In New Zealand
2. Stewart Island Discovery Expedition
Take a 6-day expedition to discover the natural beauty of around some of the most divine waters in New Zealand. Join expedition cruises, walks in rainforests, and walk along the deserted coastlines to come even closer to nature and discover its beauty.
Suggested Read: 15 Waterfalls In New Zealand That’ll Leave Your Speechless
3. Guided Walks
Take a 2-hour guided walk and know more about the culture, diversity, wildlife and the local population of the island. Engage in interesting activities, like fishing and visiting oyster industries, and walk through the native forests.
Stewart Island is like a little wonderland down south. Very little is known and discovered about this island and that is what makes it an interesting place to visit. You can experience nature in all its glory as soon as you book a customized package to this quaint retreat. So hurry, the clock is ticking.
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