Stewart Island (Rakiura) | New Zealand’s Third Largest Island

Stewart Island, also known as Rakiura, is the third-largest island in New Zealand and is located south of the South Island. It’s known for its pristine and rugged natural beauty, rich biodiversity, and a slower pace of life. Here are some key points about Stewart Island:

  1. Location: Stewart Island is situated about 30 kilometers south of the South Island of New Zealand, across the Foveaux Strait. It’s part of the Southland region.
  2. Rakiura National Park: Nearly 85% of the island is designated as Rakiura National Park, which is known for its unspoiled wilderness, dense native forests, and numerous walking tracks. The Rakiura Track is a popular multi-day hiking trail that takes you through some of the island’s most scenic areas.
  3. Wildlife: Stewart Island is renowned for its abundant wildlife. It’s a haven for birdwatchers, with the opportunity to spot native and rare bird species, including kiwis, tuis, kaka parrots, and albatrosses. The island is also home to a sizable population of the flightless Stewart Island kiwi, known as the “Rakiura kiwi.”
  4. Marine Life: The waters around Stewart Island are teeming with marine life, making it a popular spot for fishing, kayaking, and diving. You can see seals, dolphins, and if you’re lucky, even whales in the surrounding waters.
  5. Ulva Island: Ulva Island, located just off the coast of Stewart Island, is a predator-free sanctuary. It’s a haven for native flora and fauna, and visitors can explore its well-maintained walking tracks to observe rare birds and plants.
  6. Settlements: Oban, located on Halfmoon Bay, is the only township on Stewart Island. It serves as the main hub for tourists and is a peaceful and picturesque settlement with accommodations, restaurants, and shops.
  7. Fishing and Seafood: Stewart Island is known for its seafood, including green-lipped mussels, blue cod, and oysters. Fishing is a popular activity for both locals and visitors.
  8. Dark Sky Sanctuary: The island was designated as an International Dark Sky Sanctuary in 2019, making it an excellent place for stargazing and enjoying the night sky.
  9. Weather: Stewart Island experiences a maritime climate, which means mild temperatures year-round. However, the weather can be changeable, so it’s essential to be prepared for varying conditions if you plan to explore the outdoors.
  10. Ferry Access: Stewart Island is accessible by a regular ferry service from Bluff on the South Island. The journey across Foveaux Strait takes approximately one hour. There are also flights from Invercargill to Stewart Island’s airport, Ryan’s Creek Aerodrome.

NZ has 3 main islands (but tons of smaller ones too). Stewart Island is NZ’s third largest island. It sits even further south of the southern-most tip of the South Island.

It’s the smallest of New Zealand’s 3 main islands (after the North and South Island) but it’s often sadly forgotten off maps! Incredibly remote with only one town and around 80% of the land area officially a national park, it takes an hour’s ferry ride across the Foveaux Strait from Bluff to get to it.

We bought our ferry tickets from the ferry terminal in Bluff on the day we went itself, but you can also book online or check out their timetable here as it changes throughout the year to help with planning your trip:

https://www.stewartislandexperience.c… For your return ride from Stewart Island back to Bluff, don’t forget to pick up your “boarding card” from the Stewart Island ferry terminal which you’ll need to hand to the ferry crew before getting on the boat. For lunch we ate at Kai Kart.

Delicious and fresh, Peter still talks fondly about the amazing blue cod we had there. It pays to check out Kai Kart’s Facebook page for updates about opening hours since Google may not always be up to date.

Stewart Island Kai Kart Address: 7 Ayr Street, Stewart Island, Oban 9846 One last thing to note, the roads on Stewart Island are pretty narrow so if you rent a car when you’re there like we did, remember that the maximum recommended speed around the whole island is 30kmph.

Stewart Island is the southernmost of New Zealand’s four main islands and offers a a glimpse into a simpler, slower lifestyle, in rhythm with the sea and the tides, attuned to the natural world of bush and beach. The entire population of the island is 400 with its main town being Oban, just a short 1 hour ferry ride from Bluff in New Zealand South Island across the Foveaux Strait. ‘Rakiura’, is the more commonly known and used Māori name. It is usually translated as Glowing Skies, a reference to the aurora australis, the southern lights that are a phenomenon of southern latitudes. #stewartisland #newzealand

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