Experience Rakiura Stewart Island

From the moment you set foot on the charming little island of Rakiura Stewart Island, you are bound to become intoxicated by the crisp island breeze. It is the perfect place to visit with friends and family, or if you need some alone time to hide away from the bustle of city life. Rakiura Stewart Island is Aotearoa, New Zealand’s third largest island and a bucket list favourite for Kiwis and visitors alike. 

The island's original name in te Reo Māori is Rakiura, often translated as “glowing skies”, and refers to the story of Māori Chief Te Rakitāmau. It is said that the red skies of Rakiura reflect the blushing embarrassment of Te Rakitāmau after a marriage proposal was declined. The island is aptly named as it is an ideal spot for viewing the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights). While you’re on the island, make sure you stay awake to watch the stars because it is one of the best night sky experiences on Earth, and that’s just one of the reasons why in 2019, the island was recognised globally as an International Dark Sky Sanctuary. 

Sealers and whalers have lived there since the 1800s. Fishing has always been a primary industry for the island since that time. Rakiura Museum Te Puka O Te Waka will take you through the island’s immersive and rich history. The museum is home to an extensive collection of historical items, artefacts, and photographs, related to telling the story of the majestic little island. 

Oban is the island’s only township and has a population of about 400 permanent residents. The town lies on the coast of Halfmoon Bay. The town is filled with picturesque houses and builds up to the hilltops. It’s the gathering hub for locals and visitors, where the ferry arrives, where the local pub with its famous Sunday quiz is based, and it’s the starting point for most activities around the island. 

The island is around 180,000 hectares in size. Roughly 85% of the island forms the wild and enchanting Rakiura National Park. Hikers and tampers will be delighted to know that the island is home to over 280km of walking tracks, including the famous Rakiura Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. 

Want to spot a kiwi in the wild? Then the island is your best bet. The Southern tokoeka (Stewart Island kiwi) outnumber humans 50 to 1. There are around 15,000 of them! A much-loved pursuit for manuhiri (visitors) is going on nocturnal walks to spot the elusive kiwis. It is so satisfying when you can claim that you managed to spot the sneaky creatures in the dark! Not only kiwi but all kinds of birds thrive on the island; this is because there are few introduced predators. Ulva Island Te Wharawhara, one of the neighbouring islands of Rakiura, is a sanctuary for rare birds. The environment within the island is mostly unchanged by human activity – never milled and pest-free. The island has remained as much as it was before human settlement, with forests inland and scrub around the coasts. 

The food options here are abundant. Have top-class gourmet food right here on the island! Despite its settlement size, from food trucks specializing in seasonal ingredients to cafes built in old historical museums, the island never lacks in its food offerings. Seafood and gourmet doughnuts have known to be past favourites for visitors.
 

Stewart Island Rakiura Activities

Rakiura Stewart Island is the southernmost and smallest island of the three main islands of New Zealand. The island’s clear turquoise sea and white sand beaches make it  
like a tropical paradise and it is a haven for many rare native birds, such as friendly kaka, beautiful kakariki and elusive brown kiwi. Roughly 85% of Rakiura Stewart Island forms the wild Rakiura National Park. One of the best ways to experience the park is by tramping the Rakiura Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, which explores a  range of epic scenery from rainforests, wetlands and vast sand dunes.

Rakiura Museum - Te Puka o Te Waka. Our new award-winning building opened on the 1st December 2020. Situated centrally in the main Oban/Halfmoon Bay township, the Museum houses an extensive collection of items and…

Our comfy 53 seat cinema screens a range of movies and is proudly the home of A Local's Tail ; a delightful, quirky 40 minute film that introduces local characters, delves into the struggles and triumphs of this…

Explore picturesque Stewart Island in style on our eco-friendly electric bikes. Stop at your leisure and have the time to walk to more remote destinations such as Horseshoe Point, Little River, Fern Gully or Ackers…

Take off on your trip of a lifetime with Fiordland Helicopters. Locally owned and operated since 1983 by some of New Zealand"s best pilots, who have been flying in Fiordland and surrounds for over 40 years. Depart…

This three-hour return walk features an amble around the bay to a bushy track passing the historic 1835 Stone House at Harrold Baybefore reaching Ackers Point Lighthouse, where there are wide views of Foveaux Strait…

I offer a range of half day and full day sea kayaking experiences, from exploration for the beginners in the pristine clear bays of Paterson Inlet, to advanced sea kayaking expeditions for experts. I am an…

Ulva's Guided Walks is one of the original bird watching companies on Stewart Island, locally owned and operating since 2000. We offer a range of bird watching and botanical experiences at Ulva Island and Stewart…