Commonly pegged as a bucket list destination, Stewart Island is as close as you can get before heading in to Sub Antarctic waters. It would be easy to mistake Stewart Island as a sleepy, seaside town but in reality, this is a place of adventure, of endurance and of spirited personalities. Rakiura is known as the land of the Glowing Skies and despite the unpredictable weather, the experience of watching the sun rise and set over Halfmoon Bay is very special.
Ferries departing from Bluff daily the trip to Stewart Island takes about an hour. A quick 20 minute flight is also available from Invercargill Airport and allows you to take in the breath taking inlets, mountains and dense forests from the skies.
With Kiwi outnumbering the locals 50:1, there is a fair chance of seeing the national bird at night time, with plenty of local guides to show you exclusive spots and to teach you all about their habits this is a must do activity on the island. Head over to Ulva Island via the water taxi and explore this sanctuary with a guided tour, experience the birdsong and flora that is thriving without the threat of predators. The Rakiura Track (a Great Walk track) is three days of tough terrain but rewarding views. There is no better way for you to experience Rakiura than with one of the local guides showing you the way, and whether that’s on land or by sea there is opportunity for you to see large pelagic birds on the water and sink a line down below and bring home a fresh Stewart Island catch of the day.
There is only 20km of roads on Stewart Island so grab an e-bike and pedal your heart out around the bays to see some unique icons of the Island. Acker’s Cottage is a restored stone cottage that was home to whaling captain and boat builder Lewis Acker and his large family of nine!
Stewart Island is an International Dark Sky Sanctuary and if you’re lucky enough to try star gazing on the island its not hard to understand why. With virtually no light pollution the island's scenery and outstanding landscapes combine to make the night sky experience second to none.
Tuck in to some fresh island kai after a day exploring at the South Sea Hotel where you will find a mix of locals and tourists recounting tales of adventure, over a beer and some Stewart Island Salmon. There is no shortage of seafood to tempt your tastebuds on the island. The Kai Kart is a perfect takeaway option to grab some blue cod & chips and watch the sun set over the bay. For a more refined experience Church Hill Lodge & Restaurant offers fully hosted and homemade dining featuring homegrown produce, local Paua, mussels, titi (muttonbird) and a range of Southland beef & lamb.
After an active day of exploration nothing will seem better than resting your head on the pillow, and there a number of backpacker, serviced apartments, motel units and private homes to recharge the batteries. The Kaka Retreat is renowned for its feathery visitors that find no fear in approaching visitors on the balcony; and many of the properties on the island feature the trill of birdsong from the nearby treelines. Stewart Island Backpackers offer shared facilities for the budget conscious traveller or for an experience fit for royalty, stay at Stewart Island Lodge that offers a peaceful lookout over Halfmoon Bay.