Roughly 85% of Stewart Island’s 1570 square kilometres forms Rakiura National Park, a pure wilderness environment. Officially opened in 2002, the park is the newest of New Zealand’s National Parks.
The northern end of Rakiura National Park looks towards the South Island, over blustery Foveaux Strait. To the east, west and south, the park is surrounded by the Southern Ocean - fresh from the icy waters of Antarctica. Entering the park you encounter an enchanting world of unmodified ecosystems and habitats; from dense coastal rainforests and freshwater wetlands, to vast sand dunes and granite mountain ranges. As well as spectacular scenery, Rakiura National Park also provides an exceptional opportunity to see native wildlife. Kiwi, Weka, Kaka, Tui, Bellbirds, Kereru and the rare Saddleback can all be spotted in the park, and at night you may also hear the calls of Ruru (native owls).
The best way to explore some of this beautiful protected land is by hiking the Rakiura Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks. Suitable for anyone with moderate fitness, the 36km hike typically takes three days and provides a fantastic way to experience the scenery and history of Stewart Island. It is also one of the few New Zealand tracks suitable for tramping all year round.