Stewart Island – New Zealand’s 3 Main Island!
Take a step into a world of tranquility and peace, lush forests and beach, mythology and adventure. New Zealand’s Stewart Island welcomes you!
Stewart Island, also known as Rakiura, is New Zealand’s third largest island, located off the Foveaux Strait thirty kilometres or 19 miles south of the South Island. Its year round inhabitants consist of a handful of a few hundred people as of the 2013 census, the majority of whom live in the settlement of Oban along the eastern side of Stewart Island.
Stewart Island – Land of Many Names
The original Maori name of the island, “Te Punga o Te Waka a Maui,” acknowledges Stewart Island’s place at the heart of Maori mythology. Translated to English as “The Anchor Stone of Maui’s Canoe“, this Maori name refers to the important part Stewart Island plays in the legend of Maui and his crew, who from their canoe (the canoe being the South Island) caught and raised the great fish, (the fish being the North Island).
Stewart Island is the official name, but you will commonly hear people – especially the residents of the island – using the name Rakiura when referring to Stewart Island. Roughly translated to English as “the glowing skies,” many insist the name is actually an abbreviated form of “The great and deep blushing of Te Rakitamau” – an early Maori Chief – seen today as the glowing sunrises, sunsets and the Aurora Australis or Southern Lights. It was said that this Maori Chief was refused the hand in marriage from a woman he intended to wed, resulting in his eternal blush that is witnessed each day as the sun rises and falls in the sky.
Arriving at Stewart Island – Planning Your Trip Here
Are you ready to see this curious New Zealand island for yourself? Transportation options to Stewart Island are either ferry or plane. Ferries depart from Bluff, New Zealand, and fixed-wing aircraft depart from Invercargill
Airport. If you travel by ferry, the crossing takes approximately an hour, while travel by plane takes roughly fifteen to twenty minutes.
Ferry to Stewart Island:
Contact: Bluff Visitor Terminal
Phone: +64 (0)3 212 7660
Fax: +64 (0)3 212 8377
Address: Foreshore Road, Bluff
While you ferry to Stewart Island across the Foveaux Strait, keep an eye out for wildlife including seals, dolphins and seabirds along your one hour journey!
Adult: NZ $75 (one-way) NZ $130 (return)
Child: NZ $38 (one-way) NZ $65 (return) Child age is 5-14 years; 4 years and under free.
Throughout the duration of the New Zealand School Holidays, school aged children under 18 years of age can travel free on selected Stewart Island Ferry departures when accompanied by a full fare-paying adult – this is good news for families traveling to the island during these times! Ferry departures are as locally advertised and vary – make sure you call ahead to ensure departure times. Luggage is restricted to 2 carry-on bags per person (one small carry-on and one stowed – extra goods allowed by arrangement). Remember to check in 30 minutes prior to your ferry departure, and bookings are essential. Vehicle parking is available next to Bluff Visitor Terminal.
Flights Into Stewart Island:
Phone: +64 (0)3 218 9129
Fax: +64 (0)3 218 4681
Address: P.O. Box 860, Invercargill
A quick 20 minute flight time from Invercargill Airport main terminal will have you reaching Oban, Stewart Island in no time! Stewart Island Flights provides a variety of reasons to fly to this interesting New Zealand island:
- Experience the fantastic views
- Free scenic transfer Stewart Island airport to township
- Free aerial view, scenic map
- Zero seasickness – arrive at Stewart Island fresh!
- A world class flying experience
- Scheduled Flights 365 days a Year
- Other holiday destinations also available
- Fly directly to Mason Bay (Great place to see a Kiwi)
- Doughboy Bay, West Ruggedy, Little Hellfire Beaches
- Day trip combination activity opportunities (Scenic coach tours, Ulva Island water taxi transfers, Paterson Inlet Cruises, Semi-sub tours)
- “One day wonder” fishing trips
- The Coast to Coast adventure (fly, hike, boat package) and more
Adult Return: $213.00
Adult One-Way: $122.50
Golden Age (65+), Return: $193.00
Golden Age, One-Way: $112.50
Under 15 Child, Return: $128.00
Under 15 Child, One-Way: $80.00
Stand-By (Discounts are available – special conditions may apply)
Group Bookings Discounts are available
Please note the visitor’s levy is included in the prices quoted above for flights and ferry trips!
Stewart Island Visitor’s Levy
What is the Visitor’s Levy? This is a fee that assists the Stewart Island community in providing infrastructure, services and amenities for visitors to their island home. A payment of $5 is required for each visitor to Stewart Island over the age of 18, including tradespeople and volunteers. Exemptions allowed for children under 18; Stewart Island residents and ratepayers and their immediate families; beneficiaries of the Rakiura Maori Trust; people visiting only the Rakiura National Park. Non-payment of the Visitor’s Levy could result in fine of $250, but it shouldn’t be an issue as the price of the Visitor’s Levy is worked into the cost of travel by ferry and plane.
Don’t Miss the Rakiura Museum!
October to May
Monday to Saturday 10:00 am to 1:30 pm
Sunday noon to 2:00 pm
June to September
Monday to Friday 10:00 am to noon
Saturday 10:00 am to 1:30 pm
Address: 9 Ayr Street, P. O. Box 114, Stewart Island 9846
Phone: +64 (0)3 219 1221
You simply can’t visit Stewart Island without coming to the Rakiura Museum! Established and operated by volunteer workers, this museum is home to an extensive collection of items and photography displays of the island’s early history. Some of the features of the museum include:
- the Maori settlement
- timber milling
- boat building
- schools and churches
- an extraordinary collection of Stewart Island shells and crustacea
Birdwatching and Kiwi Spotting on Stewart Island
Ruggedy Range Wilderness Experience
Phone: +64 (0)3 219 1066
Mobile: +64 (0)274 784 433
Fax: +64 (0)3 219 1078
Address: Ruggedy Range Wilderness Experience, Birds & Forest Booking Office, Cnr Main Rd & Dundee St, Stewart Island
The Ruggedy Range Kiwi Journey is an exceptional adventure into the Stewart Island wilderness on a search for the shy Kiwi bird!
- A boat ride, trek, and overnight stay in the backcountry
- Tours are depending on high tides. Prior bookings are essential
- Flexible options include fly in/out of Mason Bay
- Carry only personal belongings, a sleeping bag, and small share of food
- Hire gear is available
Diving is a great way to spend time at Stewart Island. A warm current coming from the Australian Great Barrier Reef flows around the island, bringing with it a greater diversity of marine creatures than would normally be found in waters of this latitude. Whether you are free diving or SCUBA diving, you will be delighted to encounter many species. Fish, crustaceans, molluscs and phenomenal underwater forests composed of tall bladder kelp await you beneath the waves. The Marine Reserve in Paterson Inlet, which covers 1075 hectares and was established in 2004, is a top notch ultimate diver’s paradise. On display here are around one hundred seventy species of seaweed and more than fifty fish species. You need to be aware of the reserve outer limits, and know not to remove anything from within the boundaries.
Stewart Island commercial fishing is done mainly for Blue Cod, and it started as early as 1865 with the catch being salted or smoked to preserve it in order to be able to sell it on. Today, catches of cod, crayfish and paua fisheries operate under a quota management system with the catches being strictly controlled. Salmon, green lipped mussels and oysters are harvested in Paterson Inlet.
Stewart Island has several charter operators, targeting mainly the Blue Cod. These charter operators feature either half or full day charters and supply tourists with all rods, reels, hand lines and equipment necessary. Skippers are mainly former commercial operators and they know where to find the fish. The catch is shared between all who are fishing. Fishing is allowed off wharves and jetties, and catching spotties provides children endless amounts of fun, it really is a tour the whole family can enjoy.
Stewart Island offers hunters the sole readily accessible herd of Virginian White-tail deer in the Southern Hemisphere and is consequently a much sought after destination for deer hunters. Rakiura National Park Visitor Centre is in charge of thirty five hunting blocks and an open zone on Stewart Island. An additional thirteen blocks on the island are administered by Rakiura Maori Land Trust. Many of these blocks have specific hunter camps and huts provided, while others share backcountry huts and facilities with trampers and trekkers through the woods. Keep in mind that permits are required for all hunting activities, and these need to be applied for in advance.
A Place to Call Home Base
After a long day’s hiking, trekking, diving and sightseeing, you’re going to need a place to rest up for the next day’s Stewart Island adventures. Luckily, there are a number of different types of accommodations to suit different styles and budgets.
Jensen Bay House: 54 Leask Bay Road, Stewart Island
Phone: +64 (0)3 377 4800 / +64 (0)3 219 1284 / +64 (0)27 496 7778
- Located at Jensen Bay, an easy 20 min stroll to the village
- Pleasant nature setting with views across Foveaux Strait, the garden is frequented by a variety of native birds
- Convenient to nature walks: Ackers Point lighthouse which is great for Penguin spotting at night, Harrold Bay, Fisherman’s Point, Evening Cove, Ringa Ringa Beach, the Golf Course
- Relax in the unique architectural style of the property
- Two luxurious double bedrooms, both with ensuite
- Breakfast as you like it
- Knowledgeable and helpful hosts to aid in organizing many activities
- Courtesy transfers
Alan’s Base Camp, Mill Creek Lodge, Main Road (opposite Helipad) Junction of Ryan’s Creek, Kaipipi/Fern Gully, Stewart Island
Phone: +64 (0)27 552 2113
Halfmoon Bay camping ground
- Camping is $15 per night
- Cabins are $35 per night
- There is a communal kitchen
- A pizza oven is featured
Family crib $120 per night
- Sleeps up to 6
- Minimum 2 nights stay required
Rakiura Lodge, PO Box 40, Stewart Island
Phone: +64 (0)3 219 1003
Fax: +64 (0)3 219 1003
- A nice two minutes walk from town centre
- Sleeps 8 in 2 queens and 2 twin
- Centrally heated lodge
- Great kitchen facilities
- Disabled facilities
- Friendly transfers
- Open year round, also with off peak rates
Visit the New Zealand destinations category to learn more about other places to visit in New Zealand!