Located just south of New Zealand’s South Island is the country’s third largest island, Stewart Island. Stewart Island can be accessed either via air or via the water. Ferries ply the route across the Foveaux Strait between Bluff, the closest port to Stewart Island, and Stewart Island daily. The journey takes slightly over an hour while daily flights leave from Invercargill, Dunedin, Queenstown and other locations. The flight usually takes just over 15 minutes.
Spanning over 1700 sq. km, the island is very sparsely populated and the vast majority of the island (over 80%) is composed of the Rakiura National Park. The only urban settlement for the island’s 400 residents is Halfmoon Bay, also known as Oban. This is where almost all the lodging and accommodation options will be found. The Rakiura National Park was formed in 2002 and allows visitors to immerse themselves in the natural scenic beauty of Stewart Island. A diverse collection of lakes, rivers, and hills and guided walks that take you through the island’s lush landscape are popular activities among visitors. The island and the Department of Conservation has huts set up across the island that trampers and trailwalkers that are doing overnight treks can use.
The island derives its Maori name, Rakiura, from the same Maori word meaning the ‘land of glowing skies’. The natural light phenomenon Aurora Australis can be clearly observed on the island. Stewart Island also has the curious distinction of being the only place that is populated more densely by kiwis than humans. Species of penguins and other bird species that are endemic to the region can be found all around the island and is a haven for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts.
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