Stewart Island, Amazing Things To Do!

Stewart Island Activities – Shark Diving, Kiwi Spotting, Fishing, Hunting, Hiking…

“Real New Zealand”

Kiwi BirdAt the most southern point of New Zealand, 39 kilometers from the mainland, is the small town of Oban – You can’t miss it, it’s the only town on Stewart Island…

A remote Island “well off the beaten track” blessed with 700 kilometers of rocky wild coastline, the occasional white sandy beach, pristine rugged rainforest interior, thriving bird life…

To visit is a wonderful step, back in time. On the map, it may look a small isolated piece of New Zealand but it is jam packed with natural attractions and amazing things to do – the most sedate activity being Kiwi Spotting

In tourist terms, Stewart Island is a Gem, in it is relatively undiscovered and non-touristy, but be warned you need to be quick as the secret is getting out, each year see’s increasing numbers of adventurous tourists brave the sometimes wild ferry crossing over Foveaux Strait to Rakiura.

New Zealander’s who visit from the Mainland keep the secret of Stewat Island to themselve’s, as they keep coming back year after year either to relax, fish or hunt. Others to hike the various trails that slice through this rugged little Island.

Fishing, Aquaculture, and Tourism provides income for most of it’s 390 permanent residents.

Rakiura is the Maori name for Stewart island, Rakiura means the ‘Land of Glowing Skies’, referring to the Aurora Australis that occasionally light up the southern sky.

Stewart Island Walks

Walking is the best way to experience all that the Island has to offer, there are many easy short walks as well as a couple of more challenging – multi-day gut busters.

If you feel your fitness is not up to hiking for several days, it is possible to catch a water taxi to the various DOC huts or if you prefer then bring a tent and get the water taxi to drop you in a secluded bay then you won’t have to be super fit to experience the remote wilderness of Stewart Island.

Video – Must Do Boat Cruise

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For The Hardcore Hikers… There are 3 main hiking trails on Stewart Island, choose the one that suits your experience and fitness and – Go For It!

The Rakiura Trail

Probably The Best Walk For Your First Tramping Trip To Stewart Island.
it is 32 km and normally takes 2 nights – 3 day’s to walk,  suitable for people with moderate fitness, the track is best broken into 3 stages as there are 2 huts.

– Lee Bay to Port William Hut, 8 km from road end – 3-4 hrs

– Port William Hut to North Arm Hut, 13 km – 6 hrs

– North Arm Hut to Fern Gully car park, 11 km – 4-4.5 hrs

The Rakuira Trail is primarily a coastal track, this gives you a chance to fish from the rocks, Stewart Island fishing is legendary,  so carry a hand line you may catch your own dinner, but be aware of the local fishing laws or you may lose your hand line.

“Private Boaties please make sure you carry a copy of the Recreational Fishing Rules and be aware of the Marine Reserve and Mataitai areas in Paterson Inlet. No excuses will be entertained and forfeiture of equipment and boat will follow if the law is broken.”

The track also offers excellent sea views and a chance to interact with the endangered bird life, as well as Kiwi you are likely to see:

  • bellbirds
  • tui
  • fantails
  • parakeets
  • shining cuckoos
  • wood pigeons
  • grey warblers
  • kaka
  • tomtits
  • robins

Hiking in New ZealandAs well as Parakeets as pictured, Stewart Island has a thriving Kiwi population.

Stewart Island is one of the few places in New Zealand where they are relatively common to the point they are often seen during the day – it is possible to spot Kiwi as you are out bush walking or you may see them feeding on secluded beaches – as they search for insects in the sand and washed up kelp.

Stewart Island is a bird watchers/nature lovers paradise – you will encounter many species that are quite rare on the mainland, all are easily seen when hiking Stewart Island.

Southern Circuit

A challenging hike best suited experienced well-equipped hiking parties.
The Southern Circuit is considered a remote area and should be treated with respect, you need to be experienced and fit, as well as, have  map reading and route finding skills.
You can access the Southern Circuit at various points via water taxi.

Halfmoon Bay to North Arm Hut, 12 km – 4-5 hrs

North Arm Hut to Freshwater Hut, 11 km – 6-7 hrs

Freshwater Hut to Fred’s Camp Hut, 10 km – 5 hrs

Fred’s Camp Hut to Rakeahua Hut, 12 km – 5 hrs

Rakeahua Hut to Doughboy Bay Hut, 16 km – 7-8 hrs

Doughboy Bay Hut to Mason Bay Hut, 18 km – 6-7 hrs

Mason Bay Hut to Freshwater Hut, 15.5 km – 3 hrs

Freshwater Hut to North Arm Hut, 11 km – 6-7 hrs

North Arm Hut to Halfmoon Bay, 12 km – 4 hrs

Mt. Rakeahua is part of this hike and offers craggy trails and climbing.

Hikers on the Southern Circuit will have the opportunity to enjoy 71.5 km, round trip of  rugged beauty that is equal to anywhere in New Zealand.

For most hikers, walking the entire Southern Circuit takes from 4 to 6 days, depending on the hikers and how many stops are made for rest and sightseeing.

North-West Circuit

The North-West Circut Track offers intense challenges even for experienced fit hikers.
Alternative routes are offered when parts of the original trail are impassable at high tide.

Ancient trees and piles of granite boulders make this trail a rugged and interesting multi-day hike.

Discovering 125 km of untouched beauty is the reward for the person that is fit enough to take on the North-West Circuit Track.

Most advanced hikers finish this trials in 9 to 11 days. To find out more information on this Track visit the Dept of Conservation (DOC) website – Click Here

Stewart Island Tours

NZ travel guideKiwi Spotting

Another less strenuous but unique activity on Stewart Island is a Kiwi Spotting Tour.

Getting to see one in the wild a fantastic and thrilling experience you may be lucky to simply stumble upon one while out walking? but taking a Kiwi spotting tour offers you the best chance to catch a glimpse of these amazing flightless birds.

Shark Diving

If Kiwi spotting is to tame for you! you just might enjoy Shark Diving!

Stewart Island offers an unique experience – even non-divers have the opportunity to get up close and personal with these amazing deep sea predators – when you are alone in that shark cage the realisation will most likely hit you – we as humans, are not at the top of the food chain after all?

Either way, it is  an encounter you will never forget – a shallow dive attached to a hooker (air is piped to from a compressor on deck) so no experience or dive ticket is required.

Video – Swim With Sharks

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Great White Sharks are common in the rich feeding grounds around Stewart Island they frequently show up for these  diving encounters – you might want to remember this! when you take a swim from of those idyllic white sand beaches scattered around the Island!?

When To Visit

While summer is the most popular time to visit Stewart Island, but the best tiime to visit depends on what you want to do – you can still fish or walk the tracks during the winter months.

Winter storms and muddy tracks will slow you down (Stewart Island Tracks have become famous among Kiwi Trampers for soul-sucking knee-deep mud) but the huts are heated and offer a comfortable sanctuary after a hard day hiking.

Don’t be put off by the time of year, whatever the season the weather on Stewart Island changes dramatically each and every day anyway.

Keep this rugged little Island in mind when you are next considering an exciting winter escape if you come for a week or two you are bound to get great weather most of the time.

If you are planning a visit to New Zealand and love nature then you should keep this rugged little island in mind – travelers who take the time to visit will find Stewart Island a welcoming, exciting, escape from Manic Tourist Traps on the Mainland.

Getting To Stewart Island

The ferry to Stewart Island leaves from Bluff it takes one hour to travel the 39 km across Foveaux Strait and docks at Oban, the Island’s only town.


There is an interesting range of friendly owner operated accommodation on Stewart Island including Hotels or Backpackers to Bed & Breakfasts or Motels.

There are no Banks on Stewart Island but there is an ATM located in the Ship to Shore Supermarket.  Some businesses only accept cash but many now have EFTPOS facilities and accept major credit cards.

There is limited cell phone coverage.

Hiking on Stewart Island allows you to experience some of the finest natural wilderness in New Zealand. From secluded beaches to granite headlands to ancient rainforest to exposed open tops. Hiking Stewart Island will leave you with unique once in a life time experience – and just that little bit fitter!?

Author: Ian

Based in Rotorua with an interest in Photography, Deer Hunting, Mountain Biking, Hiking, Kayaking and Travel... Our aim is to provide you with travel tips and all the local knowledge you need to discover amazing natural locations throughout New Zealand...

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