Stewart Island  is the medium sized island of New Zealand - far smaller than the two main islands but far bigger than the other small islands. It is located 24 km to the south of the South Island, separated by Foveaux Strait.
Most of the island is covered in native forest and virtually the entire small population is concentrated in the township of Oban (also known as Halfmoon Bay) on the east coast. Commercial fishing is the main occupation for residents. The main attractions for visitors are hiking, birdwatching and deer hunting.
To get to Stewart Island requires crossing the Foveaux Strait, about 22 nautical miles or approximately 39 km from Bluff to Oban / Half Moon Bay.
There is a scheduled ferry service from Bluff, near Invercargill, with multiple departures during the day (dependent on time of year). The crossing takes one hour and is operated by Stewart Island Experience .
There is also a daily 20 minute plane flight from Invercargill Airport.
Occasionally there are other boats making the crossing however these are generally charter vessels.
- Walk, mostly. There are few roads and they are all around Halfmoon Bay. But the island is a hiker's wilderness paradise.
- Bus tour
- Shuttles, taxi, rental cars, mountain bikes and scooters
- water taxi or charter a fishing or tour boat
In Oban there are a few attractions (museum, Department of Conservation Visitor Centre) and short walks.
- Ulva Island bird sanctuary.
Stewart Island, the southern-most island of New Zealand, shows as a dot on the map (if it appears at all). Don't be fooled. Stewart Island is large, 64 km long, and 40 km across (at its widest point). It has a 700 km coastline, but there are only 20 km of roads!
You won't walk round the Island in a day. Even ten days tramping only skirts the northern third. Few people can claim to have seen anywhere near the whole of Stewart Island. However, there is much to see, even close to the only settlement of Oban. For a day-trip or stay longer, as there is a good range of accommodation. Some visitors from twenty years ago are still living here.
Terrain is rugged. Stewart Island is made of granite, some of the oldest rock in New Zealand. A wide range of minerals are present, though not in commercial quantities. Tin was mined at Port Pegasus for a few years in the 1890s. There's black iron sand on some beaches, others are white with quartz or red with garnet. Most beaches are gold, sparkling in the sun. Don't bother bring a gold-pan though - it's mainly "fool's gold"!
Paterson Inlet almost cuts the Island in half. This large expanse of water is popular for boat-trips and recreational fishing and diving.
Climate is mild, and a trifle damp. No worry, without rain, there wouldn't be rain-forest. The eastern lowlands are forest, right to the water's edge. A canopy of kamahi is pierced by majestic rimu and miro. Lianes and lush fern growth adorn the bush interior.
The forest is a haven for bird-life, as there are fewer predators than on the mainland. Kaka, parakeets, tui, and bellbird give a wonderful dawn chorus in spring. New Zealand's national bird, the kiwi is found all round the Island.
Seabirds abound off-shore. Albatross, petrels, cormorants, gulls and blue penguins are common. Rarer species like yellow-eye penguins are also seen often.
Mason Bay, on the Island's West Coast is much different. It's a 12 mile crescent of sandy beach, with huge sand-hills and tussock and scrub in place of forest. This is the place to watch the white-horses charge ashore in a screaming westerly gale.
- Hiking - popular trails are the 36 km Rakiura Track which takes 3 days and the 125 km North-West Circuit which takes 7-12 days.
- Birdwatching - Mason Bay, on the west coast, is possibly the best place in New Zealand (and therefore the world) to see the remarkable flightless kiwi in the wild.
- Deer hunting
- Sea kayaking
This page was last edited at 19:55, on 28 August 2008 by Wikitravel user Morph. Based on work by Stacy Hall and Simone Bravo, Wikitravel user(s) Jonboy, InterLangBot, Huttite, Nils and Nurg and Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel.