Just 30km south of the South Island, across Foveaux Strait, lies Stewart Island, New Zealand’s third largest island. Its most commonly used Māori name, Rakiura, translates as Glowing Skies, a reference to both the glorious sunsets for which it is deservedly well known and the spectacular Aurora Australis, the southern hemisphere’s version of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). Stewart Island’s ‘glowing skies’ are just one of the many natural attractions that draws visitors to its shores. With the majority of the island covered in native forest, exploring its flora and spotting its fauna during hikes or guided tours is the island’s foremost attraction.
Stewart Island has a dynamic history. From as early as the 13th century, Māoris enjoyed the rich offerings from the sea and the land on their own until the early 19th century, when sealers, miners, explorers and missionaries settled, followed by millers, boatbuilders and fishermen, and eventually, in the 1920s, whalers from Norway. Consequently, the small permanent population has links to a wide range of nationalities and cultures but they all have one thing in common – a passion for conserving the beauty of Stewart Island. 85% of the island is now a designated National Park, helping to preserve the crystal-clear waters, lush rainforest, and wide-ranging flora and fauna.
For visitors, Stewart Island offers complete relaxation and a taste of utter tranquility. Self-guided and guided wildlife tours, boat tours, hiking, fishing, diving, kayaking and hunting can all be enjoyed on this unspoilt island. There is a host of wildlife to spot, some of which you don’t even have to leave the island’s only remaining town to see. Penguins often make an appearance in the evening, as do long-tailed bats and kiwi, which can be spotted all over the island. Thanks to the small number of predators on Stewart Island compared to the mainland, a huge range of birds make the island their home and parakeets, tui, albatross, cormorants and both blue and yellow-eye penguins are all common. Herds of Virginian White-tail deer offer fantastic opportunities to hunt and a number of charter boats take visitors out into the waters teeming with blue cod and crayfish.
Travelling to Stewart Island is an adventure in itself. Most take the hour-long catamaran ferry across Foveaux Strait, during which seals, dolphins and a plethora of seabirds can be spotted. However, both helicopter and airplane rides are possible, offering breathtaking views and shortening the trip to a mere 20 minutes.
Whether you visit Stewart Island on a day trip or stay overnight in one of the many accommodation options, the natural beauty and sheer tranquility the island offers will leave you wanting more.
The GO Rentals Guy