Pack a mac
If you're using a coach transfer to get to the Stewart Island ferry you can take two pieces of carry-on baggage with you. You will need to make prior arrangements with the coach company if you want or need to take more. No matter how sunny the day when you leave for Stewart Island, be sure to take something warm and waterproof with you as the weather conditions can change very rapidly.
Sturdy shoes are another essential, especially if you plan to do any amount of walking. The Foveaux Strait crossing can be rough so, if you are prone to seasickness make sure you have anything you need to relieve the condition and take it well before the ferry sails.
Basic supplies are available on the island but if you are intending to stay for more than a day visit be sure you have sufficient supplies of any items you consider essential.
Don't forget the sandfly repellant!! There are no ATMs or banks on Stewart Island (or Bluff for that matter) but most places accept EFTPOS cards and credit cards. If you think you will need extra cash, the nearest bank is in Invercargill.
Easy walks and proper tramps
Even day trippers can enjoy some of the lovely walks that Stewart Island has to offer. There are several walks that start right in Oban itself, some as short as 15 minutes, others up to 3 hours which can easily be fitted in and still leave time for a drink at the pub or a browse around town before getting back on the ferry.
An longer stay will allow you to explore more and, for serious walkers, there are the 2-3 day Rakiura track and the 10-12 day North-west Circuit as well as the Southern Circuit which requies boat access. You will need to buy a date-stamped hut pass to do these tramps which must be purchased before departing Halfmoon Bay. You will also be required to fill in a form detailing your plans before you set out, to sign the hut books as you go and to sign out on your return.
The Visitors Centre and DOC office will have all the most current information on weather, the state of tracks, etc as well as comprehensive maps.
With only a tiny portion of the island accessible by road, walking, hiking, tramping - whatever you choose to call it, is the only way to really begin to see and appreciate this beautiful place. Good boots, protective clothing to cope with very changeable weather conditions, and don't forget the sandfly repellant!!!!
New Zealand's Third Island
An hour by ferry from the flat, windswept southern tip of New Zealand's South Island, Stewart Island is a beautiful green gem set down in the chilly waters of the Southern Ocean.
With just one small township (Oban, pop 400) and only 26 km of road, the island's golden beaches, rocky coves and forest- and fern-clad hills are mostly given over to Rakiura National Park. An excellent network of walking tracks give access into the wilder reaches of the park for those with time for an extended visit and fishing, birdwatching, mountain biking and kayaking will keep others happy for days, but we had just one day before we had to move north from Invercargill to our rendezvous with Wanaka's Warbirds so were not too sure whether to do the trip or not - we'd wait to see what the weather was like in the morning.
"Five hours on the island"
Waking to a clear, bright sky and the promise of a fine day, our minds were made up, so it was off to Bluff to the ferry, and fingers crossed for a smooth sailing - the Foveaux Strait that seperates Stewart Island from the South Island is notoriously rough crossing! We couldn't have wished for a finer day - not only did we get a smooth crossing, it turned out the day we made our visit was the warmest day the island had experienced all summer, a perfect 28 degrees.
A day trip to Stewart Island gives you just five hours on the island. Once there you have several choices of how to spend that time. Sightseers can opt for a tour that will show them most of the sights accessible by road and includes a short guided walk. There are different short cruises on offer. Those into pedal power can hire a mountain bike whilst cars and motor scooters are available for short term hire for the less energetic. Maps of walking trails are available, some of which are suitable for a short visit.
You'll need tp spend a night on the island if you're to have a chance of experiencing the wonderful colours of sunset and sunrise that give Stewart Island its Maori name - Rakiura - land of the glowing skies. If you're really lucky, you might catch the Aurora Australis setting the whole night sky aglow. That's something we had to leave for another time, the few hours we did manage to spend certainly left us thinking we'd be back.
As a child I used to watch a TV show called the “Land of the Lost.” As best I can remember, it was about a kid or family that somehow had been transported back in time to the dinosaur age. More than any place I have visited, Stewart Island (and nearby Ulva Island), transported me back in time and made me feel as if I had ventured into the land of the lost. With primeval flora unlike anything I’ve ever seen, my mind was constantly at war with my imagination as I tromped through the bush half expecting to walk up on a long thought to be extinct dinosaur. Alas, there were no dinosaurs (although some of New Zealand’s other islands are home to a living dinosaur – the Tuatara), just large tracts of relatively undisturbed primeval forest and abundant birdlife. Listening to the birdsong and admiring the bush, I couldn’t help but feel both privileged to be enjoying such a place and disheartened by the alteration of most of the natural environment on the main two islands. Fortunately, most of Stewart Island is now protected as a national park, ensuring that this special place will remain for future generations to enjoy. This isn’t a place for everyone, but if you enjoy long walks in solitude, relatively pristine and primeval bush, birdwatching, or fishing, Stewart Island is very likely to be one of the most memorable places you visit in New Zealand.
Stewart Island - a small... by judz
Stewart Island - a small island at the bottom of the South Island and one of the most unspoilt places in NZ. It has a population of around 400 all living in close proximity to the little village of Oban. The main industry is fishing and tourism - most of the locals offering their homes as B&B's There are many walking tracks but many of them are for the more experienced tramper. It takes 10 days to do the complete walk and you need to be fit to do this one.
This is the view taken from the Yankee hut - a 25 bed hut which costs $6 per night.