Backpacking in New Zealand - Stewart Island

Travel to Stewart Island: Crafting Your Perfect Island Getaway (2024)

Beyond the well-known North and South Islands of New Zealand lies a hidden gem—the Stewart Island, the country’s third-largest island. My backpacking trip through South Island led me to this offbeat destination. Join me in unraveling the details of exploring Stewart Island, an extraordinary and lesser-known part of New Zealand. In this post, you will the information about travel to Stewart Island.

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About Stewart Island

Stewart Island, New Zealand’s third-largest island, is situated approximately 30 kilometers south of the South Island. What makes this island truly special is its abundant wildlife, coupled with a small population of around 400 residents, ensuring a serene and uncrowded experience.

Referred to as Rakiura in Maori, the name translates to “Glowing Skies.” This nomenclature might be inspired by the breathtaking sunsets and the mesmerising southern lights that illuminate the island’s skies.

How to get to Stewart Island?

There are two ways to get to the island:

  • By Air:
    • Stewart Island Flights run flights between Invercargill and Stewart Island.
    • Cost for return: AUD 215 (USD 159.16).

I opted for a flight to Stewart Island, and the experience was delightful. The compact and charming plane added a touch of fun to the journey. I recommend considering a flight for at least one leg of the trip, as it offers a fantastic perspective of both the ocean and the island.

Where to stay on Stewart Island?

I chose to stay at the South Sea Hotel, conveniently located near the Information Center and right across from the beach. This accommodation is not only comfortable but also offers the added convenience of having the island’s sole pub and bar.

Booking details:

  • South Sea Hotel.
  • Cost for Single room: NZD 75 or AUD 69.1 (USD 52.3).
  • Address: 32, Dee Street, P.O. Box 960, Invercargill.
  • Phone Number: +6432140954.
  • Note: The food is expensive at the hotel.

There are many other accommodations on the island that you can consider such as Tokoeka PurePod and Hananui PurePod. The island also has a budgeted stay like backpackers hostel.


Rent a Car

The first thing to do is to rent a car, and you can do this at the Oban Visitor Center. The rental fee is approximately NZD 120 or AUD 111.79 (USD 83.45) for a 24-hour period, accompanied by a refundable deposit of NZD 500. Having a car is an excellent means of exploring the island at your own pace.

New Zealand's third biggest island - Stewart Island

Things to do in Stewart Island

Explore Ulva Island

Discover the unique native flora and fauna on Ulva Island, a predator-free sanctuary. It is an ideal place for bird watching and nature walks.

  • Ulva Island, a pristine haven, is just a 15-minute water taxi journey from Stewart Island.
  • Departing from Golden Bay (Stewart Island), the water taxi transports visitors to Post Office Bay Wharf (Ulva Island).
  • The round-trip cost for the water taxi ranges from NZD 30-40, with the fare dependent on the number of passengers, equivalent to approximately AUD 27.4-36.55 (USD 20.3-27.06).
  • Ulva Island boasts a predator-free environment, ensuring the safety of its unique wildlife and allowing for an unparalleled nature experience.

Rakiura Track

Stewart Island boasts a variety of captivating walks, with the most notable being the Rakiura Track. Renowned for its stunning landscapes and diverse ecosystems, the Rakiura Track is a multi-day hiking adventure that allows visitors to immerse themselves in the island’s natural beauty.

This well-established trail offers a unique opportunity to explore Stewart Island’s pristine wilderness, featuring lush forests, coastal vistas, and an array of native flora and fauna. Hikers can embark on a memorable journey, experiencing the tranquility and enchanting scenery that define the Rakiura Track.

See the Southern Lights

Go on a other-worldly journey to Stewart Island, where the magic of the Southern Lights awaits at the Remarkable Rocks. This natural phenomenon, also known as the Aurora Australis, graces the night sky with a breathtaking display of vibrant colors, creating an unforgettable celestial spectacle. Positioned in the southern hemisphere, Stewart Island provides an ideal vantage point for witnessing the dance of lights in the clear, unpolluted skies.

The Remarkable Rocks, with their elevated and unobstructed views, offer an exceptional setting to marvel at the Southern Lights. As darkness falls, the celestial show begins, painting the heavens with hues of green, purple, and red. Capture this awe-inspiring moment with your camera or simply relish the experience with your own eyes. Stewart Island, with its minimal light pollution, provides an extraordinary opportunity to witness the Southern Lights in all their glory, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Spot Kiwi Birds

Undertake an enchanting quest to spot the elusive and iconic Kiwi birds on Stewart Island. Renowned as a sanctuary for wildlife, Stewart Island offers a unique opportunity to catch a glimpse of these flightless, nocturnal birds in their natural habitat.

Venture into the lush forests and secluded areas of Stewart Island during the evening hours, as Kiwis are known to be more active after dark. Equipped with patience and a keen eye, explore the island’s trails and listen for the distinctive calls of these unique creatures. Guided tours and local experts can enhance your chances of encountering Kiwis, providing valuable insights into their behavior and habitat.

Listen to the distinctive calls of these fascinating birds, and keep your eyes peeled for their distinctive brown feathers and long, slender bills. Spotting a Kiwi in the wild is a rare and rewarding experience, making Stewart Island a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers. Immerse yourself in the tranquility of Stewart Island’s natural surroundings as you seek to witness the unique charm of New Zealand’s emblematic Kiwi birds.

Visit Te Puka

Discover the hidden gem of Te Puka on Stewart Island, an enchanting destination that captures the essence of New Zealand’s natural beauty. Te Puka, also known as Pegasus, is a captivating spot nestled on the island’s southern coast, offering a serene escape for those seeking tranquility and picturesque landscapes.

Start your journey by exploring the pristine beaches that characterise Te Puka. Feel the soft sand beneath your feet as you stroll along the shoreline, taking in the breathtaking views of the Southern Ocean. The rhythmic sounds of waves crashing against the rugged coastline create a soothing backdrop, providing a perfect setting for relaxation and contemplation.

Wander further into Te Puka’s coastal trails, where you’ll encounter native flora and fauna, including the iconic New Zealand ferns and diverse bird species. Capture the beauty of this untouched paradise through photography or simply immerse yourself in the peaceful surroundings.

Te Puka is more than a destination; it is an opportunity to connect with nature in its purest form. As you bask in the tranquility of this coastal haven, you will come to appreciate the untouched allure that makes Stewart Island a haven for those seeking an authentic and rejuvenating experience. Whether you are a nature enthusiast or a traveler in search of solitude, Te Puka invites you to embrace the untamed beauty of Stewart Island.

New Zealand's third biggest island - Stewart Island

Is Stewart Island Safe for Solo Female Travelers?

Solo female travelers can explore the enchanting Stewart Island with confidence and ease. During my solo journey to this captivating destination, I experienced a sense of security and tranquility. Whether driving in search of elusive Kiwi birds or marveling at the Southern lights at night, I encountered no challenges or concerns.

Stewart Island welcomes solo female travelers with open arms, providing a safe haven for exploration. The island’s serene landscapes and friendly atmosphere contribute to a peaceful and enjoyable solo travel experience. As you navigate the pristine trails and coastal wonders, the sense of security enhances the overall journey.

While Stewart Island offers a haven for solo adventurers, it’s essential to remain vigilant, as in any destination worldwide. Being mindful of your surroundings and taking necessary precautions ensures a worry-free exploration of this picturesque island. Embrace the freedom of solo travel on Stewart Island, where the beauty of nature is complemented by a sense of safety and tranquility.

Closing Notes

Exploring New Zealand’s third-largest island, Stewart Island, left a profound impression, making it a journey I genuinely cherished. This untouched gem, adorned with breathtaking landscapes and minimal tourist presence, offers a unique and beautiful escape. The abundance of captivating wildlife adds to the island’s allure, creating a distinctive experience.

I wholeheartedly recommend including Stewart Island in your travel itinerary, especially if you find yourself with extra time after exploring the South Island. The island’s pristine nature, serene atmosphere, and the rare opportunity to witness its remarkable wildlife contribute to a truly rewarding adventure. Stewart Island, with its unspoiled charm and fewer crowds, stands as a testament to the hidden treasures awaiting those who venture beyond the beaten path in New Zealand.

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    PIN to reference later – Travel to Stewart Island

    PIN for later reference - Travel to Stewart Island
    PIN for later reference – Travel to Stewart Island