Backpacking in New Zealand - Stewart Island

Ultimate Travel Guide to Stewart Island (New Zealand’s third biggest island)

Everyone knows about North and South Islands of New Zealand (NZ). But have you heard of New Zealand’s third biggest island called the Stewart Island? I visited Stewart Island as part of my backpacking trip in South Island. In this post, you will find all the details to travel to this amazing and off beat place in New Zealand.

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Stewart Island

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About Stewart Island

Stewart Island is the third biggest island in New Zealand. The island lies about 30 kilometers south of South Island. The best thing about this island is its wildlife and the estimated population of the island is around 400 people, which means less crowd.

It is also known as Rakiura. The word ‘Rakiura’ is the Maori word, translating to the Glowing Skies. This is possibly due to the spectacular dramatic sunsets and the southern lights.

How to get to Stewart Island?

There are two ways to get to the island:

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

I took a flight. It was a cute little plane and was a fun experience. I suggest flying for at least one way as it provides a great view of the ocean and the island.

Where to stay on Stewart Island?

I stayed at South Sea Hotel. It is very close to the Information Center and opposite to the beach. It is a very convenient place to stay at and it has a pub/bar, which is the only bar on the island.

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 too that you can consider such as Tokoeka PurePod and Hananui PurePod. The island also has a budgeted stay which is backpackers hostel.


The first thing to do is to hire a car. The car can be hired at Oban Visitor Center. It costs about NZD 120 or AUD 111.79 (USD 83.45) for 24 hours of hire with a refundable deposit of NZD 500. Driving is a great way to travel around the island.

New Zealand's third biggest island - Stewart Island

Things to do in Stewart Island

There are plenty of walks and the most famous being Rakiura Track. The Rakiura Track is a multi day hike. Stewart Island is a great place to see the southern lights on a clear night.

Other things to do are:

  • Visit Ulva Island.
    • 15 minutes water taxi ride from Stewart Island.
    • Water taxi leaves from Golden Bay (Stewart Island) and drops at Post Office Bay Wharf (Ulva Island).
    • Ulva Island is a pest free island and is free from any predators and dangers.
    • Cost for water taxi (return): NZD 30-40 (depending on number of people) or AUD 27.4-36.55 (USD 20.3-27.06).
  • Sighting Kiwi birds.
    • Cost: FREE.
  • View Southern lights.
    • Best place to view: Remarkable Rocks.
    • Cost: FREE.
  • Visit Te Puka – the anchor stone.
    • Cost: FREE.
  • Visit different bays around the island.
    • Cost: FREE.
New Zealand's third biggest island - Stewart Island

Closing Notes

I strongly felt it was really worth visiting New Zealand’s third island. It is an untouched and a beautiful island, with less tourists and amazing wildlife. I recommend this island if you have some extra time after seeing the South Island.

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Stewart Island