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Stewart Island

Photo © Jase007

Travel Guide Oceania Polynesia New Zealand Stewart Island

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Introduction

Scene from Stewart Island

Scene from Stewart Island

© All Rights Reserved melmonson

Stewart Island (Rakiori in the Maori language), after the North Island and the South Island, is New Zealand's third largest island and is located about 30 kilometres south of South Island. The island is much less visited though and is paradise on earth for those who like pure wilderness.

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Geography

Stewart Island is about 1,746 square kilometres big. The north mainly consists of swampy areas near the main river, The Freshwater River. Around the swampy valley of Freshwater River is a rim of ridges and the highest point of the island rise here to 979 metres above sea level: Mount Anglem. To the south, the land rises to a ridge that runs south from the valley of the Rakeahua River. It's a large forested area. Further south, the land drops a bit and there are valleys of rivers like the Toitoi, Lords and Heron rivers. Mason Bay, in the central west, is one of the exceptions of long sandy beaches, whereas most of the coast is rugged cliffy area. There are numerous islands around the main island, the biggest of which are Ruapuke Island, Codfish Island and Big South Cape Island.

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Cities

There are no cities and almost all of the 400 people living on the island, live in the small town of Oban.

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Sights and Activities

With Rakiura National Park forming about 85% of Stewart Island, the island is a heaven on earth for those who like tramping and birdwatching. The Ulva Island Bird Sanctuary is one of the highlights and not to be missed. Mason Bay offer the best opportunity to see New Zealand's famous bird and symbol: the flightless Kiwi.

Popular trails for tramping are the 36-kilometre-long Rakiura Track which takes 3 days and the 125-kilometre-long North-West Circuit which takes 7-12 days.

Ulva Island Open Sanctuary (in relative isolation but with easy access from Stewart Island) is a sanctuary for both birds and plants, holding species that are rare or have died out on the mainland of New Zealand. Partially private land and partially national park, Ulva Island is possibly the closest to pristine of any area of New Zealand open to the public. In 1997, the island was declared rat-free, following an eradication program, and extirpated birds have been reintroduced to the island. The birds include the South Island saddleback (tieke), yellowhead (mohua) and Stewart Island robin (toutouwai). In addition to birds the general forest health has improved significantly. Many orchids can now be seen that are difficult to find on mainland Stewart Island. Water taxis regularly make the short trip from Golden Bay.

A very inquisitive Stewart Island Weka.

A very inquisitive Stewart Island Weka.

© All Rights Reserved matchman

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Weather

Stewart Island has a cool maritime climate with high annual rainfall, ranging from 1,000mm to 3,000mm depending on elevation and location. Temperatures are mostly around the 15 °C range in summer (December to February), while winters (June to August) see temperatures just several degrees above zero. Snow is not very common but possible at the highest points for a few days a year.

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Getting There

By Plane

Stewart Island Flights flies from Invercargill to Stewart Island three times daily for around NZ$95 one-way, NZ$165 return for an adult, children are charged NZ$55/NZ$95 respectively. The bus trip from the airport to Oban is included in the fare.

By Boat

The Stewart Island Experience Ferry runs three times daily between Bluff on the South Island and the main settlement Oban on Stewart Island. It takes around one hour and costs are around 55 NZ dollar for an adult, half-price for children. There are shuttles to Bluff with the same company from Invercargill, Te Anau and Queenstown.

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Getting Around

To remote places, there are sea-taxis which offer pick-up and drop-off services for trampers. Some of the companies are Stewart Island Water Taxi & Eco Guiding, Seabuzzz Tours and Kaian Water Taxi. Operators are found at Golden Bay wharf, about 10 minutes walking from Oban.

Crawford Rentals has scooters and cars for rent, for around NZ$25 half-day for a scooter and around NZ$80 for a car. Fullday charges are just slightly more.

Getting around most of the island, however, is done on foot and the opportunities are endless.

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Eat

  • Bird on a Pear, Elgin Terrace (above the ferry terminal at the wharf), ☎ +64 3 219-1019, e-mail: jowayne@xtra.co.nz. 07:00–15:30. Jo and Wayne have recently re-opened the cafe above the wharf specialising in home-made goodies and local seafood. The oyster soup is a must-have! Catering and birthday cakes are other services they offer. $2–20.
  • Church Hill Restaurant and Oyster Bar, 36 Kamahi Rd, ☎ +64 3 219-1123, e-mail: restaurant@churchhill.co.nz. After a number of years leasing out the restaurant, Deanne has returned and re-established the restaurant, this time with her husband Chris. Try local Southern Glory Oysters, grown and harvested on Stewart Island.
  • Kai Kart, Ayr St. (near the Rakiura Museum). Open Wed - Sun (seasonal). Caravan serving good fish and chips (and great coleslaw). Some outdoor seats if you don't want to take away.
  • South Sea Hotel, Elgin Terrace (on the waterfront), ☎ +64 3 219-1059, e-mail: southsea@stewart-island.co.nz. 07:00–20:00 although maybe longer or shorter hours depending on the season. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner you have the choice of dining in the restaurant or the bar. During summer hours the kitchen also offers a short cafe menu during the afternoon. Bookings are strongly recommended in the summer months. $10-40.
  • Stewart Island Four Square, Elgin Terrace, ☎ +64 3 2191 069. Winter: 07:30–18:30, summer: 07:30–19:00. A fully stocked supermarket is great for people wishing to cater for themselves and they also offer a great range of home-made sandwiches, hot pies, ice-creams etc $2-10.

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Drink

  • South Sea Hotel, Elgin Terrace (on the waterfront), ☎ +64 3 219-1059, e-mail: southsea@stewart-island.co.nz. Licensed 11:00am–03:00am although the bar closes earlier on quieter nights. This is the only pub in town and is the hub of the community. Drink prices are reasonable compared to the mainland; in a lot of cases cheaper. The bar has a Happy Hour Tu 5:00–6:30pm and bar food is always available, or you can get a meal from the restaurant. Friday night is a great night to meet the locals and listen to their yarns. Sunday night is Quiz Night , starting at 6:30pm promptly. It has been featured on TV, radio and in many newspapers. Registrations start at 18:00, but in the summer months the pub fills up rapidly, so it's recommended to go in about an hour before that to get a seat.

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Sleep

Nearly all of the accommodation options are in or near Oban/Half Moon Bay, with hostels, B&B's and a few fancier places. There are lots of self-catering options as well. Outside this area, you will need your own tent mostly.

Some options which are not selfcatering include:

Staying connected in New Zealand is an easy affair in most towns and cities, although naturally if you are heading off the beaten path it can become harder.

Internet

Internet cafés are widely available throughout New Zealand at rates of around NZ$2-4, though sometimes more in smaller places. Besides internet and e-mail services, most big internet cafés also offer some way for travellers to connect their digital camera and burn cds. Many public libraries have public Internet access, and most of them offer short free internet sessions. Wi-Fi access is getting more and more common in for example coffee places or fast food chains. It is becoming more common for Wi-Fi to be provided at hotels and motels, though sometimes at a fee. Wireless Hotspots are located in many cities and towns all over New Zealand from dedicated Wireless providers from whom you can buy connect time. Many camping holiday parks also have such services available.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

Dial 111 for emergency police, fire or ambulance services. The worldwide emergency number for GSM mobile phones, 112, can also be used.
The country code is 64.

Most payphones in New Zealand require the use of phone cards for payment and it is getting harder to find payphones that accept coins. As phone cards are available at a lot of outlets, they are easy to purchase and very handy as a backup in case of emergencies. Many of them also accept creditcards. Local calls are free from residential phones and charges for calling outside that area can be found at the front of the regional phone books, amongst many other services.

Mobile telephone coverage is effectively national in near urban areas although the mountainous terrain means that outside the urban areas, and especially away from the main highway system, coverage does have huge dead patches. Do not rely on mobile phones in hilly or mountainous terrain. Mobile telephone users can call 555 only to report Non-emergency traffic safety incidents, such as a breakdown, road hazard or non-injury car crash, to the Police. There are currently three major mobile carriers in New Zealand.

  • Telecom operates a UMTS (3G) network, named XT Network, nationwide on 850MHz with supplementary 2100MHz in metropolitan areas. (the same frequencies as Telstra in Australia and AT&T in the U.S.)
  • Vodafone operates a GSM network on 900MHz/2100 MHz and a UTMS (3G) network operates nationwide 900MHz with supplementary 2100MHz coverage.
  • 2degrees operates a UMTS (3G) network (2100MHz) in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch, with supplementary GSM coverage provided elsewhere by Vodafone.

A prepaid sim-card connection pack with $10 credit from Telecom or Vodafone costs around $30, and prepaid sim-cards from 2degrees cost $10. It is possible to pick up a free 2degrees sim-card on the SkyBus service that runs between Auckland airport and the CBD. Telecom has broader coverage in remote areas away from major cities compared to Vodafone and 2degrees.

Post

Most areas have dedicated PostShops, however stamps can also be bought at grocery shops, supermarkets and book stores. There are two main formats for domestic mail, namely Standard Post and Fast Post. Fast Post is used next day delivery between major towns and cities (two days from rural areas), whereas Standard Post will take a few working days to deliver nationwide. Standard costs NZ$0.50 for letters/postcards (NZ$0.80 for larger envelopes), Fast Post costs NZ$0.80 (NZ$1.20 for larger envelopes). International mail takes about 3-6 days to Australia (NZ$1.50), and 6-12 days to Europe, Asia and the United States (NZ$2). Post boxes are white, red and black and can be found in many areas throughout towns and cities, including information about when their contents are collected. Most post offices and smaller post shops have opening hours from 9:00am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday, and 9:00am to 12:30pm on Saturday. You can buy stamps here, or at newsagents and general stores. For parcels, you can use the NZ Post or otherwise courier companies like TNT, DHL, UPS or FedEx.

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Accommodation in Stewart Island

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Stewart Island searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Stewart Island and areas nearby.

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This is version 8. Last edited at 9:50 on May 3, 17 by Utrecht. 3 articles link to this page.

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