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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.
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.
There are no cities and almost all of the 400 people living on the island, live in the small town of Oban.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
We don't currently have any Travel Helpers for Stewart Island
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