Stewart Island Activities: A Remote Island Experience in New Zealand

With rugged beauty, untouched wilderness, and abundant wildlife, Stewart Island activities offer unique and unforgettable experiences for travellers seeking an escape to a unique natural environment.

Here's a list of activities on Stewart Island to make the most of your visit to this remote New Zealand island, located just off the southern coast of the South Island.

Ferry to Stewart Island, Southland, New Zealand
Stewart Island Ferry - Photo by Tonia Kraakman

Observe Wildlife in Their Natural Habitat on Stewart Island

Stewart Island is home to an array of unique and often rare wildlife species. The island's lush rainforests, pristine beaches, and tranquil bays provide excellent opportunities for wildlife enthusiasts.

Don't miss the chance to spot the iconic kiwi bird, as Stewart Island is known as the best place in New Zealand to see these flightless birds. Additionally, you can spot seals, sea lions, and even the occasional New Zealand penguin along the island's coastline.

Rakiura Track: A Hiker's Dream

For avid hikers, the Rakiura Track is a must-do activity on Stewart Island. This 32-kilometer (20-mile) loop track takes you through diverse landscapes, from coastal forests to golden sandy beaches.

The trail usually takes three days to complete, offering hikers the chance to immerse themselves in Stewart Island's natural beauty and camp under the stars.

Ulva Island: A Sanctuary for Native Wildlife

Just a short boat ride from Golden Bay on Stewart Island, Ulva Island is a predator-free haven for New Zealand's native flora and fauna.

Spend a day exploring the island's walking tracks and be on the lookout for species of rare birds such as the South Island kaka, Tui, Weka, Yellowhead, Bellbirds, and Saddleback. The island is a prime location for birdwatching and spotting native plants.

Fishing and Water Activities on Stewart Island

With its clear waters and abundant marine life, Stewart Island is a paradise for fishing enthusiasts. You can charter a boat for a day of fishing, or if you prefer, try your hand at surf-casting from one of the island's beautiful beaches.

Kayaking, paddle-boarding, and snorkelling are also popular activities for those who want to explore the island's marine environment up close.

Village Exploration: Oban

Oban is Stewart Island's only settlement, and it offers a charming glimpse into island life. Stroll through the village and enjoy a meal at one of the cosy cafes or restaurants. Don't forget to stop by the Rakiura Museum to learn more about the island's history, Maori heritage, and maritime past.

Aurora Australis: Southern Lights

Stewart Island's location near the South Pole makes it an ideal spot for viewing the Aurora Australis, the Southern Lights are the southern hemisphere's version of the Northern Lights. If you're lucky enough to visit during the winter months (March to September), you might witness this stunning natural light display.

Explore the Beaches on Stewart Island

Stewart Island boasts numerous pristine beaches, each with its own unique character. Horseshoe Bay, Halfmoon Bay, Bathing Beach, and Golden Bay are some of the most popular. These beaches are perfect for picnics, sunbathing, or simply taking a leisurely stroll along the shoreline.

Maori History and Culture

Learn about the island's Maori heritage by visiting historical sites like the Ackers Cottage and the Maori Beach pa site. Guided tours are available to provide insights into the rich cultural history of the area.

Stewart Island Bays and Coves

Take a boat tour to explore the hidden bays and coves that dot Stewart Island's coastline. These excursions often include marine and wildlife watching opportunities, and provide a different perspective of the island's rugged beauty.

Boat Trip, Stewart Island, Southland, New Zealand
Boat Trip - Photo by Tonia Kraakman

Relax and Unwind with Stewart Island Activities

Above all, Stewart Island is a place to relax, unwind, and connect with nature. Whether you choose to hike, watch wildlife, or simply soak in the stunning scenery, the island's peaceful atmosphere is sure to rejuvenate you.

Stewart Island's remote location and wildness make it a haven for nature lovers and adventurers. So, if you're seeking an escape into the heart of New Zealand's untamed landscape, put Stewart Island at the top of your travel bucket list.