5 Stewart Island Must-Dos
Things you Can’t miss in Stewart Island!
If you’re thinking of heading down to New Zealand’s third island then good on you! It’s well worth getting off the beaten track to escape the hustle and bustle of mainland New Zealand (wait, what?!) and experience the island life. Stewart Island lies between the latitudes of 46 and 47 degrees south making it a Sub-Antarctic island. However, you certainly wouldn’t think this as you discover golden sand beaches and turquoise blue waters!
So once you get to Stewart Island, what is there to do? Well, if you are really looking for those top activities you can’t miss in Stewart Island then this Stewart Island must-dos list narrows your offerings way down! However, if you want to see what else there is to do in Stewart Island, be sure to check out 10 Incredible Things to Do on Stewart Island, as well as our Stewart Island – Guide for Backpackers.
1. Watch the birds in Ulva Island
Ok, so we’re not intentionally saying that you should leave Stewart Island as soon as you arrive, but Ulva Island is simply something you can’t miss if you have any sort of interest in wildlife. Ulva Island is a pest free island with a forest left untouched for millions of years. For these reasons, Ulva Island is a bird sanctuary and one of the best examples of what New Zealand used to be like before human migration. The sound of the forest is alive with birds and a great chance to see all kinds of bird species in the wild: parakeets, yellowheads, tui, wood pigeons, kaka, weka, bellbirds, kiwi birds and so much more!
Location: Take the Ulva Ferry from Golden Bay. Golden Bay is a 15-minute walk on Golden Bay Road from Oban.
2. Do a multi-day hike in the Rakiura National Park
The Rakiura National Park makes up 80% of Stewart Island and the best way to get around is along the 280km+ of hiking trails. It’s hard to say which is the best multi-day hike in Stewart Island, as it really depends on fitness and how long you want to be out in the wilderness. The obvious option would be the Rakiura Track, a New Zealand Great Walk, with outstanding hut and track maintenance. Alternatively, there is the Northern Circuit and Southern Circuit which are a little more rugged but an awesome adventure.
For more information on multi-day hikes in Stewart Island, see Rakiura National Park – Guide for Backpackers.
3. Fish for blue cod
New Zealanders will say that the blue cod in Stewart Island is the best there is. You can’t miss at least trying some fresh blue cod fish and chips at the hotel or Kai Kart in Oban. To one-up this experience, you can go fish for the blue cod yourself. There are plenty of fishing charters available with all the gear. Plus, you never know what other wildlife you’ll see! Learn more at Fishing in New Zealand.
4. Carve your own greenstone
Make a special New Zealand souvenir at Rakiura Jade Studio. Greenstone is traditionally made into necklace pendants in the Maori culture, and you can carve your own greenstone right here on Stewart Island. What’s more, it’s the perfect rainy day activity because, well, it’s known to rain in Stewart Island.
Location: Elgin Terrace on the waterfront of Oban.
5. Catch the Southern Lights
Ok, this is VERY dependent on whether, first, there is enough polar activity for the Southern Lights and second, if you have a clear night on Stewart Island. But with the right conditions, Stewart Island is the best place to see the Southern Lights, otherwise known as Aurora Australis, in New Zealand. It’s the furthest south most people go in New Zealand. Plus, the Maori name for Stewart Island, Rakiura, means “glowing skies”. Can you guess why?
To increase your chances of seeing the Southern Lights, head to The Best Times and Locations to See the Southern Lights in New Zealand.
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