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Rakiura Stewart Island

Stewart Island (Rakiura)

Oban, the only town on Stewart Island.
Oban is the only settlement of any size on Stewart Island

Rakiura Stewart Island is the southernmost and smallest of the three main islands of New Zealand. Located 30 km south of South Island across the rough seas of the Foveaux Strait, it is known as Rakiura ("Glowing skies") in Maori. The densely wooded, 1,746 square kilometre island is a haven for wildlife, particularly birds, due to a lack of introduced predators, which have been largely eradicated.

Rakiura National Park, New Zealand's newest national park is made up of previous nature reserves and state forest land and covers about 80% of the island.

Most of the permanent population of just over 400 people live in Oban. Fishing and tourism are the two main industries on Stewart Island, which is named after an officer onboard a sealing ship that called here in 1809.

Stewart Island Mallard duck.
Mallard duck

Things to See & Do

A guided tour is a popular and safe way to see the island's scattered beaches and rugged, granite interior. Sea kayaking is a good way to see the coastline but the seas are hazardous so visitors should not set out unaccompanied.

An organized night walk with one of the tour companies on the island is a good means to encounter the island's brown kiwis.


Most visitors stay in Oban on Halfmoon Bay which has several motels plus a few B&Bs, hostels, and lodges.

Some recommendations are the Bay Motel, South Sea Hotel, and the Kaka Retreat Motel, named after the native parrot on the island. See a listing of accommodation in Oban and Stewart Island.

South Sea Hotel also serves as the island's pub with good pub food and coffee. There are several other eateries with the best being Church Hill Boutique Lodge and Restaurant serving homemade, fresh local produce.

Oban also has a small museum, the Rakiura Museum, dedicated to the island's local history and includes exhibits of Maori artifacts and whalers' scrimshaw.

Oban has a DOC office on Main Road and a Visitor Centre at the Red Shed on Elgin Terrace. The former has information on the island's flora and fauna, natural history and the various tracks around the island.

Observation Rock has wonderful views of Paterson Inlet and also the 980-metre Mount Anglem, the island's highest point.

Mudflats near Oban.
Mudflats near Oban

Ulva Island

The birdlife on the 2 km long Ulva Island is some of the best in New Zealand. You will see bellbirds, kaka, parakeets and tui. Visitors arrive by boat at Post Office Bay, named after the (former) 19th-century post office built here.

Other places to visit are the eerie Whaler's Base, where Norwegian whalers would spend the winter, and Mason Bay, another haven of the reclusive brown kiwi.

The island is a haven for birdlife.
The island is a haven for birdlife

Access - Getting There

There are flights from Invercargill (20 minutes) to the airport 3 km west of Oban. Transfer to the town is included in the price of the ticket. If you have a strong stomach, the catamaran ferry service makes the crossing in about an hour. There are also water taxis (speedboats) to Ulva Island to see the incredible birdlife.

Stewart Island Map.
Stewart Island / Rakiura Map

Map of National Parks in New Zealand

Books on New Zealand

Books about New Zealand

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