BUG New Zealand travel guidebook
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BUG New Zealand travel guidebook


BUG New Zealand travel guidebook

Destination guides > Pacific Islands > New Zealand > Southland > Stewart Island (Rakiura)

Stewart Island/Rakiura

Most of New Zealand’s third largest island has now been declared the Rakiura National Park and the majority of the island’s tiny population live in the township of Oban (or Halfmoon Bay), which is home to just 400 residents and a cluster of shops and accommodation. The main attractions on the island are the walking tracks, pristine beaches and the bird sanctuary on Ulva Island. Since most of the island is only accessible by foot, there are also tour guides ready to take you on wildlife safaris and overnight wilderness trips. Penguins abound on some of the remote beaches, and this is the only place in New Zealand where kiwis outnumber Kiwis by over 50:1.

Practical information

Stewart Island i-SITE Visitor Centre

12 Elgin Terrace, Oban
Tel (03) 2191 400
Website www.stewartisland.co.nz

Rakiura National Park Visitor Centre

Main Road, Oban
Tel (03) 219 0009
Website www.doc.govt.nz
Open Mon-Fri 8.30am-5pm, Sat-Sun 9am-4pm

Just Café

Main Road, Oban
Tel (03) 219 1422
Open Jan-Jun & Oct-Dec 9am-5pm daily

Coming & going


Stewart Island Flights (tel (03) 218 9129) have good value stand-by flights departing from Invercargill. The flight includes transport between Stewart Island’s airstrip and the township of Oban on Halfmoon Bay. The airport shuttle departs from the post office on Elgin Terrace.


Stewart Island Experience (tel (03) 212 7660 or 0800 000 511) has regular ferry services linking Bluff with Halfmoon Bay on Stewart Island/Rakiura. The one-way fare is $63.

Local transport

Despite the unusually large number of cars in Oban, Stewart Island’s road network only extends a few kilometres from town and water taxis provide the main transport option on the island. Water taxi companies include Seabuzzz (tel (03) 219 1282) and Seaview Water Taxi (tel (03) 219 1014). Most water taxi services depart from the Golden Bay Wharf, about 1km from the centre of Oban.

Hostel accommodation

Michael’s House

1 Golden Bay Road, Oban
Tel (03) 219 1425

Stewart Island Backpackers

18 Ayr Street, Oban
Tel (03) 219 1114

The View

Nichol Road, Oban
Tel (03) 219 1328

Eating & drinking

Bring groceries as food on Stewart Island/Rakiura is expensive, although there is a small Ship to Shore Four Square market (Elgin Terrace, Oban) for the things you have forgotten.

There are not many options for dining out in town, but the tiny Just Café (Main Road, Oban) is a popular place for coffee, sandwiches and baked goods. The seafood here is of course excellent. Kai Kart (Ayr Street, Oban) has some of the best fish & chips in New Zealand and at takeaway prices it’s the perfect spot for lunch or dinner on a budget.

Sights & activities

Kiwi Spotting

Despite over 20,000 kiwis on the island, it can be very difficult to spot one of them in the wild. Ruggedy Range Wilderness Experience (tel (03) 219 1066) run very good, but expensive, kiwi spotting trips that cost $385 for an overnight trip or $785 for a two-night trip.

Sea Kayaking

Stewart Island/Rakiura has lovely sheltered bays, particularly in Paterson Inlet, that are ideal for sea kayaking. Rakiura Kayaks (tel (03) 219 1160) run guided kayak trips $50 half day or $75 for a full day. They also rent kayaks for $40 per day.

Ulva Island

This island in Paterson Inlet is free of rats, making it a haven for bird life including 70 species found nowhere else on earth.

It is a popular day trip and it can be reached either by kayak, water taxi or by a tour.


Seabuzzz (tel (03) 219 1282) and Seaview Water Taxi (tel (03) 219 1014) can take you to the island and charge $25 for the return trip.

Ruggedy Range Wilderness Experience (tel (03) 219 1066) and Ulva’s Guided Walks (tel (03) 219 1216) operate day tours to Ulva Island.


There are some very good hiking tracks on Stewart Island. The best is of these is the Rakiura Track.


The Rakiura Track (36km, 2-3 days) is one of DOC’s Great Walks. It is a popular walk with birdwatchers, but lacks the stunning views normally associated with the other Great Walks.
Accommodation in DOC huts on the route costs $10 per night.

Halfmoon Bay to Port William Hut (12km, 4-5 hours)

The track starts at the end of the road north of Oban and follows the coast for most of the first day.

Port William to North Arm Hut (12km, 6 hours)

This section starts off by backtracking for 45-minutes along the beach and then cuts inland. The track climbs to the summit ridge where there’s a lookout tower that offers views to Paterson Inlet. The track climbs for a little longer before descending to North Arm Hut.

North Arm Hut to Halfmoon Bay (12km, 4-5 hours)

The last section of the track passes Sawdust Bay and Kaipipi Bay, both on the shore of Paterson Inlet. The final stretch from Kapipi Bay to Oban follows the old Kapipi Road, the original access route for the sawmills at Kaipipi Bay that employed over 100 people in the 1860s.


If the Rakiura Track is too easy for you, the North West and Southern Circuits (125km, 8-12 days) may be more your style. The complete hike covers most of the northern half of the island, but it can be broken into two segments, both which provide the opportunity to see kiwi in their natural habitat.

This track has huts spaced approximately one day’s walk apart.

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