Top 10 things to do on Rakiura Stewart Island

Image: Rebecca Wilson-Jennings

Saddleback on Ulva Island. Image: Great South

Rakiura Track. Image: Great South

Image: Ruggedy Range

Top 10 things to do on Rakiura Stewart Island

Immerse yourself in the scenery on a Great Walk (or even just a regular walk), explore local beaches, and ponder the wonders of the universe as you stare up into a Dark Sky Sanctuary on this nature-lover’s dream island. Try the local cuisine, or catch some yourself on a fishing charter, and get acquainted with the local birdlife on a birdwatching or photography tour.

Stargaze at some of the world’s darkest skies

The southernmost Dark Sky Sanctuary in the world, the Rakiura Dark Sky Sanctuary is one of the best places for stargazing you’ll find anywhere. Gaze up in awe at the billions of stars in the Milky Way and decide for yourself whether you’ve truly experienced a starry night before now. If you’re really lucky, and are on Stewart Island between March and September, you might even catch a glimpse of the Aurora Australis – the Southern Lights.

Go birdwatching on Ulva Island

This pest-free bird sanctuary is home to many native species including kaka, kereru, kiwi and Stewart Island robin. Take a guided walk through the lush rainforest and learn from the birdwatching, wildlife and natural history experts about the precious ecology of the island.

Test the local cuisine at Kai Kart

Eateries all over the country like to lay claim to the title of best fish ‘n’ chips in Aotearoa. Kai Kart serves this classic tucker in large portions out of a blue caravan, and locals think what comes out of the hatch is pretty special, so see for yourself how it measures up.

Tick off a Great Walk on the Rakiura Track

Stewart Island is home to one of our ten Great Walks: the Rakiura Track. Traversing stunning coastline, native bush, and historic sites, you’ll find yourself accompanied by the local wildlife, and even, if you start early and are quiet enough, spot a kiwi. The walk takes around three days to complete and huts and campsites must be booked in advance.

Get around the island on hired bikes

There are plenty of trails to explore, or you can simply forgo the car and combine your transport and sightseeing into one satisfying package. Electric bikes are available for that extra bit of oomph to get you around all the island has to offer.

Get a load of the island’s unique history at the Rakiura Museum

Check out this locally run museum for a fascinating and intimate look into the history of Stewart Island, with an extensive collection showcasing the island’s stories and past industries including mining, milling, transport, whaling and fishing.

Catch the big one on a fishing charter

Expert anglers and aspiring fishers alike, let the locals show you the best spots and have you catching something impressive for dinner with a half- or full-day charter. There are several operators running charters from Stewart Island, offering full gear hire and full induction if required, and you’ll get a beautiful scenic cruise into the bargain.

Carve your own greenstone

At Rakiura Jade, you get the unique opportunity to carve your own special piece of pounamu greenstone jewellery with master carver Dave Goodin. As part of his Make Your Own Treasure workshop, you’ll get to choose your own piece of greenstone, pick a simple design, and be guided through the carving process. You’ll end up with your own precious pounamu with a whole story behind it.

Take a scenic flight to a secluded beach

See this fabulous unspoiled natural beauty from above on a scenic flight, where you’ll have a front row seat to the wonders laid out below you. Stewart Island Helicopters have both one-hour and two-hour options available, or you can choose to land on a beautiful, secluded beach for a picnic or walk before heading back the way you came.

Get the perfect shot on a photography tour

A great way to increase your skills, meet people, and seriously level up your holiday snaps game, a photography tour on Rakiura Stewart Island is a sightseeing experience with a difference. Ruggedy Range offers photography tours to Ulva Island, as well as Stewart Island tours focusing on kiwi, or seabirds and penguins, and you’ll also get the chance to photograph the surrounding flora and landscape.

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