Faith spotted the Aurora Australis on a recent trip to New Zealand's third island.
Product Development Specialist
What is your favourite ‘undiscovered location’ in New Zealand?
Stewart Island, which lies 30km south of Bluff – New Zealand’s southernmost town.
Why is Stewart Island special to you?
Known in Māori as Rakiura – meaning “the land of the glowing skies” – Stewart Island is the best place in New Zealand to see the Aurora Australis or Southern Lights, although you need a strong aurora forecast and clear skies to get lucky.
The night we travelled to the island we hit the jackpot – at the end of a delicious meal of Stewart Island salmon and blue cod at the South Sea Hotel, the pub started buzzing with rumours that the elusive lightshow was likely to make an appearance that night.
An island “aurora phone tree” was activated, the pub closed for the night, and soon we were hiking up to an observation point where a few locals gathered in the dark with hot water bottles and flasks of tea, their cameras at the ready. We all stood quietly, awestruck, watching the skies dance and come to life with a beautiful display.
While not all visitors to Stewart Island are lucky enough to see the Aurora Australis, there are a number of other exciting activities to enjoy on the island. Another night-time adventure is kiwi spotting –
at dusk these flightless birds are often spotted in the forest or foraging for food on the beach.
Nearby Ulva Island is excellent for daytime bird watching – this pest-free sanctuary is a great place to see birds and plants in an environment mostly unchanged by human activity and predators.
Stewart Island is home to one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, the Rakiura Track. The 36km-track can be walked in three days and follows the open coast, climbs over forested ridges and traverses sheltered coastline. You’ll find beautiful deserted beaches, potentially spot the rare brown kiwi and pass the site of a historic Māori village and sawmill.
Who did you travel with?
A group of Australian travel agents.
What is your best piece of advice for people visiting this location?
Slow down, mingle with the locals and enjoy a slice of island life. And don’t forget your hiking boots!
Visiting Stewart Island
Stewart Island can be reached by ferry
from Bluff, or by light aircraft
from Invercargill. The ferry crossing takes approximately one hour, flights take approximately 15-20 minutes.
offer several experiences on Stewart Island, including the Village and Bays Tour
and Paterson Inlet Cruises
They also offer a the Stewart Island Discovery Expedition
, where your clients can spend six days cruising the island’s surrounding waters, venturing ashore regularly for guided walks, visits to historic sites, wildlife encounters and exploring the coastline upclose with some kayaking or by stabicraft. Coach connections are available from Invercargill.
Kiwi Wilderness Walks
offer all-inclusive guided walks to introduce visitors to the wildlife and native forest of Stewart Island and Rakiura National Park.
Ruggedy Range Wilderness Experience
offers "off the beaten track" wilderness adventures on Ulva Island and Stewart Island for small groups.
Ulva's Guided Walks
offer a range of bird watching and botanical experiences for your clients to enjoy on nearby Ulva Island.
Scenic flights are offered by Stewart Island Flights
, Stewart Island Helicopters
and Southern Lakes Helicopters