Which New Zealand Island To Visit?

A trip to New Zealand means a trip where you’ll be presented with a diverse set of things to do.

There are roughly 600 islands in this country that are divided into North and South islands. So which New Zealand island is worthy of your visit?

Each destination in New Zealand highlights a different kind of vacation. In determining which island to pick, you should keep in mind what are the activities you want to do.

New Zealand’s climate gets warmer the further north you go. So if you want to have amazing beaches and just living that summer vacation of yours, islands in the Northern part are great.

But if you want to see a different part of New Zealand with its amazing glaciers and snow-capped mountain ranges, then islands in the Southern part are perfect for you.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have the time or the budget to explore both of the islands so we chose the best New Zealand island that you shouldn’t skip when you go here.

Located on the very end of South Island, Stewart Island is definitely one of the best islands in New Zealand that you shouldn’t miss in your visit.

Despite the location of it, a lot of backpackers and tourists visit this island because there are so many things to do and a lot of attractions that are definitely worth the long trip.

So why exactly should you visit Stewart Island? Here are the reasons why:

1. The trip to this island alone is a destination itself

A trip to Stewart Island is a journey to enjoy all the things that New Zealand has to offer.

Whether you’re using the daily direct or connecting flights to Invercargill, or a ferry ride from Bluff, the sights are amazing to see. 

The ferry ride to Stewart Island takes about an hour and the flight is even less.

Marvel at the deep blue waters of New Zealand and the calmness and isolation from the hectic city will fall on you upon arriving.

2. Gaze upon the Southern Lights

We all know about the Northern Lights glimmering in countries near the north pole but in New Zealand, Stewart Island is the perfect place to catch the Southern Lights.

In New Zealand’s language, te reo Maori, Stewart Island is translated to “Rakiura” which means glowing skies.

If you’re on this island at the right time, you’ll see the sky painted with a green, yellow, and pink hue. Veils of green streaks will dance across the horizon and the stars are the brightest you’ll ever see.

Southern Lights are rarer than the Northern Lights because they’re very unpredictable that a head’s up will only be a maximum of 30 minutes in advance.

Good for you, Stewart Island can enjoy the magnificent view of Aurora Australis all year round.

But the best time to see them is during the winter season from March to September.

The remote location of Stewart Island means a low level of light pollution so it’s perfect for stargazing as you stare into the center of the Milky Way.

If the timing is not right, you can still enjoy the magnificent starry night of this island since Stewart is considered one of the world’s few Dark Sky Sanctuary.

In fact, you’ll see the stars so ever brightly that you feel like you could reach them with your hands.

3. Explore the Rakiura National Park

If you’re an adventurer always seeking to find new things to travel to, then a hiking exploration to the Rakiura National Park is a perfect activity for you.

By exploring this park, you’re actually already exploring 85% of the whole Stewart Island.

It’s up to you on how you’re going to tackle this hiking trip.

There are so many things to do with so many things to see that you can explore the whole area for more than 10 days and still experience something new.

The best way to make the most of your stay in this island is to take multi-day walking tracks in Rakiura National Park. Here are some of them:

Rakiura Track

This 3-day loop is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks that will give you a taste of Stewart Island’s landscapes without being too difficult.

This track is available all year round where you’ll find hidden beaches, appreciate the peacefulness of the lush forest, and visit historical landmarks like Paterson Inlet and Port William.

North West Circuit

If you’re up for a 10-day adventure, then the North West Circuit is perfect for you.

This walk is much harder the Rakiura Track and will push you to your physical boundaries.

But the rewarding sceneries are absolutely worth it where you’ll get to check out pristine sandy and rocky beaches, undisturbed sand dunes, and the perfect cover of the wild forest.

But if you simply don’t have the time to spend days in this park, they do offer day tours where you get to see the highlights of what Rakiura can give you.

You can also visit the nearby island, Ulva Island for a sanctuary of native New Zealand birds or take it to the uncrowded waters for a bit of snorkeling and diving.

4. Relax on the many uncrowded beaches

The dedication of the local residents on this island to preserve and take care of their nature is amazingly high.

Despite being a rising destination for travelers, the beaches in Stewart Island remains untouched and pristine, leaving all aquatic lives to thrive.

Take a trip to the Bathing Beach which is one of the popular and sheltered swimming areas on this island.

Located at Halfmoon Bay, you can walk the entire length of the curved beach during low tide.

Definitely a perfect place to relax and listen to the soft waves of the sea and the lively chirp of birds.

If you’re all about water activities, you can also join many of the diving trips organized by the dive shops.

Since this island is in the South, you can expect the waters to be a bit colder than the North.

Underwater temperatures can range from 8°C to 14°C but enduring the cold will give you pristine diving conditions with excellent visibility to explore New Zealand’s richest and most varied marine habitats.

A complete wilderness and an unforgettable diving experience await you at Port Pegasus.

This spot is as remote as you can possibly be in Stewart Island.

Explore the lush kelp forests and the constant parade of sea life where schools of fish will swim around you.

5. Live like a local

This quaint little island is home to many friendly locals who are willing to share with you their culture and way of life.

There are many ways to learn about this island but why don’t you do it in the most entertaining way of watching a film at their local theater?

The Bunkhouse Theatre will tell you all about the past and present struggles and triumphs of Stewart Island from the perspective of a dog!

Gain all of the island’s inside knowledge straight from the dog’s mouth where humor and adventure mix well together.

As always, you shouldn’t leave a place without trying their best local food. Stewart Island offers the freshest seafood that you can get in the whole country of New Zealand.

Their waters are perfect for fishes and sea delicacies to thrive. Locals will tell you that this island produces the best blue cod in the world.

You can get fish and chips anywhere in New Zealand but why not get it straight from the fishing charters of Stewart Island?

New Zealand has a lot to offer and a casual vacation to this country won’t cover it all.

There’s no country quite like it. A trip to Stewart Island will definitely give you the best of New Zealand’s culture of exploration.

While this island may not be for everyone, this place is surely one of the best-hidden jewels of New Zealand.