Stewart Island is situated less than 20 miles south of the South Island of New Zealand. It’s the southern most point of NZ. Apparently, in winter you can even see Aurora Australis, or the Southern Lights. The island is accessed via ferry and let me tel you it is a bumpy ride. I don’t usually get seasick and I was feeling this boat trip. Some people in our group did actually get sick. The crazy thing is that we are told that our ride was “tame” compared to how bad it could get. I heard that orcas and dolphins were spotted, but I personally didn’t see any.
Once we arrived on land the town was relatively small so we could walk to the accommodation. On the island there are a few activities and some hikes. The main draw is a nighttime walk to spot wild kiwis. The island is the most kiwi populated area of NZ.
With Stray’s bus scheduled you could either stay one or three nights on the island. I think one night was too short, especially given the rough ferry ride, but three would have been too long. If you had bad weather there really wouldn’t be anything to do. I didn’t see any Kiwis my night here, but we did see some penguins migrating in for the evening at the pier. The group spent the evening playing cards and we also had some puzzle action. Overall, I liked this stop because of the hang out sessions and bonding with other travelers. I would have liked to stay an additional night.
Accommodation – Stewart Island Backpackers
Small island = small choices. I really think this was the only accommodation option and overall it was a good one. The property was really nice and it was in a convenient location. I hate to say it, but the staff wasn’t the friendliest and definitely not by New Zealand standards. With the lack of accommodation options I guess people would be staying here regardless if Stray came so they didn’t have to go out of their way to be nice.
The rooms were cozy. We were in a three person room and for the most part all Stray passengers were roomed together. Unknowingly, this has become an important part of the perception of the accommodations we were staying at. We didn’t want to be roomed with complete strangers. The rooms were all single beds. The downfall of the room was that there was only one outlet between the three of us to use. They had shared bathrooms and they were fine, but not the greatest and really minded me of sleep away camp.
Bonus Stop – Invercargill
Invercargill is the gateway to Stewart Island as the southern most city of the mainland. If you weren’t ferrying over to Stewart Island you would be staying here. I was told there really wasn’t much to do here except for a cinema and Demolition World. I’m really not sure how to describe this place as I’m still kind of confused by the whole experience. Basically it’s a junk yard that has been converted into a village. Oh man it was so weird and still gives me the creeps. Everything in the village looked spooky including the creepy mannequins. Reviews can be deceiving because on TripAdvisor this place has a 4.5 star rating. It is free to enter, but you can donate if you feel inclined too. To me this was a hoarder’s dream come true. Skip it and Invercargill if possible.