GO NZ: Why a trip to Stewart Island is like a step back in time

Cloaked in ancient bush, kiwi outnumbering people and only one town, the rugged beauty of Rakiura Stewart Island offers a passage back in time for those who make the journey, writes Emma Gleason

The last stop south before Antarctica, Rakiura Stewart Island sits stoically at the bottom of Aotearoa, surrounded by the cold, crystal-clear waters and temperamental weather of the Foveaux Strait. The landscape is primeval and raw, with untouched native bush engulfing most of the island. The feeling is that of an outpost – isolated and unhurried, closely attuned to the natural world. Those who make the trip do so for its flora and fauna, outdoor activities and famously good seafood.

We flew in from Invercargill on a tiny Stewart Island Flights plane, a trip that took all of 20 minutes. The island emerged from the rain and cloud as we descended, sprawling and cinematic, encircled by 164km of coastline that wraps around countless bays and inlets.

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The airstrip is on one of the hills, little more than tarmac and a windsock. Arrivals are met by a minivan that takes you down to the main (and only) township, Oban, located in the shelter of Halfmoon Bay on the north-eastern side of the island. Flights also depart from Queenstown or you can catch the ferry from Bluff, which takes around an hour.

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