Stewart Island

Additional Information

Find more Stewart Island information on the sites listed below.

Stewart Island/Rakiura is the third-largest island of New Zealand. It lies 30 km south of the South Island, across Foveaux Strait. Its permanent population is slightly fewer than 400 people, most of whom live in the settlement of Oban.

The island has an area of 1,746 km². The north is dominated by the swampy valley of the Freshwater River. The river rises close to the northwestern coast and flows southeast into the large indentation of Paterson Inlet. The highest peak is Mt Anglem, close to the northern coast, at a height of 979 metres. It is one of the peaks in a rim of ridges that surround the Freshwater valley.

The southern half is more uniformly undulating, rising to a ridge that runs south from the valley of the Rakeahua River, which also flows into Paterson Inlet. The southernmost point in this ridge is Mt Allen, at 750 metres. In the southeast the land is somewhat lower, and is drained by the valleys of the Toitoi, Lords and Heron rivers. South West Cape in the southwest, is the southernmost point of the main islands of New Zealand.

Mason Bay, on the west side, is notable as a long sandy beach on an island where beaches are typically far more rugged. One suggestion is that the bay was formed in the aftershock of a meteoric impact in the Tasman Sea.

Three large and numerous small islands lie around the coast. Notable among these are Ruapuke Island, in Foveaux Strait 32 km northeast of Oban; Codfish Island, close to the northwest shore; and Big South Cape Island, off the southwestern tip. The Titi (Muttonbird) Island groups are between Stewart Island/Rakiura and Ruapuke Island, around Big South Cape Island, and off the southeastern coast. Other islands of interest include Bench, Native, and Ulva Island, all close to the mouth of Paterson Inlet, and Pearl, Anchorage, and Noble Island, close to Port Pegasus in the southwest.

Two groups of tiny above-water rocks south of Stewart Island/Rakiura are still on the continental shelf: North Trap, a reef of above and below-water rocks at 47°22′S, 167°55′E fronts the southern shore, about 28.2 km southwest by south of the mouth of the Lords River. A 1.5-m high rock near the western end and a 0.9-m high rock near the eastern end give it the appearance of an overturned boat. South Trap, a reef of above-water rocks 1.2 to 1.8 m high and below-water rocks at 47°32′S, 167°50′E, lies about 16.9 km south by west of North Trap.

There are many species of birds on Stewart Island/Rakiura that thrive because of the isolation and protection from predators. These include the Kakapo, Weka, Kākā, Albatrosses, Penguins, Tokoeka, Silvereyes, Wrens, Flycatchers, and rare Yellowheads. The large colonies of Sooty Shearwaters, or muttonbirds, are subject to a sustainable harvesting program managed by Rakiura Maori.

Stewart Island/Rakiura supports a large population of whitetail (Virginia) deer in coastal areas, which are hunted for meat and sport. There is also a small population of red deer confined to the inland parts.

Owing to an anomaly in the magnetic latitude contours, this location is well placed for observing Aurora australis.

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