30km (19 miles) SW of Bluff, across the Foveaux Strait
Anyone who tries to visit Stewart Island in a day won't be giving this near-perfect place a chance. It is almost a cliché to call it one of New Zealand's best-kept secrets, but given that so few people are aware of its unspoiled tranquillity, it probably deserves this label more than any other place in the country.
New Zealand's third island is far bigger than most people imagine, and almost without exception, first-time visitors are surprised by its temperate climate and the range of activities it provides. Roughly triangular in shape, it is 65km (40 miles) long and 40km (25 miles) at its widest point, and with an area of 1,680 sq. km (655 sq. miles), it is about the size of Singapore or Fiji. Only 1% of the island is inhabited - the rest is given over to natural native bush, exquisite white-sand beaches, bird sanctuaries, and rugged mountains. All this makes it a naturalist's and tramper's paradise, and the perfect place for a remote yet accessible holiday. You need to be here only a few hours before the rest of the world melts away and you find yourself adopting the unhurried, laid-back approach of the locals.
The main fishing village of Oban is your landing point, and this is where the population of approximately 390 bases itself. Most permanent residents are involved in the commercial fishing or tourism industries, and a surprisingly small number of other smart New Zealanders have invested in holiday homes, or cribs, here.
Originally called Te Punga o Te Waka a Maui by the Maori, which translates as "The Anchorstone of Maui's Canoe," it is more commonly known by the Maori name Rakiura, which means "Land of Glowing Skies," referring to the vivid colors of dawn and the twilight skies.
Today, the island community jealously guards the amazing natural heritage that surrounds it. This is natural New Zealand the way it used to be - truly picturesque and serene, a place where native birds will land within inches of your teacup, a place you should not overlook.
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