When did we first hear about Stewart Island, the third largest island of New Zealand south of the South Island? What was it we read about the island that made us so want to visit? Researching in preparation for a trip turned up very little: a handful of places to stay and even fewer places to eat, but we found some information on hiking trails. We thought a search for other bloggers’ recent accounts might be helpful, but, again, we found pitifully few posts. We concluded that a trip to Stewart Island would probably be fascinating for hiking and bird watching and boring for any down time in the tiny town of Oban (population less than 380). Down days seemed certain, because we anticipated several rain days during our visit.
We repacked our bags to comply with the 15 kg weight restriction for flying to Oban from Invercargill on a two-engine prop plane holding nine passengers. The airline held our extra bags for pickup when we flew back.
Our brief flight provided great views of the shoreline leaving the South Island and of the shoreline approaching Stewart Island. The flight was routine, although the seating was tight. On our arrival, an airline van took us from the airstrip to Oban, and we walked, with our bags, the block to the South Sea Island Hotel, facing the scenic bay and wharf.
We checked in, found our rooms, dumped our bags, and took off for a walk up the road towards the Moturau Moana Gardens. Few cars travel this road and many birds can be seen and heard in the woods lining the way. As we passed by, a kereru, the endemic New Zealand pigeon, looked out majestically.
Walking back towards Oban, we spotted a New Zealand kaka in the fading light of the late afternoon.
With only 3 restaurants in Oban from which to choose, we prepared ourselves to be disappointed with the food. Dining turned out to be better than expected. We concentrated on seafood choices since – after all – we were on an island.
Every day turned out to be – surprise – either sunny or partly cloudy, so we spent our days hiking, stopping at beaches, and exploring the island.
Oban reminded us of a smaller version of Portwenn, the fictional town in the “Doc Martin” British TV series – scenic, charming, maybe a little smaller, and a very good place for nearby hiking and watching the seaside. We had no down days on Stewart Island, and, even had it rained one of the days, we would have enjoyed our stay.