1. Ulva Island
This is one of my all-time favourite experiences. A short boat ride from Oban delivers you to Ulva Island, an open island sanctuary that is teeming with birdlife. Never milled and pest-free since 1997, the island offers threatened native species a safe haven in which to flourish. And they have.
Healthy populations of kiwi, Saddleback and yellowhead can be found – birds which often struggle on the mainland.
2. Rakiura Track
I recently completed this with my Mum and my wife and we had a great time. The Rakiura Track is one of this country’s fabled Great Walks. At 29km in length and with a height gain of only 300m, its well-formed trail is a pleasant two to three day walk.
This round trip encompasses much of the island experience – ample birdlife, a sandy coastline, lush rainforest and quiet estuary backwaters.
Possibly one of New Zealand's least walked beaches... East Ruggedy Beach is about as remote as you get in NZ. ~5 days walk from Oban it marks the midpoint of the North West Circuit. Not only is it stunning to look at, but it's home to a huge number of wild kiwi! We saw 2 kiwi out during the day on the walk to this lookout. #northwestcircuit
There are comfortable huts to stay in and a variation of scenery to enjoy. It is advisable to first check with DOC how busy it is, or book your accommodation beforehand.
3. Mt Anglem
While not a particularly high or technical mountain, to climb Anglem/Hananui is not without challenges. Getting the weather right is one thing. A full day’s walk from Oban (10+ hours and be prepared for thigh-deep mud puddles) brings you to Christmas Village Hut.
This is part of the Northwest Circuit Track, a very challenging 8-10 day hike that is on the bucket list of many experienced trampers. From the hut, another track leads up the northern slopes of Anglem. Once out of the bush you're exposed to the elements, but the view is unrivalled.
4. Paterson Inlet
You used to be able to hire kayaks to experience this, but these days you need a guide. Which is probably fair enough, especially given the changeable weather and sea conditions. Having a guide means you will be safer, as well as taken to all of the best spots. Money well spent! And for those less inclined to exercise, there are boats available for charter.
5. Blue cod and chips at the only local pub (especially if a rugby game is on)
This is the quintessential Stewart Island experience, especially if you want to rub shoulders with a few of the 400 or so locals. Most tourists go to the café for dinner, but the pub is much more fun – a real social melting pot. Any night of the week is equally likely to be busy.