Stewart Island Aurora Hunting: Small Group Tour

From Invercargill to Invercargill
  • Stewart Island & Chatham Islands
  • Small Group Tours
  • Wildlife and Nature
  • Southern Lights
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Tour Description

Experience the enchanting allure of Stewart Island/Rakiura, the southernmost Dark Sky Sanctuary in the world.

Our carefully crafted group tour invites you to embark on a six-day exploration of the natural wonders of Stewart Island and the cosmic wonders that light up the skies above it.

Discover the Aurora Australis: Immerse yourself in the thrill of hunting for the elusive Aurora Australis, a phenomenon that has captivated explorers and stargazers for centuries. This tour is your ticket to witness this ethereal spectacle in one of the planet's darkest, most pristine nightscapes.

Immerse yourself in Stewart Island's Natural Treasures: By day, embrace the pristine beauty of Stewart Island, from the captivating bird sanctuary of Ulva Island to serene cruises along the picturesque Paterson Inlet. You'll have ample leisure time to delve deeper into the island's natural wonders and pursue your own adventures.

Shoot for the Skies: Ideal for both novice and seasoned astrophotographers, our small group tour promises a magical opportunity to capture the Milky Way and stars in their full glory. Unleash your inner photographer and capture the cosmos in all its splendor.

Unique Encounters: Encounter wildlife wonders such as Kiwis roaming in their natural habitat, majestic Albatross soaring through the skies, and rare birdlife on Ulva Island. Additionally, enjoy an insightful evening with a 3rd generation Stewart Islander, gaining a captivating glimpse into the island's rich history.

Please bear in mind that while we strive to provide the best conditions for Aurora viewing, we are at the mercy of nature. Though we cannot guarantee an Aurora sighting, rest assured that our tours are thoughtfully scheduled around the new moon for the darkest skies, during months when Aurora activity is most probable.

Our flexible itinerary is designed to adapt to the whims of Mother Nature, ensuring you have an unforgettable experience, no matter what the skies have in store. Be prepared for the possibility of waking at unconventional hours, like 2am, to chase the Aurora. Stewart Island's magic knows no time limits.

Aurora photo credits: Sandra Whipp

*Please note: images of the Aurora used were taken by Sandra on Stewart Island, images will appear brighter/with more colour than viewing with the naked eye,  as modern digital cameras and phones have greater sensitivity and can capture more colours and greater contrast.

Viva's Best Bits...

"A local Stewart Island aurora hunter will give you tips on witnessing and photographing Aurora. She will also have a telescope and binoculars available for use. Check out the above Aurora photo taken from her home!" Tara, Team Viva

This is a bird lovers paradise! Catch a glimpse of the rare Stewart Island robin, saddleback, Stewart Island kiwi, seabirds like albatross, mollymawk and blue penguins Stewart Island has an estimated 20,000 kiwis which outnumber its human population.

Join our exclusive small group tour, maximum 20 guests to Stewart Island/Rakiura - the southern-most Dark Sky Sanctuary in the world. The Aurora can be elusive, but we have allowed 5 nights to increase our chances.

Tour Itinerary

Day 1
Invercargill Stewart Island

Your journey starts in Invercargill with a flight to Stewart Island. The 20 minute flight takes you past Oreti Beach, where world record holder Burt Munro tested his Indian motorcycle, past Bluff, and across Foveaux Strait where the world famous Bluff oysters are harvested.

On arrival to the island take an orientation tour of Oban - New Zealand’s southernmost town, and surrounding bays. Your guide will share their local knowledge of the history and environment of Stewart Island. Stewart Islanders are proud of their island, enjoying its simpler, slower pace. Highlights include Lee Bay, the gateway to Rakiura National Park and stunning views of Paterson Inlet from Observation Rock during this 1 and a half hour tour.

This afternoon check in to the centrally located Bay Motel. Comfortable, modern units offer amazing views over Halfmoon Bay or the surrounding native bush. Other features include a fully equipped kitchenette, central heating, electric blanket, plus complementary tea/coffee along with free wifi. There is also a sheltered courtyard with seating and BBQ.

This evening a welcome dinner is provided at the South Seas Hotel, just a short walk from your accommodation and across from the beach.

Following dinner join your evening kiwi spotting tour. This tour offers you a special opportunity to experience kiwi in their natural environment. We have exclusive access to private land where New Zealand’s precious kiwi come out at night to feed. If there is Aurora Activity tonight you may have your first chance to see it while on the kiwi spotting tour.

**please note the order/timing of activities is a guide only, subject to change**

Day 2
Ulva Island Tour

This morning take a short walk to the wharf and set off for an Ulva Island guided walk. Ulva Island (Te Wharawhara), is renowned for its diverse and abundant birdlife with a forest dominated by Rimu, Southern Rata and Kamahi, surrounded by marine reserve. It was visited by Ngai Tahu Maori as part of their food gathering trips and in the 1890s it became one of New Zealand’s first reserves. This 267 hectare island is now predator free, allowing the bird and plantlife to thrive. Today you will be guided by a Stewart Island local, who has the knowledge and know how to take you through Ulva Island, with abundant and colourful birdlife and the impressive forest.

Dinner this evening is included at the South Seas Hotel.

Later this evening, we head to the home of Sandra Whipp, local Stewart Island photographer & Aurora hunter! Her home is ideally situated to take advantage of the Aurora and the Stewart Island/Rakiura Dark Sky Sanctuary. Sandra will talk to you about her photography and give you tips on witnessing and photographing Aurora. Not only is Sandra an avid Aurora hunter, she is also a 3rd generation Stewart Islander. She will give you a fascinating insight into life on the island over the year - a real treat!

Day 3
Paterson Inlet, Stewart Island

Today a cruise around Paterson Inlet is included. Visit the southern bays of the inlet with wildlife spotting opportunities including the Bottlenose dolphins, New Zealand Sea Lions and Yellow Eyed Penguins. There may also be a chance to see the striking Mollymawk Albatross. The tour will also visit an historic whaling base used by a Norwegian Whaling company in the 1920’s.

The rest of the day and dinner is at leisure.

Your tour escort will always be monitoring the weather conditions and aurora alerts, so evening activities may change! If there is nothing scheduled, it doesn't mean there is nothing happening! Your guide will let you know the local spots nearby for you to do some astro photography ...always with an eye out for the Southern Lights!

Day 4
Stewart Island exploration

A full day to explore the Island.

There are walks, kayaking, rent an e bike, fishing, visit the local museum to learn about mutton birding and more, have a beer at the local pub, there is always something to do. Your tour escort will be more than happy to assist.

You may like to book the optional guided walk (additional charge) to Port William and Maori Beach, one of the most popular coastal and native bush walks on the island. Take a water taxi to Port William, site of an early Maori Settlement, before continuing on to Maori Beach. This was also where early Maori settled and later became a saw milling community in the early 1900s. We then make our way to Lee Bay via Little River, a stunning tidal river mouth, overhanging with Rata trees.
Along the coast lookout for a plethora of birdlife, such as, Mutton birds (Sooty Shearwaters), Shags, Buller’s Mollymawks, Cape Pigeons, and little Blue Penguins. In the native bush you may see and hear Bellbirds, Tui, Fantails, Parakeets, Shining Cuckoos, Grey Warblers, Kaka and Tomtits and more.

BBQ dinner - this is a great way to enjoy a causal evening meal with the group, as we cook together on the BBQ, meat, vegetarian options, salads and more.

Dark Sky evening - Tonight, or one of these nights (depending on how the conditions are looking) we will head out as a group to another fantastic location to learn about the night sky with local guides in the field, and continue our aurora hunt!

Day 5
Stewart Island - at leisure

Another day at leisure to enjoy the island.

Tonight we enjoy your final meal at the South Seas Hotel ...with local Blue Cod and other great options on the menu.

Day 6
Stewart Island Invercargill

A fond farewell from Rakiura. Enjoy one final breakfast on the island before your transfer to the airport and flight back to Invercargill

What’s Included

  • Included Copy 20 5 nights Bay Motel, twin room with ensuite
  • Included Copy 31 Single room supplement available NZD 885
  • Included Copy 20 Breakfast daily (a basic continental offering in room)
  • Included Copy 20 3 dinners at the South Seas Hotel
  • Included Copy 20 Social BBQ dinner
Fees & Services
  • Included Copy 20 Tour escort with minimum of 8 people booked.
  • Included Copy 20 Return flight from Invercargill to Oban, 15kg check in luggage allowance
  • Included Copy 20 Village and Bays sightseeing tour
  • Included Copy 20 Ulva Island guided walk
  • Included Copy 20 Kiwi Spotting tour at night
  • Included Copy 20 Paterson Inlet cruise
  • Included Copy 20 Aurora hunting and dark sky evening with a local aurora hunter!
  • Included Copy 20 Dark sky viewing, The Milky Way and photography opportunities
  • Included Copy 20 Be welcomed into the home of a 3rd generation Stewart Islander - learn all about island life
  • Included Copy 31 Port William and Maori Beach guided walk, fishing, kayaking, e bike hire & more!

Stewart Island flight


  • Included Kiwi spotting - there are more kiwis on Stewart Island than people
  • Included Ulva Island guided walk - abundant birdlife
  • Included Spend time in the southern-most Dark Sky Sanctuary in the world
  • Included Paterson Inlet cruise - great wildlife spotting opportunities
  • Included Local photographer to give you photography tips
  • Included 5 nights for Aurora spotting opportunities!
  • Included Learn about island life with the locals
Click here for dates & prices

6 days

Price from

$1,871 USD

Per person, sharing

including G.S.T

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