Just a one hour trip by passenger ferry from Bluff is Stewart Island, which has one of the richest and most varied marine habitats in New Zealand.

There is a multitude of fish in the dense, swaying jungles of giant kelp around the entire windswept coast.

The wild landscape above sea level is awe-inspiring. Dense forests, swampland and weird, round top granite peaks like Gog and Magog make overland travel tortuous. But the wildlife thrives here. Kiwis roam the forests and penguins, seals and sea lions populate the isolated beaches.

Underwater temperatures range from 8°C to 14°C but enduring the cold brings great rewards in the pure eco-experience of diving in pristine conditions with excellent visibility.

Dive shops in Invercargill and Bluff can organise trips to the island and there are also charter boat services based in both Bluff and Halfmoon Bay.

Halfmoon Bay

To the east of the main township Oban, is a pleasant dive area in Leask Bay where schools of blue moki and tarakihi weave through the kelp forests to 10m and fur seals sometimes make friendly passes. Near Barclay Rocks at the entrance to Halfmoon Bay is the wreck of the Marine Maid sitting upright on the sand at 35m.

Paterson Inlet

Good diving amongst the kelp forests off Sandhill Bay gives an indication of the variety of Stewart Island fish life. Blue cod, blue moki, trumpeters, wrasses, butterfish and the ubiquitous spotties can be seen along with paua (abalone) and crayfish (lobsters).

Port Adventure

Starling Point has thick, luxurious seaweed growth in a serene environment alive with fish. It looks like a permanent rush hour here with the high fish population constantly on the move.

Port Pegusus

Lush kelp forests here conceal trumpeter fish, blue moki and seahorses, which curl their tails around the waving weed stalks. The visibility is usually 15-20m and the passing parade of sea life often includes curious fur seals. Port Pegusus is about as remote as you can get around the New Zealand coast and diving here is an unforgettable experience.