It’s a bit ironic that the current top attraction on TA for Invercargill is the plane trip out of town (others may argue of course that’s because it marks your arrival!).
We had read about how rough the boat crossing from Bluff to Stewart Island could be and my wife who is not a keen sailor was immediately put off the idea. I had a check on the pros and cons. At $150 adult return by passenger ferry v $198 adult return by plane (October 2013) there wasn’t a prohibitive cost difference. The ferry operated daily at 9.30am or 5.00pm whilst the plane was 8.00am or 5.00pm but also had a 1.00pm option which would tie-in better with our schedule. The ferry takes 1 hour, the plane 20 minutes each way. It was decided in favour of the plane. (The departure and arrival times vary depending on season so you would need to check those applicable).
From the point of contact by email everything was straightforward in our experience. We had confirmation that if necessary Stewart Island Flights would secure excess baggage for us at Invercargill airport - you’re only allowed 15kg luggage per passenger and as we were touring we had an issue. In the end we just left the luggage in the boot/trunk of our hire car in the airport car park for the couple of nights we were away and had no problems but it was good to know it could have been stored. Car parking, which is monitored by CCTV, was $29 for 3 days.
Check-in was 30 minutes in advance of the departure - the baggage handler doubled up as the pilot too!
With a maximum of only 8 passengers it’s never going to be a big job. Invercargill airport is small and dated but there is a café selling snacks and drinks which were not expensive.
It’s a tight fit on board the small aircraft so I’d recommend that you take the absolute minimum in hand luggage - a camera perhaps. The wheels don’t retract so there is a chance they will block your view as may the propellers depending where you’re sitting - best up front.
On both the flight to and from the island it was turbulent at some points in our experience - very turbulent at times! Whilst we were sitting waiting in the mini bus for departure the plane came in overhead to touch down on the Island runway and was blown quite dramatically by cross winds on landing. That said, the journey was short, the views were very good and none of our hardy bunch on either flight resorted to using a sick bag!
At Stewart Island transfer to and from the airstrip is made by mini bus to the Stewart Island Flight depot at Elgin Terrace, Oban. From there we had arranged to be picked up and dropped off by our cottage host. Those flying to Mason Bay touch down on the beach so different arrangements would apply.
Everyone we dealt with on Stewart Island Flights was friendly and helpful.
For frequent flyers it could be exhilarating but for those of a nervous disposition it might be less so - there's always the ferry.
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