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Most of the following tours are subject to weather conditions and all have minimum-number requirements.

Stewart Island Experience  (tel. 0800/000-511 in NZ, or 03/219-1134; www.stewartislandexperience.co.nz), has an excellent adventure in an underwater submersible that enables you to see diverse fish species, sponges, sea quirts, and shellfish as you drift through crystal-clear water and kelp forests. It departs from the Stewart Island Visitor Terminal daily at 11:30am and 1:30pm all year, with an extra sailing at 4pm from November through March. It costs NZ$35 for adults, NZ$20 for kids ages 5 to 14. Village & Bays Tours (tel. 0800/000-511 in NZ, or 03/219-0034), gives a 1 1/2-hour tour of Oban village and the surrounding bays. It allows for photo stops and short walks along the way (NZ$42 for adults, NZ$20 for kids 5-14).

I'd also recommend the pelagic seabird excursion offered by Aurora Charters (tel. 03/219-1126). Leap aboard their modern catamaran, and they'll give you up-close encounters with seabirds and mammals. Don't forget your camera, and if you have a day to spare take their cruise to Port Pegasus (price on inquiry). It's the dramatic southern part of the island that you'll not otherwise see.

One wonderful way to experience the island from several perspectives is to indulge in the Coast to Coast option with Stewart Island Flights, Invercargill (tel. 03/218-9129), and Seaview Water Taxis, Stewart Island (tel. 03/219-1014). This trip involves a flight to the magnificent Mason's Bay and a landing on its 13km (8-mile) stretch of unspoiled white-sand beach, a 4-hour bush walk to Freshwater Landing, and a return boat ride. The excursion is very dependent on tides, and you should be prepared for an unexpected night out if the weather gets rough. It costs NZ$205 for adults and NZ$145 for children. And if you're a helicopter fan like me, you'll adore an outing with Zane Smith of Rakiura Helicopter Services, Fern Gully heliport, 151 Main Rd. (tel. 03/219-1155, or 027/221-9217; rakiheli@xtra.co.nz). He's a sixth-generation islander and there isn't a part of the island he hasn't explored. He knows the place like the back of his hand. This will be the highlight of your trip.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.