Summer has been at its busiest on Stewart Island, with visitor numbers expected to be at least 10 per cent up on the previous season.

Tourism operators and accommodation providers have said visitor numbers have returned to the level they were at before the 2007 global financial crisis.

Real Journeys chief executive Richard Lauder said the domestic market made up 70 per cent of the visitors using the ferry service.

The Island gained international attention in May last year when Prince Harry visited as part of his New Zealand tour. The prince took part in a pub quiz, shucked oysters and talked rugby during the trip.

Stewart Island Promotion Association officer Jo Learmonth said a frequent comment from visitors was that if they knew what the island was like they would have stayed longer. Visitors, both domestic and international often didn’t realise how big the island was, Learmonth said.

“Kiwis think it’s going to be like Waiheke Island and foreigners think it’s going to be like Rarotonga.”

The township of Oban only made up a fraction of the island, most of which was national park under the control of the Department of Conservation.

There had been an increase in the number of families visiting over the summer holiday period, Learmonth said.

Heading into February, domestic visitor numbers would drop and the international visitor numbers would pick up, she said.

South Sea Hotel owner Helen Cave said some tourists would stay for just one night and they often regretted leaving the next day because they found there was more to do on the island than they expected.

She said she had been surprised this season by the number of people from Invercargill who visited the island and there had been a noticeable increase in the number of visitors since last year, she said.

Stewart Island Backpackers owner Vicki Coats said she got a mix of people staying at the backpackers, both international and national.

“It’s not like they [visitors] expect. There’s a lot more stuff, a lot more to do,” Coats said.

Most of those staying at the backpackers were doing the Rakiura Great Walk or one of the smaller day walks, and would stay between one and four nights, Coats said.

Venture Southland Tourism team leader Warrick Low said visitor numbers for Stewart Island were expected to top 35,000 this year.