The strait is about 130 km long (from Ruapuke Island to Little Solander Island), and it widens (from 14 km at Ruapuke Island to 50 km at Te Waewae Bay) and deepens (from 20 to 120 m) from east to west.
Captain Cook sighted the entrance to Foveaux Strait during his circumnavigation of the South Island in March 1770, but thought Stewart Island was joined to the mainland. The strait's European discoverer was Owen Folger Smith, who found it in 1804. It is named after Joseph Foveaux, Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales at the time.
John van Leeuwen, a Dutch immigrant living in New Zealand, made the first successful crossing of the Foveaux Strait on 7 February 1963 in 13 hours 40 minutes. He left the beach near Bluff at 9:15 am and reached Stewart Island at 10:55 pm.
Successful swimmers include:
1. John van Leeuwen, 7 February 1963 (Bluff to Stewart Island in 13:40)
2. Meda McKenzie, 20 March 1979 (Bluff to Stewart Island in 14:00)
3. Belinda Shields, 24 March 1984 (Bluff to Stewart Island in 9:53)
4. Michael Quinlivan, 13 February 1985 (Bluff to Stewart Island in 9:41)
5. Sandra Blewett, 11 February 1988 (Bluff to Stewart Island in 12:50)
6. Todd Utteridge, 15 February 1989 (Bluff to Stewart Island in 8:40)
7. Wayne Evans, 11 February 2013 (Stewart Island to Bluff in 9:20 with a wetsuit)