Two men swam to safety after their plane crashed off the coast of Stewart Island yesterday.

The light plane failed to take off from Doughboy Bay beach on the western side of the island and crashed into the sea about 2.45pm yesterday.

The plane's emergency beacon was activated and police flew to the scene.

"We flew over in an helicopter with a scoop net," Senior Constable Dale Jenkins told The Southland Times.

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"They had managed to get themselves out and on to the beach. They were a bit wet but no worse for wear."

- NZPA