After I first stepped foot on Rakiura/Stewart Island years in the past, I knew I’d find it irresistible there. I didn’t understand how a lot of a mark it will have on me.
New Zealand’s third island is named a haven for wildlife lovers. In contrast to the remainder of New Zealand, stoats, goats, mice, or pigs had been by no means launched to Stewart Island, which allowed the uncommon fowl life to hold on whereas it was decimated somewhere else. That being mentioned, it’s nonetheless declining, due to issues like feral cats (the worst).
Nevertheless, Rakiura/Stewart Island nonetheless ranks excessive as the most effective locations in New Zealand to rise up shut and private with the wildlife. It’s additionally the most effective locations to have the prospect to see kiwi within the wild. House to solely a pair hundred individuals, Rakiura very a lot seems like a distinct period, even perhaps a glimpse of what New Zealand used to appear like or may even appear like once more.
As somebody who feels inherently related to the land, Rakiura spoke to my soul the primary time I used to be right here.
After which it left an indelible mark on me once I stumbled throughout a whole lot of stranded pilot whales on a distant seashore tramping. Days from assist and fully off the grid, this traumatic expertise modified my life. On the time, I believed I’d by no means return to Stewart Island. However ultimately, I made peace with it.
A part of Southland, Stewart Island is totally magical no two methods about it. It’s far too particular to disregard.
I spend at the least every week right here annually, and final summer season was no exception. I flew over and again from Invercargill for the primary time as a substitute of sailing throughout, which provided a distinct expertise. Listed here are a few of my favourite snaps from my Stewart Island journey – take pleasure in!
Go to Ulva Island and get your fowl nerd on
One of many highlights of any go to to Rakiura/Stewart Island is embracing the entire birdlife. And the most effective locations on Stewart Island is somewhat island a brief boat journey away from the primary city, Oban, within the Paterson Inlet. Most of our predator-free offshore islands which can be fowl sanctuaries are closed to the general public and require a allow to entry. Ulva Island is among the few exceptions.
There are numerous methods to expertise Ulva Island/Te Wharawhara, however I all the time discover lots of worth in guided wildlife journeys – and Ulva’s Guided Walks isn’t any exception. Began by native Ulva in 2000, it’s an unimaginable expertise. Following alongside behind Ulva like her shadow, her vitality and keenness had been infectious; I discovered rather a lot from the expertise (and I already know rather a lot about birds).
Pest-free since 1997, Ulva Island provides a glimpse of what New Zealand’s unimaginable nature and birdlife may appear like with out predators. Amongst pristine rainforests and beautiful seashores, you’ll discover lots of our rarest birds, corresponding to kiwi, tīeke/saddleback, and mohua/yellowhead.
Fly out to Mason Bay and go tramping
Previously, with Stewart Island journey, I’ve all the time taken the ferry or a ship throughout the well-known Foveaux Strait from Bluff (and one time a helicopter, however that’s a narrative for one more time). Solely an hour, it’s a straightforward strategy to entry the island.
Stewart Island Flights operates small locations from Invercargill to Stewart Island a couple of instances per day, and it’s an epic strategy to hop throughout rapidly with some nice views. However a little-known secret is that they’ll additionally land their small planes on the lengthy sandy seashores round Stewart Island. Distant and wild, these seashores typically sit on the well-known North West Circuit Observe. By flying in, you may get provides dropped off. You can begin and end tramping wherever you need, shortening an extended monitor.
Should you’re eager to see a distant a part of Stewart Island, right here’s my finest tip. Catch a flight to Mason Bay and keep on the Mason Bay backcountry DOC hut for an evening or two. Drop your pack and discover throughout the realm – it’s epic! I all the time see kiwi right here too. Then stroll out to Freshwater Touchdown and catch the water taxi again to city with Rakiura Charters. You’ll get the perfect of every thing in a brief time period.
Get out on the water and search for seabirds
Whereas staying on Stewart Island, it’s an absolute should to get out on the water and discover the island. In case you have a ship, your finest wager is hopping on one of many many guided boat excursions. Stewart Island is among the few locations on this planet the place you’ll be able to simply see a few of the most opulent seabirds, like albatross.
Ulva’s Guided Walks and Rakiura Charters run a land and sea fowl full-day tour. This may get you out onto the water and in addition a guided journey round Ulva Island for the day. Each are must-dos!
Eat at Fin and Feather
Stewart Island journey requires some planning prematurely. It’s small, and also you’re restricted by way of lodging and eateries. I used to be so stoked to see a brand new place pop up in time for my go to final summer season – Fin and Feather Eatery – a gourmand meals truck proper in the midst of city. Their menu adjustments on a regular basis, and their hours range rather a lot, however no matter they’ve is incredible.
I ate there three completely different instances. And would have gone again for extra.
Search for kiwi after darkish
If you end up on Stewart Island after darkish, it’s an absolute should to search for kiwi. There’s all the time an opportunity you’ll be able to stumble throughout kiwi anyplace on the island. However when you aren’t an enormous fowl nerd and are unfamiliar with their calls and searching for them, then your finest wager is to hop on a kiwi recognizing tour.
I spent a night with locals Beaks and Feathers as we wandered round non-public land searching for kiwi. We noticed 10, together with infants. While you’re fowl looking out at night time, you have to use a crimson mild so that you simply don’t hassle or shock the kiwi, and it lets you see higher in low mild, which is why I don’t have images. It’s a good way simply to sit down again and luxuriate in a incredible expertise.
The Rakiura tokoeka/Stweart Island kiwi is a subspecies of the southern brown kiwi, and they’re uncommon in a number of methods. A bit extra widespread than the remainder of our kiwi, it’s estimated that round 20,000 of them are nonetheless on Rakiura. They’re additionally well-known for being energetic throughout the daytime, and they’re large. The most important of the kiwi, with large women virtually reaching to your knees. Additionally they aren’t solitary, and so they dwell in household teams.
Keep at Argyle Residences
Discovering a spot to remain on Stewart Island has lengthy been difficult – you have to e-book locations properly prematurely as a result of there’s restricted lodging. This time round, I received to remain in a model new construct – the Argyle Residences, proper on the town. Flash, cozy, and shut by, the views out over Half Moon Bay and the encompassing bush had been simply magical. They usually had houseplants. 10/10.
Take a look at the Rakiura Museum/Te Puka o Te Waka
I really like small-town museums, and the Rakiura Museum doesn’t disappoint. Housing an in depth assortment showcasing the early historical past right here, from muttonbirding to Māori and whaling settlements, Rakiura was very a lot a captivating wild west. The tales are wild, and I usually think about what life would have been like again then.
An avid reader and author, I all the time choose up a couple of books from museum reward retailers that share extra in-depth tales concerning the place. Typically the books there are exhausting to seek out, small print run or self-published, making them much more distinctive.
Have you ever been to Rakiura/Stewart Island earlier than? Have any Stewart Island journey ideas? Share!
Many due to Nice South for internet hosting me on Stewart Island; like all the time, I’m conserving it actual – like you might anticipate much less from me!