If there was ever a place that captured my heart so completely, it will be Stewart Island.
Tucked just off the top of New Zealand’s South Island 30 kilometers across the Foveaux Strait from Bluff, this tiny paradise represents the last piece of recent civilization before you hit Antarctica. New Zealand’s third island is remote and untamed, typically ignored by visitors right here AND IT SHOULDN’T BE.
Rakiura, the island’s Māori identify, means “glowing skies” which is a reference to the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) which may typically be seen from the island. You have to go to Stewart Island.
Flanked by wild waves and even wilder weather, Stewart Island is wild, lovely and gives a rare glimpse of a very untouched NZ. With its rugged peaks, dense bush, huge seashores and interesting historical past, you’ll depart here together with your eyes broad open and your heart full.
It’s taken me up until now to mirror back on this journey with happiness, as a result of a go to Stewart Island is the place where I discovered 150 beaching pilot whales, a traumatic expertise I’m nonetheless reckoning with. But aside from that I spent every week there at the end of last yr and it was incredibly special and I’m so keen to go back repeatedly.
Rakiura stole my heart.
Oh and did I point out all the birds? Clearly I also love to visit Stewart Island as a result of it’s where one of the final populations of kākāpō have been found, and if I have my approach, they’ll ultimately come again right here too someday.
In truth, there are extra (uncommon) birds than individuals (true story) here. And, it’s fairly close to the one place within the country you’ve an actual shot at seeing an precise, stay, kiwi in the wild. And no, not just at the local pub at 5pm. I’m speaking concerning the feathered variety.
Oops. I digress. Let’s move on, otherwise this submit will turn out to be all concerning the birds and rugged kiwi males (hit. me. up.)
So when you’re on the lookout for a singular kiwi expertise off the grid with beautiful nature and wildlife, listed here are eight explanation why you must make Stewart Island a precedence on your subsequent journey over. You’re welcome.
- 1 1. It’s an opportunity to expertise the actual New Zealand
- 2 2. You possibly can spot a Kiwi within the wild
- 3 three. The historical past is fascinating and wild
- 4 4. Take a look at Ulva Island (because birds)
- 5 5. Say hello to the locals!
- 6 6. The tramping (or climbing as the remainder of the world calls it) is outstanding
- 7 7. The lodging is next degree
- 8 eight. The beaches are superb. And also you’ll more than possible have them to yourself!
1. It’s an opportunity to expertise the actual New Zealand
Every thing about Stewart Island is dialed back, and also you only need to spend a few minutes there to really really feel like you’ve stepped again in time. With solely 400 individuals permanently dwelling there on an island that is 1,746 sq. kilometers in measurement, over eighty % of the island is protected national park and uninhabited.
The wilderness is EPIC. It’s true once they say that Stewart Island provides you a glimpse of what all of NZ would have seemed like earlier than individuals got here.
From the second you board the ferry over from Bluff to the second you allow the island, you’ll get a way of wilderness in contrast to anyplace else. And in basic kiwi trend, how boring wouldn’t it be if the ferry experience was flat a mean!
Typically calm, however principally wild, the Foveaux Strait is short and shallow, and takes solely an hour to cross, but ensure to not eat beforehand and nab a seat by the window. Or in case you’re me and you’re lucky you’ll be subsequent to a faculty group the day after an enormous storm (massive rolling seas) and listening to a bunch of youths spewing their brains out – *instantly refills my birth control*
2. You possibly can spot a Kiwi within the wild
Um. Might this place get any better?
As I’ve already mentioned, a visit Stewart Island is literal heaven for a chook nerd akin to me. But what makes it much more special, is the chance to see an actual, reside kiwi fowl within the wild.
These birds are the nationwide emblem of New Zealand and are extremely uncommon. A big amount of labor by DOC has been put in during the last decade, to ensure the survival of these lovely flightless creatures, and while Stewart Island still has an enormous drawback with feral cats going after their native birds, there are not any stoats right here which have partly allowed kiwi to thrive once more.
I’ve managed to see a number of in the wild and I’ve gotten fairly good at recognizing them. Being nocturnal, they’re typically lively here at dusk or right earlier than dawn and you may hear their high pitched calls and in case you’re very quiet you’ll be able to hear them stomping around within the bush. They are fairly noisy.
As kiwis are nocturnal, one of the best probability you’ve of spotting them is at night time, on a devoted Kiwi encounter tour.
Real Journeys run a two hour guided walk, restricted to only 16 individuals per night time, in order to not disturb the birds (a critical thumbs up from me). You’ll start at dusk, and by way of torchlight head out by way of native forest to Ocean Seashore, a well-liked feeding ground for the Southern Brown Kiwi. NOT to be missed individuals!
It also books out tremendous far prematurely too, heads up. And in case you can’t join in, simply spend some time out on the tracks as the Stewart Island kiwi are sometimes seen through the day too, and in case you look rigorously you’ll be able to typically see their footprints within the mud or sand, shaped like an arrow.
three. The historical past is fascinating and wild
Despite its remote location and apparent wilderness, Stewart Island truly has an extended and fascinating history.
Māori have been visiting and dwelling round Rakiura for lots of of years harvesting tītī (muttonbirds) and fish.
While tourism and fishing remain the primary financial industries, the late 1860’s saw a lot of the native Rimu forest felled for timber, whereas 1890’s introduced a brief lived tin mining growth, as well as being hub for both sealing and whaling. Shivers.
Remains of each the logging and tin mining operations might be visited, as well as an previous tramway at Port Pegasus. You can even go to a Norwegian Whaling station at Paterson Inlet, and Ackers Cottage, considered the oldest building in New Zealand. And you may typically find previous whale bones out on the seashores too.
4. Take a look at Ulva Island (because birds)
A tiny forested island just inside the Paterson Inlet, Ulva Island (Te Wharawhara) is a picturesque, predator-free fowl sanctuary – some of my favorite phrases! Undoubtedly make time for a go to out right here.
Here, native bush covers a lot of the land, offering shelter for weka, tui, bellbirds, kaka, the rare saddleback and kiwi. Many different birds thrive right here, in addition to several of New Zealand’s distinctive plant species.
Ulva Island is somewhat iconic in New Zealand as certainly one of the few pest-free open sanctuaries in New Zealand – no nasty mammals like cats, rats and possums to eat the native birds and bush. Right here in this unspoiled rainforest you’ve got the prospect to spot uncommon birds up close and private in a protected setting principally unchanged by humans. I. LOVE. IT.
A hoiho – an endangered yellow-eyed penguin
I took the Real Journeys Ulva Island explorer tour which showcased this unspoiled isle to its fullest extent. I used to be notably impressed with the information of the guides, who regaled us with tales of the native Māori and early European settlers as well as spotting sea lions, albatross and penguins on our means there and back by boat.
A warm and cloudless day, it was fairly particular strolling the little trails across the island and listening to the robust birdsong within the forest.
I liked having a bit robin comply with me the whole trail.
A curious male sea lion
5. Say hello to the locals!
The locals listed here are one in every of a sort (or 400 of a sort, if you wish to get technical about it). They’re welcoming, pleasant, filled with fascinating stories, even I disagree with lots of them about pest management there – but that’s a battle for an additional day.
Even if hundreds of us descend on their slice of paradise weekly, they remain completely happy, useful and all the time prepared to help. It’s small town New Zealand at their best.
I recommend heading to the pub for a chat and a meal of recent oysters, salmon or blue cod (more than likely caught just some hours earlier than), however in summer time typically it’s so busy you’ve acquired to e-book in your meals prematurely or prepare dinner for yourself.
6. The tramping (or climbing as the remainder of the world calls it) is outstanding
With almost 300 kilometers of walking tracks on Stewart Island it’s straightforward to get lost – deliberately in fact – but in addition not – plan accordingly!
A lot of the tracks take you on a fantastic journey by means of native rainforest and along huge golden seashores. Many are serviced by primary DOC (Division of Conservation) huts however you’ll be able to deliver your personal tent if you want too. One in every of New Zealand’s Nice Walks is here – the Rakiura Monitor, a three day 32 kilometer loop monitor.
Be warned although – a lot of the in a single day hikes right here, whereas significantly spectacular, are grueling. Not because of massive mountains or climbs, but quite because the bush right here is dense and intense as I wish to say, and when it rains it turns into a veritable lavatory. I’m speaking mud as much as your waist. It’s demanding however rewarding, however not to be taken frivolously and most of the tracks need to be timed in line with low tides.
When the path turns right into a pond
Although the tracks are straightforward to comply with and are properly signposted, the days are long and the distances between huts are great. Because of the remoteness and potential for wild climate (as with all hike) It is crucial you are ready. See here for help with security and what to pack.
But not to fear when you’re just not that keen on an extended slog there are plenty of pretty day walks that depart you feeling simply as unplugged as a five-day adventure. Also, day walks imply wine at sunset again within the consolation of the place you’re staying. Bonus!
The two-hour Fern Gully monitor or the four hour horseshoe Level stroll are good for mountaineering freshmen, and have unimaginable surroundings alongside the best way. For the extra seasoned trampers, the North Western Circuit or the Southern Circuit gained’t disappoint.
Our commonplace meals of freeze-dry Again Country Cuisine
7. The lodging is next degree
Assume a mix of cute one-of-a-kind baches combined with cosy lodges with five-star views. I’m slightly biased on this one as a result of I stayed at the Stewart Island Lodge, and guys, you need to in all probability (undoubtedly) keep right here, for those who can nab a booking. It fills up fast!
With panoramic vistas of Halfmoon Bay (the primary settlement area) out in the direction of the Foveaux Strait, a wide wrap-around veranda and a peaceable grounds full of native birds, this lodge is pure bliss.
Even simply the view is to die for.
I principally just needed to take a seat in a simple chair with a guide my complete keep, which I shamelessly did for hours. Watching the waves and the wild climate roll in (with a glass of wine in hand) is my type of therapy.
Within the garden you possibly can typically hear and see tui calling, chubby fats kereru waddling round and be sung to by bellbirds. It’s simply divine.
I might like to spend every week here!
A kereru – native New Zealand wood pigeon
eight. The beaches are superb. And also you’ll more than possible have them to yourself!
With over 700 kilometres of coast, Stewart Island is literally surrounded by lovely seashores in all places you look. Extensive, wild and virtually all the time deserted, the only factor lacking is a piña colada and deck chair. Mixed with crystal clear blue water, it virtually seems tropical, that is till you leap in. Brisk as!
Head to the aptly named ‘Bathing Seashore,’ within walking distance of the primary township Oban, for a fast swim, or venture further afield to Little Hellfire, Māori Seashore or Mason Bay for spectacular golden sand dunes.
Mason Bay is considered one of my favourite locations on the planet, even if that’s where I found the beaching whales. A shocking 14 kilometer large seashore, it’s wild and distant and doubtless probably the most uncovered seashore in New Zealand.
Stewart Island is not to be missed on your New Zealand Bucket listing. Escape the trimmings of recent life, and see NZ the best way it was meant to be. You gained’t regret it!
While it doesn’t have the mighty mountains of the Southern Alps or the beautiful blue lakes, Stewart Island has a magic all on its own, that may attraction to many. Relaxed and delightful, I virtually might see myself dwelling there, alone in a bach by the ocean. Sigh. Time to plan my return I reckon!
Have you been to Stewart Island? Is Rakiura in your bucket record? Spill!