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Stewart Island

Rakiura New Zealand

Stewart Island is as far south as most people can get without going to Patagonia, knowing the right people or having special resources. It's home to birds, lots of New Zealand natives on an island largely free of predators and covered in ancient podocarp forests compared to the main land.

The village of Oban is the main arrival point via a fast ferry from Bluff that takes an hour on what can be a rough crossing, but that can be an adventure in itself. Sooty Shearwater (mutton birds) and albatross are commonly seen. Oban has a small supermarket with the basics including coffee to go and sandwiches. Otherwise there are meals at the pub, fish and chips or pies at the Kai Kart* and a nice pizza place.  Anything else you may need, bring yourself and if you happen to be vegan, bring your own provisions.

The climate is mild to cool though summer days can be hot so you need clothing for three seasons, cool, wet and hot though in winter, be prepared for cold, wet and stormy. Snow is rare. On those inclement days, there is a library and museum, otherwise settling in with a good book passes the time pleasantly. Internet and wifi is available but not reliable so don't be dependent though cellphone coverage is okay around Oban and Ulva Island with Spark and Vodaphone.

With only twenty miles of roads you're not likely to need to drive yet as well as a taxi, there are rental cars, mopeds and even electric bicycles for hire. So why visit? Come for the peace and quiet although around Oban, the Tui's calls echo all day and the sound so delightful. Many come to see the kiwi's and if you're lucky you'll see them around Oban in the evening or early morning. Otherwise you may need to take some forest walks or a coastal tour. Aurora Cruises run evening trips and kiwis can been seen from the boat as they feed along the shore. Advanced bookings are essential.

Ulva Island

For most who stay one or two nights, Ulva Island is the main attraction. It's a predator free bird sanctuary where you can see more Tui, Fan Tails, Wax Eyes, Pigeons (Kereru) Saddleback, Weka, little robins (right image) that you have to be careful not to step on and maybe a Kiwi.

Get there by ferry (the leaf boat) or water taxi from Golden Bay Wharf, a twenty minute walk from Oban village.  The ferry is $20.00 return with three sailings per day (9am, noon and 4.00pm-ish) and a later sailing over summer. Note that you need to be on time to catch the ferry because on the island, they don't wait, just offload and onload then go. There is a toilet near the jetty but otherwise there are no facilities - zero services on the island. Take all you need for the day or half day. Website

There are of course tour operators and guides, you can hire kayaks, go fishing or take a fishing charter. There's even a small airport for scenic flights or quick trips back to the mainland.

Other things to see and do

Visit the DOC information centre for local history, park information and to to see the available walks. It's a good place on rainy days as there are free nature movies though a donation is appreciated. For a tour of the village, book at the Red Shed or Stewart Island Flights for a drive and photo stops. For anyone flying over as a day trip, leave Invercargill early, see Ulva Island and take an afternoon tour before catching your return flight.

The library has wifi, at the Jade shop, you can take lessons on Jade carving, commission designs or buy off the shelf. There's a gift shop, clothing store, the Raggedy Range tourist company provides an alternative to the Red Shed with off the beaten track" wilderness adventures on Ulva Island and Rakiura National Park.

Stewart Island Website
Stewart Island Experience (bus, ferry and tour services).
Stewart Island Flights

Many thanks to Jo Leask from Rakiura Lodge for accommodation and hospitality.

Footnote; we ate at the Kai Kart - 3/10 - fish and chips are $19.00 pp - sorry we can't recommend though the small quantity of fish was excellent.

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