Stewart Island (Rakiura) is New Zealand’s third island, located 30 kilometres off the bottom of the South Island. In Maori mythology the island was the anchor for Maui’s canoe (the South Island) but the original European explorers thought it was attached to the South Island until William W Stewart charted the entire coastline in the early 1800s.
Over 96% of the island is uninhabited and is swathed in dense, largely inaccessible forest. Many of the mainland predators – stoats, rats, ferrets etc – haven’t made it across the water and so birdlife flourishes here. Indeed Ulva Island, which sits neatly in Patterson Inlet, is a totally predator-free bird sanctuary and for an avid twitcher a must-visit spot. Stewart Island is one of the best places in New Zealand to go looking for the elusive Kiwi and during your stay there’s also a good chance you will see some other iconic wildlife such as seals, sea lions and penguins.
The main town of Oban provides accommodation and services and it is here that you may wish to spend a little time just soaking up the charming Stewart Island atmosphere. With a resident population of around only 400 people this laid-back island life is unique to a lucky few and being part of it for a brief moment is utterly captivating.