Rakiura Stewart Island

Rakiura Stewart Island

Many visitors to NZ are here for “the nature”. Well, Rakiura Stewart Island is probably the closest you can get to what Aotearoa New Zealand was like before there were people here, without completely leaving civilisation behind.

There are a couple of options for travelling to the island; you can either take a boat ride from Bluff to Oban (Halfmoon Bay), or take a small plane from Invercargill airport. The boat trip is an hour and can be rough, so take this into account. The weather is changeable, although relatively mild. Be prepared for rain.

When you get there, you will initially be struck by the rustic old NZ look of Oban, which was once just a fishing village. But now the fishing is as much for tourists, plus the bird life is amazing. The town is small and you can easily get around by foot.

The Ulva Island sanctuary is a short boat trip from Golden Bay. Kākā (rare large forest parrots) come into town in the evening, kiwi can be seen during the day at Mason Bay, and at night around the local airfield. Weka, kererū and koromiko (bellbirds) are commonplace. Then there are the seabirds, including penguins, albatross and mollymawks. The mollyhawks are a mid-sized albatross, obvious from their front facing eyes, and are about half the size of the largest albatrosses.

A tourist ride on a fishing boat is by far the best way to get up close with some of the amazing big seabirds. Plus you will probably catch enough blue cod to justify the cost of the trip, at least at Auckland prices.

There are a number of short to moderate walks accessible from Oban, plus day walks on sections of the Rakiura Great Walk (3 days for the circuit). It is also feasible to get to Mason Bay and back in 1 to 2 days with the help of a water taxi, or small plane, with a chance of seeing kiwi in the daytime. But you will need to do some research as to options and seasonality.

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