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Stewart Island Promotion Association website
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Walking & Tramping
There are many short and long walks and tramping track throughout both Oban and the National Park to suit those of all fitness levels
Every year, birdwatchers from all over the globe flock to the Island to take in our unique bird life. Ulva Island provides a predator free sanctuary and fantastic opportunities to view species you won't find anywhere else.
Cruises & Fishing Charters
Fishing for blue cod the traditional way, transport to or from locations around the National Park, sightseeing tours, and more.
Established and run by volunteers, the museum houses an extensive collection of items and photographs of Stewart Island's early history. A visit to Stewart Island isn't complete without a browse through.
Arts & Culture
Take in A Local's Tail, a short and quirky film about the Island's history, or carve your own greenstone creation at Rakiura Jade.
Let one of the experts show you around by land, sea, or air. Some popular tours on offer include bus tours around the village, kiwi spotting expeditions, and Ulva Island walks.
The first human visitors to the island came in the 13th century. Small, semi-permanent settlements were established by the Maori people, mainly for seasonal harvesting of Titi (Muttonbirds), a practice that still occurs today.
The Maori people referred to the island as Rakiura (land of the glowing skies) or Te Punga o te Waka a Maui (the anchor of Maui’s canoe), the latter of which is represented by a monument in Bluff and at the start of the Rakiura Track.
Captain James Cook and his crew were the first Europeans to sight the island, in 1770, but Cook thought it was part of the South Island so named it South Cape.
In the early 1800s the first European settlers began to arrive, attracted by the plentiful seal and whale populations. Traders and the first pastor soon followed.
The island received its English name in honour of William W. Stewart, who was first officer on one such sealing ship, Pegasus, which visited from Port Jackson (Sydney), Australia, in 1809.
Stewart charted the large southeastern harbour that now bears the ship's name (Port Pegasus), and determined the northern points of the island, proving that it was an island. He made three further visits to the island from the 1820s to the 1840s.
Additionally, the timber industry has played a significant part in the economy and history of the Island. The first mills were established around 1861 in Kaipipi Inlet. About 20 mills operated from the early 1860s to 1931. An important spin-off from milling was the development of a ship building industry in Paterson Inlet/Whaka a Te Wera.
In the 1890s a large percentage of the less viable forests were protected from milling or any other development and set aside for scenery preservation or the protection of flora and fauna. The reservation of these areas coincided with the emergence of Stewart Island’s tourism industry. In particular the scenic values of Ulva Island were recognised and this island became one of the first scenic reserves in New Zealand.
Fishing for blue cod, crayfish and pāua (abalone) has been a major industry for many decades. More recently, tourism has also become a major industry, with tens of thousands of visitors to the Island annually.
In 2002 Rakiura National Park was established, encompassing approximately 85% of the Island's land. It is New Zealand's newest National Park.
Today, approximately 380 people reside permanently on the island, most of them in and around Halfmoon Bay.
Stewart Island/Rakiura has an area of 1,680 square kilometres (650 sq mi). Its terrain is hilly and, like most of New Zealand, Stewart Island has an Oceanic climate.
The north is dominated by the swampy valley of the Freshwater River. The highest peak is Mount Anglem (980 metres/3,220 ft), close to the northern coast.
The southern half is more uniformly undulating, rising to a ridge that runs south from the valley of the Rakeahua River.
South West Cape on this island is the southernmost point of the main islands of New Zealand.
Mason Bay, on the west side, is notable as a long sandy beach on an island where beaches are typically far more rugged. One suggestion is that the bay was formed in the aftershock of a meteorite impact in the Tasman Sea.
At latitude 47 degrees south Stewart Island is situated right in the "Roaring Forties" - strong westerly winds found in the Southern Hemisphere between the latitudes of 40 and 50 degrees. Similar but stronger conditions occurring in more southerly latitudes are referred to as the Furious Fifties and the Shrieking or Screaming Sixties.
The Roaring Forties were a major aid to ships sailing from Europe to the East Indies or Australasia during the Age of Sail, and in modern usage are favoured by yachtsmen on round-the-world voyages and competitions.
The climate is temperate with summer temperatures climbing to the mid-20's in summer. The Island is a high rainfall area - between 1000mm to 3000mm per annum. One travel guide mentions "frequent downpours that make boots and waterproof clothing mandatory."
Due to an anomaly in the magnetic latitude contours, this location is well placed for observing Aurora Australis, otherwise known as the Southern Lights.