Welcome to Stewart Island...
Stewart Island is truly a magnificent, unspoilt paradise that evinces a character all of its own.
The Island has one small township named Oban in Halfmoon Bay with a population of about 400 and only 20 kilometres of sealed road. The island is 180,000 hectares and mainly covered by native bush, sand dunes and wetlands. This place is a haven for native wildlife, which can be discovered on any number of bush walks, from half hour to half day, guided or non-guided.
Rakiura National Park on Stewart Island became New Zealand's 13th national park in March 2002. This designation recognizes the outstanding natural values the Island has to offer including the abundance of native birds, plants, invertebrates and marine mammals.
On Stewart Island you can experience empty, breathtakingly beautiful beaches like no where else. The waters here are startlingly clear, and offer excellent fishing, snorkelling, diving and sea kayaking.
THE NAMING OF STEWART ISLAND
In 1809 the Pegasus, sailing from Port Jackson, Australia, on a sealing expedition, had aboard as first officer William Stewart. Whilst the boat was in the large south eastern harbour which now bears its name, Stewart began charting the southern coasts and his work is acknowledged to this day in the Island’s present name.
Rakiura is the Maori name for Stewart Island. It is usually translated as "Glowing Skies", possibly a reference to the sunsets for which Stewart Island is famous or for the Aurora Australis, the Southern lights that are a phenomenon of our Southern latitudes.
From the 13th Century the Island’s rich resources of native flora and birds, seafood and that very special delicacy, the titi (sooty shearwater or muttonbird), provided a bountiful harvest for Maori. Early in the 19th century explorers, sealers, missionaries, miners and settlers made their mark on the Island. Of mostly European extraction, they came from all corners of the earth. Marriage with local Maori women created strong family and cultural links to Rakiura.
One of the largest of New Zealand's six varieties of kiwi, the Stewart Island species is found in relatively good numbers on the Island. A population of more than 20,000 is estimated to be living in the Island's 180,000 hectares. The Stewart Island birds form family groups and chicks often stay with adult relatives.
Kiwi are occasionally seen, and their calls can be heard in remote areas. Unlike their mainland cousins, the Stewart Island kiwi are active during daylights hours as well as at night.
If you are lucky enough to come across a kiwi, savour the privilege. Stay still and watch. Don't approach within 5 metres. Please do not disturb them in any way.
Aurora Charters offers pelagic birding, scenic and fishing trips from Halfmoon Bay. Half and full day trips allow visitors to sample breathtaking seascapes and to catch blue cod, surely the most tasty and versatile fish ever hooked in New Zealand waters. Excursions may include viewing the mussel and salmon farms in Big Glory Bay, seal colonies and shag rookeries in Paterson Inlet or a visit to Ulva Island.
Kayak enthusiasts will appreciate the kilometres of sheltered waterways they can explore.
The Island’s clear, clean waters make it a snorkelling and diving paradise. Aurora Charters skippers will know the best spots for viewing or catching fish and are knowledgeable about catch and quota regulations.
Guided walks are available on Stewart Island and Ulva Island, there are also many day walks for visitors to enjoy.
Shuttle buses provide transport on the Island and bus tours give the visitor an outline of our history and point out places of interest. There are also rental cars, motor scooters and bicycles for hire.
Scenic helicopter or fixed wing flights reveal the varied landscapes of the Island.
The six-hole golf course at Ringaringa Heights, established on hills overlooking Ringaringa Beach, is a challenge and a “must” for golfers.
Virginian/whitetail and red deer attract hunters to the Island. Aurora Charters provides access to remote hunting blocks from Bluff or Halfmoon Bay.
The Rakiura Museum and DOC Visitor Centre in Halfmoon Bay are centrally situated and both well worth browsing through.
The Community Centre is a wonderful asset, suitable for conferences and sporting events. It includes a gymnasium, squash court, sauna, catering/bar facilities and a sports stadium boasting a full-sized netball/basketball court.
At latitude 47 degrees south (the “Roaring Forties”), the weather is often unpredictable, but the climate is surprisingly temperate with summer temperatures climbing to the mid-20’s.
Sunshine hours are equal to the national average, and while it may be true that it rains on a higher number of days, our annual rainfall is not much more than that of Auckland.
Spring, with its bursts of colour and promise of longer days, is often earlier than the rest of Southland. Winters are generally milder and calmer than those experienced on the mainland. The island’s rainforest and wetlands are a glorious testament to our climatic conditions.
In short, without the rain we could not enjoy the Island’s luxuriant vegetation. However, because showers and cold snaps can occur at any time, clothing and footwear for “all seasons” is desirable.
For more detailed information on Stewart Island, visit the official Stewart Island tourism site: www.stewartisland.co.nz