Stewart Island known as Rakiura to the Maori people, is 30km across the Foveaux Strait at New Zealand's most southern tip. Its permanent population is around 400, most living in the settlement of Oban.
The north is dominated by the swampy Freshwater River valley. The river flows into the large indentation of Paterson Inlet. The island's highest peak is the 979m Mt Anglem.
The granite island is a land of forests, sheltered coves, white sand beaches, minerals, interesting wildlife and the serenity of nature. Visitors choose from many amusements sea kayaking, walking along forest tracks and enjoying the wide variety of flora and fauna. Birdlife includes wekas, kakas, tuis, bellbirds and kiwis. There are also many seabirds.
In the early 1800s the island was settled by loggers, sealers, whalers and missionaries. The dense forest and abundant sea and birdlife were huge attractions. Coastal areas support a large population of whitetail deer.
Today, most of the island is national park and its only town, Oban, supports its tight-knit residents who live in and around Halfmoon Bay.
Stewart Island Flights operate from Invercargill to the island. The 20-minute flight gives fantastic views of Foveaux Strait and your destination. You will see Dog Island and its lighthouse at the entrance to Bluff Harbour, Ruapuke Island and the Titi Island group. As Stewart Island comes into view, with its long beaches, sparkling waters and green native bush, passengers know they are going somewhere special.
From Rakiura Kayaks Thule Boatshed it takes around 40 easy minutes to paddle to Ulva at the mouth of Paterson Inlet. Ulva's walking tracks provide bird lovers with plenty to look at before hopping back into the kayak to explore the 11km coastline of small bays and beaches. During summer you will often see New Zealand fur seals diving and playing.
Guided walks of Ulva are a good idea, as you will learn about its spiritual and cultural heritage as well as enjoying the predator-free sanctuary for rare and endangered bird and plant life.
Port of Call B&B is surrounded by nine hectares of native bush, large gardens and views of Halfmoon Bay. Scottish comedian Billy Connolly was a very happy guest and particularly enjoyed owner Philippa's homemade muffins.
There are three types of accommodation. Port of Call is in the main house. It has an ensuite bathroom, and homemade biscuits, fruit bowl, fresh flowers and tea and coffee are delightful touches. The guest lounge has a welcoming open fire.
The Bach is a private and secluded getaway with sea views, perfect for a couple. Its bedroom has quality linen, ensuite bathroom, kitchen, deck with barbecue and lounge area. Coffee, tea and Milo, fresh fruit and biscuits are provided.
The newly refurbished, self-contained Turner Cottage is in the heart of Halfmoon Bay. The peaceful cottage has a private deck with bush views and the kitchen is just right if you want to cook.
The South Sea Hotel is known as The Office to locals. It has a strong footing in island life, past and present. Just a stone's throw from the beach, it is a good base for a Stewart Island holiday. The fully licensed country-style pub has a bar, restaurant, hotel, 30 rooms and nine self-contained units. They have a bathroom and cooking facilities.
Church Hill Café Bar & Restaurant on the headland overlooks Halfmoon Bay. The 120-year-old building was once a home and has restaurant seating inside and out. The menu is packed with choices of excellent local seafood and local produce. It is one of the world's only restaurants serving mutton bird. Local Maori has special privileges to harvest and sell the birds.