About Stewart Island, New Zealand
Stewart Island is New Zealand's third-largest island, located 30 kilometres south of the South Island, across the Foveaux Strait. It is a roughly triangular island with a total land area of 1,746 square kilometres. Its 164 kilometres coastline is deeply creased by Paterson Inlet, Port Pegasus, and Mason Bay.
Te Punga o Te Waka a Maui, the original Maori name, positions Stewart Island firmly at the heart of Maori mythology. Translated as "The Anchor Stone of Maui's Canoe", it refers to the part played by this Island in the legend of Maui and his crew, who from their canoe (the South Island) caught and raised the great fish, (the North Island).
Te Rakitamau left his home to ask a high ranking Kati Mamoe family for the hand in marriage of the elder of his two daughters. To his embarrassment he blushed terribly when he was turned down. Te Raki Tamau then asked for the hand of the second daughter, but she too was already betrothed. It is said that the red skies of Stewart Island reflect the blushing embarrassment of Te Rakitamau.
From this story came Te raki o te uraka o Te Rakitamau, then, Te raki ura o Te Rakitamau. It has been shortened to Rakiura. In memory of the heat of his face the highest peak was named Hananui (the great blush).
In 1809 the 'Pegasus', sailing from Port Jackson, Australia, on a sealing expedition had aboard as first officer, William Stewart. While the boat was in the large south eastern harbour (which now bears its name 'Pegasus'), William Stewart began charting the southern coasts, and his work is acknowledged by the Island's present name.
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. Choose to rise with the sun at 5am and watch it set at 10pm, our long summer days will give you plenty of time to explore.
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 less than that of Auckland. Spring, with its bursts of colour and promise of longer days, is earlier than the rest of Southland. Winters are 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.
Fishing, aquaculture, tourism and conservation are the main pursuits which now support the Island’s population of approximately 390 people. This affirms the natural attributes of the Island qualities which first attracted Maori and Europeans to its shores.
Read the New Zealand Herald article "Stewart Island's prettiest spots" by our very own guide, Matt Jones. Published on 6th March 2022
"Stewart Island anchors more than Maui’s canoe. It anchors in its rocks, rivers and rugged shores and in its garnishment of plants and animals, the hope of generations unborn that places like this will always exist."
Neville Peat, 1992
Ulva's Guided Walks proudly sponsors 250 hectares of the Halfmoon Bay Habitat Restoration, a Stewart Island/Rakiura Community and Environment Trust initiative that raises funds to support volunteers, projects and equipment.
Read about Predator Free Rakiura, the non-profit alliance led by a diverse collaboration of iwi, government, business, organisations and community representatives who believe that our people and nature will be enriched by the removal of predators from Rakiura Stewart Island.
The Stewart Island website is the best source of information to find out about travel, accommodation, weather and more!