" New Zealand Holiday ... 12 . . . Stewart Island "

Date & Time: Monday to Wednesday 14th -16th November 2011.

Locations : Travelling from Invercargill and spending time on Stewart Island.

Places visited : Invercargill, Oban, Ulva Island, Lee Bay and the Kai Kart.

Accommodation : Peter and Iris Tait at Sails Ashore Oban, Stewart Island NZ.

With : Ann and myself.

Weather : Two nice sunny days, either side of a rainy one.

 " NZ -12 ... Stewart Island " at EveryTrail

[ Alter the settings to zoom or change the Map, use Everytrail to download the Gps route ]


We've now reached mid-November and Spring has reached New Zealand.

Unlike Britain, most of the trees are evergreen and so look the same all year round

so it is signs of new growth and an improvement in weather that differentiated this time of year.

Sign at Invercargill Airport . . . been there, done that . . . maybe the t-shirt . . . if we find one.

We are now heading for Stewart Island after travelling down from the Fiordlands of Milford and Doubtful Sound

The Catlins are yet to come on the " Hiley World Tour of New Zealand "

All aboard this Britton Norman Islander for the twenty minute flight south to New Zealand's third largest Island.

I bet you thought New Zealand only had two big islands . . . so did we till we started doing our homework.

Almost sitting as co-pilot in this small aircraft . . .
. . . as we head over the outskirts of Invercargill
Fernbirds Guest House B&B
We give a metaphoric wave to Fernbirds down below us . . .
. . . as we head out over Bluff Head and out to sea.

Hold your cursor over the left hand photo to locate Fernbirds, our previous guest house accommodation, on the peninsular below us.

In no time at all we were making our approach to Stewart Island airport,

flying over the blue lagoon of Horseshoe Bay.

Almost down as we pass the town of Oban . . . a name more reminiscent of west-coast Scotland.

In no time at all, the airport mini-bus brought us into town where we were met by Peter, our host, and driven up the hill

where we were introduced to his wife Iris, waiting for us at our accommodation with a most delightful lunch.

The view from the sun lounge at Sails Ashore,

looking down at the harbour buildings and the town seafront on Half Moon Bay.

Our own, delightful en-suite rooms . . .
. . . part of Peter and Iris's extended bungalow.

Peter and Iris specialise in, not only accommodation, but also wildlife tours.

Peter's extensive knowledge, gained over many years living on the island, has been incorporated into this min-package holiday.

Our itinerary was to include a wildlife tour to Ulva Island . . . the weather was fine so we decided to set off without delay.

Peter was the proud owner of this twin-masted ketch that he used to use for extended wildlife tours of the southern New Zealand fiords. He no longer runs those extended holidays, hence the business name of "sails ashore".

The boat is still in good condition and would be put to good use today as our personal transport across to Ulva, a smaller island within the main inlet of Stewart Island.

Leaving the quay side of Thule Bay for the short crossing to Ulva.

As we have found elsewhere in New Zealand, imported animals have become pests and have decimated the native species, many of which were flightless birds. Ulva Island has been cleared of rats, possums and other introduced animals so that the native species can survive and hopefully thrive in the restored natural habitat that originally covered vast swathes of New Zealand itself.

Ulva is native woodland having never been subject to commercial forestry. It is a wonderful sanctuary for native species of animals, birds and vegetation.

Peter used to be the DoC Ranger here many years ago so knows it well.

We landed at Post Office Bay, a pristine sandy beach on the island.

While the boat was being moored out away from the jetty, Ann and I explored the immediate vicinity of the bay.

Our wildlife recognition was improving with the identification of this pair of Black Oyster Catchers.

Here they were, as on Farewell Spit, working as an isolated but bonded pair, looking for food along the tide line.

Hopping up onto a small boulder . . .

. . . or marching across the sand.

Peter joined us and we walked past the old Post Office

home to island residents of old, now a holiday cottage. No one currently lives permanently on the island.

Most New Zealand flowers and trees are green as pollination is by insects rather than animals.

It was a pleasure however to fine these colourful New Zealand Rata Trees in full bloom.

The Department of Conservation and local volunteers have laid out a series of footpaths through the woodland

that would allow us to explore this small part of the island and discover a few of its secrets.

Peter was a consummate host, full of knowledge,

but prepared to share it is a very chatty and sociable way.

Looking up into the trees . . . the Toutouwai . . . the Stewart Island Robin

About the size of the British robin but without the red breast.

He was a sociable character . . .
searching the disturbed ground where we walked
. . . for the prospect of a quick meal.

By sitting quietly he would approach really close . . . a most unexpected pleasure.

The four coloured rings on his legs would identify this bird specifically amongst all the known robins on the island.

The moist climate encouraged ferns to grow . . .
. . . and here the rare Spider Orchid thrives.
Delicate mosses . . .
. . . and new season ferns.

A Red Crowned Parakeet flies onto a branch above us.

The Kaka or Bush Parrot . . .
a consummate entertainer and acrobat.


Lance Wood trees.
A spiders web on the trunk of a tree.

The Lance wood starts as the right hand spear-like shoot, changing completely to the left hand tree shape once above predator height.

Peter introduced us to the many plants and orchids . . .
. . . and encouraged us to use all our senses, not just look !

Looking east out of the Paterson Inlet to the Pacific Ocean.

The sandy beach is on Native Island and we catch a glimpse of the Mutton Bird Islands further out to sea.

Ulva has several sandy beaches and we visit another of them.

Peter is looking out for local wildlife.

The New Zealand Wood Pigeon

A nesting bird but annual migrant to the island for the long summer period.

I recognise those . . . another pair of Black Oystercatchers
They have made a nest at the back of the beach.

[ Subsequent emails to Peter and Iris have mentioned that the birds have raised young in the nest successfully again this year.]

Time to be heading back . . . there's our boat moored up.

We had to return to the landing stage so that Peter could take the small tender round and collect it for our return trip.

All aboard (all three of us) once again.

A short, return sea voyage and we were back across Paterson Inlet and back to the mainland of Stewart Island.

The small huts by the harbour are boathouses.

The Ulva boat is the alternative ferry to take visitors on alternative Ulva Island tours.

In the evening we enjoyed a classic golden sunset on the way to the hotel . . .

for a rather filling evening meal . . . deep fried Oysters in Batter . . . we had to walk home just to burn off the calories !

- - - o o o - - -

Next morning, it was our chance to join Iris this time, for a drive to Lee Bay, slightly further round the island.

There's rain on the horizon but hopefully we'll have a couple of hours fine weather before it arrives.

This was the chess set on the seafront at Halfmoon Bay.

. . . and the South Sea Hotel where we dined last night.

Lloyd and Ruth at Invercargill

If you have been following these reports you'll remember the other part of this art sculpture on the mainland of South Island.

Hold your cursor over the picture to recall the other end.

The giant shackle that anchors it to the island.

" The bullet hole " (see the top picture of the arch)
The story of the art work.

Apparently one local took exception to the modern artwork which was installed without reference to the locals.

He showed his displeasure in the form of a shotgun round or two and was awarded 'community service punishment' for his troubles.

He had to spend his spare time the next summer maintaining the gardens around the bay . . . in sight of his transgression !

We, however, could freely enjoy the bay in the company of Iris.

Iris combined our mini-tour of Lee Bay with a visit to Horseshoe Bay where the islanders have set up a native plant nursery.

For a small contribution you could collect plants for the garden.

All were local species, native to the island and suitable for the garden or other landscaping work.

The label is for the Southern Rata . . . that red flowering tree seen earlier.

Another splash of local colour, fortunately not on duty today.

Iris dropped us back into town where we had chance to visit the local museum.

Traditional Maori artifacts . . .
. . . and newer, but now redundant, European imports.

This boat, a scale model about four feet long, was built in 1889 by a Master Alf Leask . . . at just 12 years of age.

The pictures and objects in the background alluded to the islands past as an important exporter of timber.

By the time we got home it was raining . . .
. . . so we sat and were entertained by the Kakas

Sails Ashore often has local flocks of these parrots in the garden, attracted by the bird food no doubt.

Click here to see Peter and Iris's live webcam looking out at the bird table and the view from their garden.

- - - o o o - - -

An afternoon chatting with our hosts allow the rain to pass,

after which we accepted a lift which took us out a short way from town, to the start of the Raroa Trail.

A 20 minute walk should see us back into town.

In the mean time we had a natural forest pathway to enjoy.

Large fern trees grew alongside the path . . .
. . . and fuscia trees with light brown bark were plentiful.

A gentle stroll up through the woods . . .

. . . led out onto the local playing field at the top of town.

A second walk from the other side of the playing fields

led us down The Fuscia Trail towards town and out onto the seafront, just in time for our meal out tonight.

Unfortunately, being early in the tourist season, the famous Kai Kart (take-away food emporium) was closed.

We crossed the road, back to the South Sea Hotel, determined not to eat so much this evening as we had the night before !

- - - o o o - - -

A second fine meal of green lipped muscles and home to bed . . . waking next morning to a fine day once again.

Hey ... show yourself for the photo !

This was our last morning so we grabbed a photo or two with our hosts while the sun shone.

What's that behind Ann's legs ? . . . Hold your cursor over the picture to get the dog to join in.

Ever attentive, Peter wanted to show us one last walk,

one last part of the island

before we caught our lunchtime flight.

Observation Rock was a local viewpoint at the top of the village. It looked down on Golden Bay and Thule Bay harbour

from where we sailed to Ulva Island a day or so back.

Click here or on the photo for a wider Loweswatercam panorama

Peter also took us on a short walk up one of the other valleys close to town.

This area had been logged, hence the wide track, but so long ago that it has reverted to natural forest once again.

A wide stream, native trees, bushes and superb forest vegetation all round.

I think it was called Fern Gully.

Time to pause and enjoy one last guided tour and explanation of the varied island fauna and flora.

We've only touched on such a small part of the island but have seen so much. There's a whole world of mountains, forests, seashore and tramping on Stewart Island that we just haven't seen.

To do it full justice would take many, many visits. This however has been a great introduction and a great few days.

All too soon we were back at the seafront.

Time for a little retail therapy . . . and one last walk out on the pier.

At the end is the visitor centre where the island ferry moors up

for locals and tourists that travel in and out by boat.

The Forveaux Straits can, however, be a wild place on a rough day

but today was sunshine and blue skies and the seas were calm and benevolent.

Walking back we found the Kart open for business.

We passed on a full meal as we were so well fed by our hosts, but we did actually indulge in a "One Dollar Special"

the smallest bag of chips they do, just to be able to say that we had eaten from the famous " Stewart Island Kai Kart "

Cheers ladies . . . and thanks for the chips !

Bags packed, goodbyes said . . . and we were back on the harbour side waiting for the airport bus.

Our aircraft circled and landed with another group of visitors.

Soon we would pack our bags onboard and be back on our way to Invercargill airport

after a great few days on New Zealand's third, and least known island . . . a real gem of the South Seas.


- - - o o o - - -

Technical note: Pictures taken with either Ann's Fuji Finepix T300, my Canon G10 or 1100D digital cameras.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

This site best viewed with . . . . local knowledge.

Go to next

© RmH.2010 # Email me here # Go to Home page