It is the end of the world. Definitely. And it is beautiful. I felt in love with this remote place at the Southern end of New Zealand’s South Island. Being there is a special experience for everybody. It is a glimpse into a simpler, slower lifestyle, in rhythm with the sea and the tides, attuned to the natural world of bush and beach. The ferry crossing from Bluff to Halfmoon Bay takes about one hour and can be really rough. We stayed in the friendly Hilltop Backpacker’s (Owner Gary picks you up by car from the ferry). From the hostel which is located on a hill you have a fantastic view.
In 2002 the very qualities that make this island a great place to treasure were recognized in the formation of the Rakiura National Park, comprising 85 percent of the island’s 1.570 square kilometres. The locals value the island’s special qualities: Its clear, clean waters, the lush rainforest, sweeping sands, flora and fauna and the unspoiled natural beauty. There you can enjoy the land and seascapes, the wildlife, go for lots of interesting walks, you can boat, fish, dive, kayak or just relax. Visit doggie Lola at the Bunkhouse Theatre and enjoy a drink at the Bar of the iconic South Sea Hotel right on the waterfront.
The Maori name of Stewart Island is Rakiura. Early in the 19th century explorers, sealers, missionaries, miners and settlers from all corners of the world made their mark on the island. Marriage with local Maori women created strong family and cultural links to Rakiura.
Sawmillers, boat builders and fishermen followed. The island’s population grew, stabilised and settled, mainly around the edges of Paterson Inlet and the heads of Halfmoon and Horseshoe Bays, and in short-lived ventures at Port William, Port Pegasus and Maori Beach.
In the 1920’s new arrivals came from Norway as part of the Rosshavet whaling enterprise. Those who chose to stay permanently added another thread to the interesting tapestry of nationalities living on Stewart Island.
Today the island has a population of 400 people. Fishing, aquaculture, tourism and conservation are their main pursuits. This affirms the natural attributes of the island’s qualities which first attracted Maori and Europeans to its shores.
Don’t miss Stewart Island on your New Zealand trip. Dive into another world and let the past come alive!