Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Stewart Island: As far south as you can go

Stewart Island. © by Judy Wells.
 When you've gone as far south as you can go, head to Bluff, the southernmost point on the island mainland and the oldest European town in New Zealand, and catch the ferry to Stewart Island.

Tip: There are nine steep steps to the ferry deck but there are rails on both sides.

Stewart Island is reachable only by boat or plane and boasts a population of 400 at its busiest. You could fly or helicopter in, but the hour-long ferry ride is pleasant - assuming the Roaring '40s aren't going wild, in which case the plane and copter wouldn't take off. Ferries have been known to cancel trips too, but not that often in late spring and summer. The weather is very changeable so don't go over without something warm and rainproof.
The weather changed frequently in one day. © by Judy Wells.

Tour offices on the way to Oban. © by Judy Wells.
You'll land at the wharf in the look-and-you've-seen-it-all-town of Oban. The walk from dock to main street is lined with tour offices in case you haven't made advance arrangements.

Real Journeys puts together a good package that includes the ferry, a tour of the island by van and can arrange overnight in an upscale lodge. Kiwis prefer to take one of the many cottages dotting the island for a week or so.

Stewart Island end of "Te Puka,' the anchorstone. © by Judy Wells.

Any tour will take you to the link sculpture that speaks to Maori legend. The island's original name is translated as "The Anchor Stone of Maui's Canoe," referring to an early Maori chief and his crew who caught the great fish, the North Island, from their canoe, the South island. Invercargill artist Russell Beck sculpted the chain, one end beginning in at Bluff, the canoe, and the other ending on Stewart Island, the anchor.

Bluff end of Te Puka. © by Judy Wells.

Tip: You can see the Bluff end with no stairs but the Stewart island half requires 23 steps to and from the beach.

South Sea Hotel. © by Judy Wells.

Do stop in at the South Sea Hotel bar, the only one on the island, toward late afternoon. It's the social hub here and the restaurant produces a fine fish (blue cod) and chips.

You'll love meeting the locals at the South Sea bar. © by Judy Wells.

KFC on Stewart means Kiwi French Crepery, one of the few places to eat in Oban. © by Judy Wells.

Will this be your beach? © by Judy Wells.

Tip: The Oban area is relatively flat but elsewhere on the island the elevations can change uncomfortably. Stewart Island, like the rest of New Zealand, excels in beautiful vistas. It's also a true getaway - no cell phone service or ATMs and a tiny, three-block village, Oban. Some 35,000 visitors come here a year for its 755 kilometers of coastline with roughly one beach per person.

Ulva Island
One of many fishing albatross we saw en route to Ulva Island. © by Judy Wells.
I can recommend Paterson Inlet Cruises for the boat trip over and walking tour of Ulva Island. Our captain did a grand job of putting us within camera range of albatross.  

Ulva Island © by Judy Wells.
Guide Ann Pullen. © by Judy Wells.

No one lives on Ulva Island except for its birds and critters, but there are guides and do-able walking trails so you can get up close and personal with the flora if not the fauna. Learning about it all from Ann Pullen, a dedicated and a delightful guide,  was one of the highlights of my Stewart Island day.

The beach walk. © by Judy Wells.

Tip: It's an easy on/off from the tour boat to the dock. Along the standard 45-minute tour, you'll have a walk on the beach, 17 steps with rails from the beach to path, another 21 with no rails. A pleasant walk on a good path then another 21 steps followed by 11. Another 7 stair steps and you're done.

The steps on Ulva. © by Judy Wells.

One of three kiwi crossing signs on Stewart. © by Judy Wells.
There are kiwi here and on Stewart, but the elusive national bird is nocturnal and nighttime excursions in search of them are pricey and come with no guarantees.

© by Judy Wells.

There are too many other things to see and do in New Zealand for me to have spent more than a day on Stewart Island, but you'll encounter some lovely beaches and a way of life that's hard to find anymore.

© by Judy Wells.

When you dock back in Bluff, chances are you'll be a bit tuckered so I recommend a trip to the tip and a nosh and a beverage at Land's End, a comfy inn with a sweet pub.

Where shall we fly now? © by Judy Wells.
Then you can decide where to next.


Romantic Bed and Breakfasts said...

I like your blog very much because every time I visit here find out some good tips and information about new places. Keep it up.

March 28, 2012 at 1:33 AM
Anonymous said...

Nice photos. I bet you must have enjoyed your trip a lot. Oban is a rich and diverse place. You can see a lot of birds and animals in there and you'll even get the chance to see whales and dolphins during rib trip oban.

August 19, 2013 at 8:06 PM

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