You are invited to visit New Zealand’s southernmost sanctuary and newest national park. It occupies the greater part of our third largest island.
Rakiura National Park on Stewart Island is 30 km south of Bluff. It’s position at 47 degrees south in the Southern Ocean, gives it an environment which is a world apart.
The isolation, and extremes of climate and topography, give Rakiura a special character and charm. This is a land untouched and unchanged for millennia, which has 400 residents in a small village called Oban, in Half Moon Bay. Some 93% of this land, including 170 islands and rock stacks in Foveaux Strait, are administered as conservation estate. There is unlimited access to most of the park on 250 km of tramping tracks. Transport is by air from Invercargill Airport or by passenger ferry from Bluff – a one hour crossing.
Rakiura means ‘Glowing Skies’ in Maori, referring to the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) and the spectacular blood-red sunsets often seen here. The island’s coast is deeply indented with harbours such as Paterson Inlet, Port Adventure and Port Pegasus. Fishing and diving are popular activities, as well as hunting for both red and whitetail deer.
Plan to spend a few days on Rakiura. A good starting point would be a gentle beach walk, to catch a glimpse of Fiordland crested penguins, yellow-eyed penguins or little blue penguins in the bay. You may even see fur seals on the headland. A short boat ride to Ulva Island, a bird sanctuary, can reward you with close up views of tui, bellbirds, kaka, and kakariki and perhaps kiwi and weka foraging in the seaweed along the shore. Overnight tramps on the 3 day Rakiura Track and 10 day North West Circuit, will reveal New Zealand’s southernmost forest giants – rimu, totara and kaihikatea, along with a great variety of vegetation in shrub land, wetland, and alpine herb fields.
Go the extra mile to visit this southern outpost of New Zealand. It’s a naturalist’s dream and ornithologist’s delight. The tramping ain’t half-bad either.