Day 1 Invercargill - Stewart Island
Your journey starts in Invercargill with a flight to Stewart Island. The 20 minute flight takes you past Oreti Beach, where world record holder Burt Munro tested his Indian motorcycle, past Bluff, and across Foveaux Strait where the world famous Bluff oysters are harvested.
On arrival to the island take an orientation tour of Oban - New Zealand’s southernmost town, and surrounding bays. Your guide will share their local knowledge of the history and environment of Stewart Island. Stewart Islanders are proud of their island, enjoying its simpler, slower pace. Highlights include Lee Bay, the gateway to Rakiura National Park and stunning views of Paterson Inlet from Observation Rock during this 1 and a half hour tour.
This afternoon check in to the centrally located Bay Motel. Comfortable, modern units offer amazing views over Halfmoon Bay or the surrounding native bush. Other features include a fully equipped kitchenette, central heating, electric blanket, plus complementary tea/coffee along with free wifi. There is also a sheltered courtyard with seating and BBQ.
This evening a welcome dinner is provided at the South Seas Hotel, just a short walk from your accommodation and across from the beach.
Following dinner join your evening kiwi spotting tour. This tour offers you a special opportunity to experience kiwi in their natural environment. We have exclusive access to private land where New Zealand’s precious kiwi come out at night to feed. If there is Aurora Activity tonight you may have your first chance to see it while on the kiwi spotting tour.
**please note the order/timing of activities is a guide only, subject to change**
Day 2 Ulva Island Tour
This morning take a short walk to Golden Bay Wharf and set off for an Ulva Island guided walk. Ulva Island (Te Wharawhara), is renowned for its diverse and abundant birdlife with a forest dominated by Rimu, Southern Rata and Kamahi, surrounded by marine reserve. It was visited by Ngai Tahu Maori as part of their food gathering trips and in the 1890s it became one of New Zealand’s first reserves. This 267 hectare island is now predator free, allowing the bird and plantlife to thrive. Today you will be guided by a Stewart Island local, who has the knowledge and know how to take you through Ulva Island, with abundant and colourful birdlife and the impressive forest. You will be transferred to Ulva Island by water taxi before having an informative and interesting walk on this unique island. Returning to Golden Bay Wharf after the tour.
Dinner this evening is included at the South Seas Hotel.
Later this evening, we head to the home of Sandra Whipp, local Stewart Island photographer & Aurora hunter! Her home is ideally situated to take advantage of the Aurora and the Stewart Island/Rakiura Dark Sky Sanctuary. Sandra will talk to you about her photography and give you tips on witnessing and photographing Aurora. Not only is Sandra an avid Aurora hunter, she is also a 3rd generation Stewart Islander. She will give you a fascination insight into life on the island over the year - a real treat!
Day 3 Paterson Inlet, Stewart Island
Today a cruise in Paterson Inlet is included. Visit the Southern Bays of the inlet with wildlife spotting opportunities including the Bottlenose dolphins, New Zealand Sea Lions and Yellow Eyed Penguins. There may also be a chance to see the striking Mollymawk Albatross. The tour will also visit an historic whaling base used by a Norwegian Whaling company in the 1920’s.
The rest of the day and dinner is at leisure.
Your tour escort will always be monitoring the weather conditions and aurora alerts, so evening activities may change! If there is nothing scheduled, it doesn't mean there is nothing happening! Your guide will let you know the local spots nearby for you to do some astro photography ...always with an eye out for the Southern Lights!
Day 4 Stewart Island exploration
A full day to explore the Island.
There are walks, kayaking, rent an e bike, fishing, visit the local museum to learn about mutton birding and more, have a beer at the local pub, there is always something to do. Your tour escort will be more than happy to assist.
You may like to book the optional guided walk (additional charge) to Port William and Maori Beach, one of the most popular coastal and native bush walks on the island. Take a water taxi to Port William, site of an early Maori Settlement, before continuing on to Maori Beach. This was also where early Maori settled and later became a saw milling community in the early 1900s. We then make our way to Lee Bay via Little River, a stunning tidal river mouth, overhanging with Rata trees.
Along the coast lookout for a plethora of birdlife, such as, Mutton birds (Sooty Shearwaters), Shags, Buller’s Mollymawks, Cape Pigeons, and little Blue Penguins. In the native bush you may see and hear Bellbirds, Tui, Fantails, Parakeets, Shining Cuckoos, Grey Warblers, Kaka and Tomtits and more.
BBQ dinner - this is a great way to enjoy a causal evening meal with the group, as we cook together on the BBQ, meat, vegetarian options, salads and more.
Dark Sky evening - Tonight, or one of these nights (depending on how the conditions are looking) we will head out as a group to another fantastic location to learn about the night sky with local guides in the field, and continue our aurora hunt!
Day 5 Stewart Island - at leisure
Another day at leisure to enjoy the island.
Tonight we enjoy your final meal at the South Seas Hotel ...with local Blue Cod and other great options on the menu.
Day 6 Stewart Island - Invercargill
A fond farewell from Rakiura. Enjoy one final breakfast on the island before your transfer to the airport and flight back to Invercargill