Accommodation in Stewart Island

Only an infinitesimal stretch of Stewart Island’s 1,600 kilometres of coastline is touched by human habitation, where the tiny settlement of Halfmoon Bay (formerly Oban) sprinkles its houses through the bush and round a crescent of coast. The initial impression as one crosses Foveaux Strait is of the island’s magnitude. Steep, bushed promontories rise sheer from a clear sea, sheltering numerous golden beaches tucked into endless successions of rock-girt coves.

The pace of life is unhurried. Saw milling has long since ceased, most of the island is now covered by reserves for the preservation of scenery and of flora and fauna, and activity centres around the island’s fishing fleet and important salmon-farming undertakings in Big Glory Bay.

With barely 20 kilometres of road, the island is a haven for a car-free holiday; for walking, tramping, fishing, boating, and for collecting unusual seashells. No scheduled launch trips are run around Paterson Inlet, so that to see the island to advantage one should plan a stay of several days.

Sprinkled off the east and south-west coasts are the Muttonbird Islands.

To the Maori the island was Rakiura (‘heavenly glow’), referring perhaps to the aurora australis, the ‘southern lights’ which are very occasionally seen streaking the southern sky, as well as to the superb sunsets for which the island is famed. Such names as Chewtobacco (named for a local Maori), Big Moggy (a corruption of big moki), Doughboy Bay, Hellfire (a dangerous lee shore), Potted Head, and Three-Legged Woodhen add further colour.