Discover Stewart Island from the water on a leisurely cruise of beautiful Paterson Inlet and a guided walk in Ulva Island Wildlife Sanctuary. See stunning scenery, hear fascinating stories of early Maori history and European settl ....
Te Punga o Te Waka a Maui, the original Maori name, positions Stewart Island firmly at the heart of Maori mythology. Translated as "The Anchor Stone of Maui's Canoe", it refers to the part played by this Island in the legend of Maui and his crew, who from their canoe (the South Island) caught and raised the great fish, (the North Island).
The more commonly known and used name however is Rakiura. Translated as "The great and deep blushing of Te Rakitamau" an early Maori Chief, seen today as the glowing sunrises, sunsets and the Aurora Australis or Southern Lights.
In 1809 the 'Pegasus', sailing from Port Jackson, Australia, on a sealing expedition had aboard as first officer, William Stewart. While the boat was in the large south eastern harbour (which now bears its name 'Pegasus'), William Stewart began charting the southern coasts, and his work is acknowledged by the Island's present name.
From the 13th century the island's rich resources of native flora and birds, seafood and that very special delicacy, the titi (Sooty Shearwater/Muttonbird) provided a bountiful harvest for Maori.
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. Saw millers, boat builders and fishermen followed. The island's population grew, stabilized 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, little remains of those wider, scattered settlements and the enterprises which fostered their establishments. Fishing, aquaculture, tourism and conservation are the main pursuits which now support the islands population of 390 people. This affirms the natural attributes of the island qualities which first attracted Maori and Europeans to its shores.
Do we berth in port or use tenders to get ashore?
The large cruise ships anchor offshore and you will be tendered to the jetty on the island.