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Stewart Island offers unique opportunities for birdwatching, where numerous species from kiwis to penguins can be seen. Beautiful Ulva island is a predator free, open sanctuary vibrant with birdlife.

Remote and tranquil Stewart Island is protected by the boundaries of Rakiura National Park. Rakiura is the Maori name for Stewart Island, meaning ‘the land of glowing skies,’ and is thought to refer to the displays of the Aurora Australis, the Southern Lights. With a population of around 450, the island is relatively untouched by humans, and provides an exceptional environment – from unspoiled podocarp and hardwood forests to low forest and coastal vegetation – for many native birds.

Birds such as the southern brown kiwi (tokoeka) forage on the beach and the weka can be seen around Oban township. Perfect for walkers, the island is traversed by around 245 kilometres of tracks, all easily accessible and ranging from short walks to longer outings that require a greater degree of fitness and stamina. Whichever you choose, there are multitudinous species to keep an eye, and an ear, out for in the forests: native tui, kaka, rifleman and fantail, with the chance of spotting five species of penguin – yellow-eyed, southern blue, rockhopper, Fiordland crested and Snares crested. It’s possible to see more than 30 species of bird during your visit, with a kiwi spotting trip, a pelagic cruise and a visit to Ulva Island bird sanctuary.

In addition to a wealth of birds, the crossing to Ulva Island will reward with chances to see bottlenose dolphin, New Zealand fur seals, sea lions and possibly an elephant seal. Ulva Island is an important natural resource, providing a sanctuary for birds and plants. Many species which have died out or are now rare on the mainland have been reintroduced to Ulva where they thrive, thanks to the island’s remoteness and rat-free status. Healthy populations of South Island saddleback, yellowhead and southern brown kiwi can be found here, along with species such as Stewart Island robin, yellow-crowned, and red-fronted parakeet and South Island kaka (or forest parrot).

View suggested itinerary

Key info

  • Ideal for viewing: southern brown kiwi, yellow-eyed penguin, saddleback, bottlenose dolphin, red-fronted parakeet
  • Where: South Island, New Zealand

Wildlife trips

This wildlife location is featured in the following itinerary:

Kiwis & Whales Galore: South Island Self-drive

This self-drive of New Zealand’s South Island showcases dramatic scenery, from sandy beaches to picturesque snow-capped mountains. Highlights include cetacean-rich Kaikoura, the Otago Peninsula - home to the endangered yellow-eyed penguin - and Stewart Island for southern brown kiwis.

  • When to go: Sep-May
  • Duration inc. flights: 23 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £6,395 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea
Suggested accommodation is shown below. Please contact us for further recommendations.

Stewart Island Lodge

New Zealand’s southernmost lodge provides sweeping views of Halfmoon Bay and beyond to the Foveaux Strait. Stewart Island Lodge offers six superior guestrooms and extensive gardens in a native bush hillside setting yet situated just a five minute walk from the village of Oban.