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Rakiura translates to ''the Land of Glowing Skies'', a name that refers to both the beautiful night-sky phenomenon called the Aurora Australis (the Southern Lights) and the breathtaking sunsets that burn on the western horizon.
Night time is very special in this park for other reasons too. While you''re tucked up inside a Department of Conservation hut, nocturnal bird life provides an unforgettable chorus. You''ll hear the calls of ruru (the native owl), weka and kiwi. On Stewart Island, you have an excellent chance of seeing kiwi in the wild.
During daylight, the serenade continues. Along with tui, bellbirds, tomtits, grey warblers and fantails, you''ll hear red-crowned parakeets, bush parrots and Stewart Island robins. The coastal fringes of the island are home to three species of penguin, fernbirds, banded rails, weka and many kinds of seabird.
In the park
The Department of Conservation provides more than 25 hikers'' huts within the park, including a few ''Great Walk'' huts that offer a higher-than-usual standard of accommodation. In the island''s only town, Oban, there is motel, hotel, B & B and lodge accommodation.
Around the park
Rakiura National Park is a one-hour ferry ride away from the South Island town of Bluff, where a full range of accommodation can be found. The nearest city is Invercargill, a 20 minute drive from Bluff.
Short and long walks
With only 25km of roads, Stewart Island is a paradise for hikers. There are 245 kilometres of walking tracks, and they can all be accessed from the town of Oban. The ''Great Walk'' on the island is the Rakiura Track, a circuit that takes three days to complete. For day-trippers, there''s a range of short walks to enjoy - Fern Gully (2 hours return), (Ryan''s Creek 3 hours return), Horseshoe Point (3 hours return) and Moturau Moana (1 hour return), to name just a few.
Island sanctuary and kiwi spotting
A water taxi can take you to Ulva Island, an open sanctuary managed by the Department of Conservation. Its restored forest and lack of predators make it a safe environment for many rare bird and plant species. Two of three times a week, guided trips to Masons Bay provide the chance to watch kiwis eating sandhoppers at the beach.