Ask anyone who has visited Kapiti Island about their trip and you’ll get the same response: a dreamy expression falls across their face as they recall the extreme nature-buzz of sampling what New Zealand must have been like before humans arrived.
Kapiti is the only large island sanctuary for birds between the Hauraki Gulf in the north and our southern outlying islands, where human influence is kept to a minimum. It’s one of the few relatively accessible island nature reserves where you’ll see birds that are very rare on the mainland, and a whole bunch of native trees and plants.
You’ll need a visitor access permit from DOC to visit Kapiti and private boats are not permitted to land or anchor, so you’ll need to book transport for the 5km journey from the mainland.
By making it slightly tricky to visit the island, DOC is doing us all a great favour. By controlling visitor numbers and protecting the island from high visitor numbers, the local wildlife grows up thinking it has nothing to fear. So those who make the effort to get the permit and make landfall can expect close-up encounters with critters you’d never see anywhere near home, like the takahē, kererū, kākā and weka. You may even be lucky enough to spot a North Island robin or hihi.
You’ll also see signs of the island’s long and varied human history, from pre-European pa sites to whaling stations and early farm cottages.
At the other end of the county lies a place that we all know but few have visited. Stewart Island offers a slice of New Zealand life the way it used to be; low (or no) technology, quirky locals and abundant wildlife. Eighty-five percent of the island’s 1570 square kilometres comprises the Rakiura National Park.
Whether you go to enjoy the land and seascapes, take in the wildlife, or walk, boat, fish, dive, kayak, hunt or just relax, a Stewart Island holiday will be an experience that draws you back again and again. It might feel like the end of the earth but that’s part of the appeal. And getting there is actually pretty easy – Stewart Island is just one hour by ferry from Bluff, or 15-20 minutes by plane.
Bird watchers come from all over the world to spot South Island Saddleback, Bellbird, Mohua, Rifleman, Stewart Island Robin and other rare birds in this predator-free environment.
Incredibly, 20,000 Kiwi outnumber humans on the island and the Stewart Island Brown Kiwi, unlike other Kiwis, is active during the day as well as the night. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll see one as they’re as shy and retiring as their northern cousins.
We love island hopping – we do it every day! If you have made it to Stewart Island we’d love to see your snaps.