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Ulva Island

46°55'59" S 168°7'57" N

Ulva Island, a 10-minute boat ride from the Golden Bay jetty, is encompassed within Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island, and is a pristine forested island situated in Paterson Inlet.

Ulva Island is the largest of the many small islands situated in Paterson Inlet and has a land area of 266 hectares (roughly equal to 400 rugby pitches) combining dense native bush, sandy shores, rocky outcrops and approximately 4.5 kilometres of walking track for visitors to enjoy stepping back in time. Just under eight hectares at Post Office Bay is privately owned.

The island is managed by the Department of Conservation and supported by the Ulva Island Charitable Trust as an open island sanctuary. It is one of the few predator-free sanctuaries in New Zealand.

Ulva Island is home to rare and endangered birds including South Island Saddleback, Yellowhead, Rifleman, Stewart Island Robin, Stewart Island Brown Kiwi.

A brief re-invasion of Norway Rats in 2010 highlights how easily biosecurity standards can be breached. Therefore prior to disembarking, visitors are urged to thoroughly check all equipment, including footwear, to ensure they are not unwittingly transporting stowaways, especially weed seeds and rodents to the island.

Charles and Jessie Traill, the first pakeha residents of Ulva Island, built a Post Office in 1872 to cater for the mail boat arriving in Stewart Island waters.  They would raise a flag when the mail has arrived, to alert workers and families in nearby settlements to collect their post.

In 1899 Ulva Island was reserved under the Land Act 1892 for the preservation of “native game and flora” and was one of the earliest reserves of this kind in New Zealand.

Ulva Island gives us some idea of how New Zealand used to be.  It has never been logged, there have never been browsing possums, nor bird-eating stoats and ferrets.  With no deer or rats, nature has been free to function the way it has for centuries.

The Ulva Island Wharf structure extends from a walkway and concrete abutment North West immediately adjacent a headland on the north side of Ulva Island. It is predominantly of timber construction and occupies approximately 50 square metres with the outer 4.1m of deck being 1 .9m lower than the inner 14m of the approach deck level.

The facility at Ulva Island is one of the busiest wharfs in the Stewart Island area in terms of vessel movements and an estimated 22,000 people annually embarking and disembarking.

The outer end of the structure is exposed to swell from north east. The outer end being at a lower level is submerged or in the wave zone more than 50% of the time.

The lower level boarding deck at the seaward end of the structure is used by larger vessels on the outside and small vessels on the inner side.

Ulva Island is renowned for its diverse and abundant birdlife including:

  • weka,
  • kākā
  • kākāriki
  • tūī
  • bellbirds/korimako
  • pigeons/kereru
  • fantails/piwakawaka
  • saddleback/tieke
  • rifleman/titipounamu
  • brown creeper/pīpipi
  • Stewart Island robin/toutouwai
  • yellowhead/mohua

Some visitors may even be lucky enough to catch a rare day-time glimpse of the Stewart Island brown kiwi/tokoeka.

New Zealand fur seal/kekeno can sometimes be seen on the rocks round Ulva Island. On the beaches, visitors may come across sea lions/rāpoka/whakahao and occasionally elephant and leopard seals. Usually these marine mammals come ashore to rest. Please don’t approach them.

The forest on Ulva Island is typical of the area, dominated by rimu, southern rātā and kamahi, but here the diverse understorey of broadleaf and fern is prolific.

Environment Southland
Contact: Kevin O’Sullivan, Maritime Manager

Real Journeys
Contact: Tony McQuilkin, GM International Sales

Venture Southland
Contact: Rex Capil, Group Manager Community Development & Events

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