The short flight was impressive, not a cloud in the sky, Foveaux Strait glistening and the Blue Cod down there begging me to come and catch them.
A three-point landing at Oban Airport and a shuttle down to the town depot was setting me up for another memorable experience.
Rakiura the Maori word for Stewart Island means “Glowing Skies” Rakiura remains the most intact – the least logged, burnt and built upon of New Zealand´s three main islands. Glowing Skies are an understatement. The Southern Aurora is often visible from Stewart Island if your lucky to time it.
I was uplifted at the airline depot by Phil Dove partner of Annett Eiselt who own Observation Rock Lodge. A short drive with a local pointing out points of interest and making me feel very welcome.
Set high above the township, I know I walked it a few times and often meandered off into the native bush to catch a glimpse of the abundant birdlife.
Observation Rock is a personal, first class accommodation property that is perfectly located, as the name suggests with native birds and vegetation which defies the big city lodges and accommodation properties. Annett’s culinary skills are beyond five stars with breakfasts and dinner options to die for. The most is made of local seafood and vegetables which is delivered in the dining room that overlooks Preservation Inlet.
The next morning it was down to the jetty to hook up with Andrew Leask and his original fishing boat Rawhiti. Fishing for Blue Cod off the Rawhiti is incredible. The Leask family are also an “original” Stewart Island family and Andrews knowledge of where to find the “Bluies” is vast.
After a safety briefing we were off into the dazzling colouful sky to the spot we were told should furnish us with a catch. And it sure did. It was only minutes after the lines were dropped that the happy travellers were pulling up the sweet fish. Andrew dressed and filleted some of the catch for lunch which he cooked onboard for us all to enjoy. The Molly Mawks were forever present always looking for birds are amazing, a member of the albatross family, they are huge and quite aggressive toward each other when scrapping over the morsels. The poor gulls have little chance when these big guys are around.
Not only did we enjoy the cod onboard but were given some to take back to the lodge which were prepared by Annett that evening as part of a delicious five course dinner.
The next evening we dined at the local pub and enjoyed crayfish and local oysters. The Bluff oyster is arguably one of the worlds most tasty and satisfying shellfish however a local Stewart island company has been farming them in Big Glory Bay so that they can be enjoyed all year round. The ocean dredging season is restricted to quota and is only fished from.
The next day it was a relaxing spell in the gardens at Observation Rock and enjoying some of the native birds that abound. Some are so friendly they will approach and in some cases sit on ones hand especially if there is a breadcrumb or two as encouragement.
Later in the day I was taken to
Phil’s launching bay for a full on sea-kayaking experience in Paterson Inlet. Phil is an experienced outdoor man with a background of river rafting and outdoor life in some of New Zealand’s most pristine areas. Both Phil and his Wife are serious conservationists and take a lot of care in protecting the pristine surroundings that they both feel so privileged to live in.
Double seat or single seat kayaks are available and the cruise around the Inlet is amazing. Phil knew where the Sea Lions and Seals are lurking. The names of all the native and sea birds. His local knowledge is extensive and his attention to the paddlers comfort and safety is his forte.
We did not have the time to visit Ulva Island however I have been on this amazing protected Island before where the pest free environment has given the native birds a home that has rid them of fear.
A wonderful experience assisted by locals and the weather. The anchor of New Zealand should be on your schedule if nature and fine fare spin your wheels.