Discover Stewart Island from the water on a leisurely cruise of beautiful Paterson Inlet and a guided walk in Ulva Island Wildlife Sanctuary.
The cruise will showcase some of Paterson Inlet’s stunning scenery with its hidden coves and unspoilt beaches. You’ll hear fascinating stories of early Maori history and European settlement from your guide as we pass various landmarks. Your guide is passionate about this area, provides informative commentary and is more than happy to answer questions. While on board, keep a look out for fur seals and penguins – we see a lot of them around this area.
Paterson Inlet is home to renowned wildlife sanctuary Ulva Island and we’ll stop there for a 45 minute guided walk. The island is home to weka (native woodhen), bush robins, rare saddlebacks and yellowheads amongst other species. It is also a protected habitat for some of New Zealand’s rarest plant species. A regular highlight is to encounter an inquisitive weka on the beach.
For the remainder of the cruise around Paterson Inlet, relax on board our modern catamaran and enjoy the coastal scenery before heading back to base.
Modern comfortable catamaran
Duration 2 hrs 30 minutes - 3 hrs
Delicious picnic lunch options available (need to pre-order)
Suitable for most ages and fitness levels
Small group size
$99 per person
To join this experience, you'll need to present your My Vaccine Pass at check-in. Find out more about our Covid-19 policy>
45 minute guided walk on Ulva Island Wildlife Sanctuary
On board nature guide
Price: $21pp (1 Oct 2021 - 30 Sep 2022)
Sandwich, fresh fruit, muesli slice/piece of cake, cheese and crackers, fruit drink, dried fruits (raisins, berries, etc.), complimentary tea and coffee.
Please note: If you require a vegetarian lunch, or have any special dietary needs, please add this into the comments box during the booking process. You can order any of the lunch options when you make your booking. Menus are indicative only.
The island sanctuary is located within Paterson Inlet (Whaka a Te Wera) and offers the opportunity to view rarer native species including weka, kākā, kākāriki, tūī, bellbirds (korimako), pigeons (kereru), fantails (piwakawaka), tomtit (miromiro) and brown creeper (pīpipi).
The saddleback (tieke), yellowhead (mohua), Stewart Island robin (toutouwai) and rifleman (titipounamu) have all been successfully reintroduced to Ulva Island.
Some lucky visitors to the sanctuary have also seen the Stewart Island brown kiwi (tokoeka) during the day.
Ulva Island is part of the Rakiura National Park and covers an approximate 269 hectares which are mostly managed by the Department of Conservation.
The island, which has no permanent human population, is supported by the Ulva Island Charitable Trust, a group of Stewart Islanders, who raise funds for research, maintain the tracks and infrastructure, and help with bird releases.
Since the eradication of rats, Ulva Island has offered a predator-free environment for the birds and plant life.
In 2005, common skinks were transferred to the island from the other side of Paterson Inlet. A rodent dog ensures that the predator free status is maintained and traps are located across the island to minimise the chance of re-evasion.
The rainforest on Ulva Island consists of rimu, southern rātā and kamahi, and also diverse varieties of broadleaf and ferns.
Ulva Island has easy walking tracks and is an aspiring place to visit for anyone interested in native birds or plants.
A great tour with an informative skipper and an exceptionally good and well-informed guide on the island.
We learned about the natural features and interesting history of Stewart Island and Paterson Inlet. On Ulva Island the wonderful guide showed us otherwise hidden flora and fauna and explained the fascinating story of the island's recovery from predation and misuse to be now a small piece of natural paradise.
Looks like this is the trip mum and I did today. For $95 it was excellent value. A bit of history, two free cups of tea/coffee, stopping to watch albatross fly near the boat, various little bays and (often old) buildings, and Ulva Island. Luckily the weather held out, I imagine Ulva Island wouldn't be so good in the wet unless you've got good raincoats & rainhats. One by one we came across a lot of different birds, led by our guide (Erin?). I'd never seen Yellowheads before. I missed the Stewart Island Robin the first time around (others saw it) but right near the end myself and another got a fantastic view of one. Though not fast enough to get a picture.
With only a short time to explore, we booked this cruise. We were warmly greeted, and the boat was very clean and tidy-including separate Ladies and Men's toilets! We preordered a lunch and the portions were generous, and food was fresh. The crew were professionally attired and knowledgeable of the land and sea. Shortly after leaving the wharf we encountered a group of dolphins including a mother and calf. Next a large group of albatrosses arrived in the waters, and they were exciting to watch. Penguins greeted us as well. The inlet tour was gorgeous and the guide shared its history as we cruised. We disembarked at Ulva Island and we're split into small groups, each with a guide. The guide facilitated numerous bird viewings-Stewart Island robins, mohua, saddlebacks, spoonbills, kaka, kakariki, and weka. She also shared interesting facts about the flora. Great value for price and time budgets! Would highly recommend!
A nice cruise combined with an informative guide made this trip interesting and useful. They use a catamaran which tours the Inlet before stopping at Ulva Island for a 45 minute nature walk. Guide was excited about the fauna and knew a lot about the nuances of trying to keep an Island pest free for native species. Very enjoyable trip.
Thoroughly enjoyed this 2.5 hr cruise including walk on Ulva Island. If you have limited time on Stewart Island, this trip is a great introduction to bird, plants and trees. Ulva Island is absolutely beautiful, guide Leah was very knowledgeable & informative. We saw many bird species as well as learning about the plant life, trees, orchid spotting and a short beach walk. I would love to return for more hours walking on Ulva Island as this brief trip whets the appetite for more. The crew were good, boat comfortable; this is an excellent short trip.
I really enjoyed the Paterson Inlet cruise. The staff were really knowledgeable and friendly. I learnt lots from it and got to see lots of cool birds. On Ulva island there were Robins that would jump around your feet because it's pest free so they have nothing to be afraid of. I would definitely recommend doing this cruise and it is great for families too.
Rain rain rain but that certainly didn't stop us from enjoying our afternoon out on this tour of Paterson Inlet. The crew were great, the boat comfy and the nature around us amazing. Fran was the albatross whisperer for the day and we had plenty of mollymawks surround the boat. The walk on Ulva Island was wet but great. A little Stewart Island robin hopped around our feet so close you could almost touch it. Lots of gorgeous birdsong and interesting native forest facts from our guide Josephine. Highly recommend doing this tour.
Leah, our guide on Ulva Island who was a convincing ornithologist and conservationist was an exceptional guide on this trip, the Albatross accompanying the catamaran for a feed, it was all wonderful stuff, than you so much.
In case you haven't found the information you were looking for, we've put together some of the most common questions our customers ask about our trips. If you need more specific answers, please contact us directly.
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What time do we need to check in?
For visitors travelling on the Stewart Island Ferry Service, you are required to check in 30 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time (to allow for luggage loading, etc). The check in and boarding gates are closed 10 minutes prior to scheduled ferry departure. For all our cruises and tours, check in is required 20 minutes prior to the schedule departure.
What sort of birds will we see on Ulva Island?
The bird life on Ulva Island and Stewart Island is of exceptional interest, not only because of the presence of high profile species such as weka, wood pigeon, Stewart Island Robin and kaka, but also because Stewart Island and its small outliers provide a refuge for a range of less well-known birds, among them the NZ dotterel, South Island saddleback, Rifleman, Oystercatcher and the red and yellow-crowned parakeet.
What other activities and sightseeing are available?
There are a huge range of activities available on Stewart Island, from kayaking, fishing trips, golf, walking tracks and more. To find out more information and to make bookings, we operate the Oban Visitor Centre. The Department of Conservation (DoC) also operates a Visitor Information Centre and can provide more information on walking tracks and activities.
Is Stewart Island worthwhile for a day trip?
Yes, there are many activities you can fit into one day on Stewart Island. Ask our reservations team for suggested itineraries.
Online transactions/prices are conducted in what currency?
All prices and transactions on the RealNZ website are in New Zealand dollars (NZD). This is specified on the Terms & Conditions page.
What happens if there is an emergency?
Our staff are trained to deal with incidents and in case of an emergency you should listen to their instructions. We have a portable defibrillator on each of our overnight cruise vessels (Milford Mariner, Milford Wanderer and Fiordland Navigator). In addition to this we also have portable defibrillators at the following locations: • Milford Sound Visitor Terminal • RealNZ Visitor Centre, Manapouri • Cavern House (Te Anau Glowworm Caves) • Colonel’s Homestead Restaurant, Walter Peak • TSS Earnslaw Vintage Steamship • Stewart Island Ferry (Bluff - Oban - Bluff)