Island escapes off New Zealand's South Island

Off the coast of New Zealand's South Island there are many secluded islands waiting to be explored.

New Zealand’s coastline, the ninth longest in the world, is home to many secluded offshore islands. These are some of New Zealand's most beautiful wilderness locations, a variety of unique environments that will help inspire real-life Robinson Crusoe adventures.

Each island comes with its own charm, some with basic setups, others boasting luxury accommodation. An island getaway in New Zealand is the perfect way to see some of the country’s rarest wildlife, taste the best wine and escape the hustle and bustle of the mainland.

Arapawa Homestead

The Marlborough Sounds, on the north east tip of the South Island, is famous for its sauvignon blanc and lovely scenery. Marlborough is holiday heaven where a temperate climate and vast, unspoilt wilderness lay grounds for indulgence and adventure.

One of Marlborough’sbest kept secrets is the secluded Arapawa Island which sits at the entrance of Cook Strait, the body of water separating the North and South Islands.

Arapawa has plenty to offer visitors. The white sand of Whekenui Bay is the perfect spot to relax and swim and chances are you will be able to spot dolphins from the shoreline. Long hikes around the island will delight the more adventurous walkers as well as mountain bikers who will be rewarded with incredible views. 

The island was used a base for whaling from the early 1800s and remnants of the old whaling station still remain.

Accommodation is available at the Arapawa Homestead in three options. The large homestead is the original house built in 1945 and sleeps up to 14 people. The building has been refurbished in keeping with its 1940s character. The Teacher’s Hut, which is really the old woolshed, sleeps three and comes with beautiful views of Whekenui Bay. The School Cottage, a remodelled version of the school house that the whalers sent their children to, sleeps six and is only a short walk to the beach. 

The Arapawa lifestyle offers an unforgettable glimpse of an old world New Zealand. 

Travel Tips

Getting to Arapawa Island is easy with water taxis available from Picton or take a short helicopter ride from Wellington.

D’Urville Island

Located on the northern tip of the South Island, D’Urville Island is a remote paradise in the Marlborough Sounds.

Like Arapawa, D’Urville is a haven for hikers and mountain bikers. The many tracks on the island lead visitors to sweeping views across the surrounding ocean and Marlborough Sounds. Native birds thrive on the island making it the perfect spot to see tui, bellbirds, native robins, weka and kaka.

Fishing and diving is popular with visitors and the surrounding waters are the place to find the famed South Island blue cod. Dolphins and seals are frequent guests to the island so be sure to jump in a kayak for a closer look.

The island is named after the French explorer, Admiral Jules Cesar Dumont D'Urville. He came close to losing his ship, the Astrolabe, as he navigated the treacherous currents that sweep through French Pass between the island and the mainland.

D’Urville Island Wilderness Resort offers beachfront units, great access to the island’s walking tracks and sits in lovely Catherine Cove. The dawn chorus of D’Urville Island’s resident birds is an exceptional highlight.

For an incredible day trip Reid Helicopters depart Nelson following Tasman Bay's eastern coastline before arriving on D'Urville Island for a spot of helicopter reef fishing.  Once the fish are hauled in guests hop across to a sheltered bay to cook their freshly caught fish. 

With a cold beer or glass of wine in hand, you can relax and enjoy the beautiful beaches and native bush, you can even take a swim. 

Travel Tips

Access to D'Urville Island is by water taxi or chartered boat. D’Urville Island Wilderness Resort collects and returns guests to French Pass at any time on rquest. French Pass is a two and a half hour drive from Nelson and Picton. Reid Helicopters is a 25 minute drive south of Nelson.

Stewart Island

Stewart Island, the third largest of the islands in New Zealand’s main chain, is a tranquil isolated spot that is often left unexplored by travellers.

Lying just 30km south of the South Island across the Foveaux Strait, the island has a permanent population of just over 350 people. The land’s unique flora and fauna was formally recognised in 2002, with the establishment of Rakiura National Park, which spans most of the island’s 157,000 hectares. The locals, many of whom are descendants from the first Maori and European settlers, live around the island’s only settlement Oban. The people have a strong connection to the land and consider themselves not only residents but guardians of the island.

With numerous walks maintained by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC), the island is a hiker’s dream destination. There are more than 300km of walking tracks on the island. Tracks vary from short easy day walks to the three-day 37km Rakiura Track - one of New Zealand’s nine ‘Great Walks’ - through Rakiura National Park. There are also eight to ten-day walking tracks for the most serious hikers. 

For bird-watchers a trip to Ulva Island for a guided walk is a must-do. One of a few pest-free open bird sanctuaries in New Zealand, Ulva Island’s temperate rainforest is a living example of what New Zealand was like in days before human activity and the arrival of introduced predators. It offers close encounters with rare birds and plants that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Ulva is a short water taxi from Golden Bay on Stewart Island. On a clear sunny day, recreational boaters and kayakers can also make the journey across Paterson Inlet to Ulva Island to enjoy this glorious setting.

After a day out, have a drink with the locals at the South Sea Hotel, the island’s only pub. There are a number of accommodations options on the island from lodges to backpackers. Prince Harry enjoyed staying at the Stewart Island Lodge, New Zealand's southernmost lodge and situated just a five minutes' walk from the village at Halfmoon Bay. 

Travel Tips

Transport options to Stewart Island are either by ferry or flight. Ferry and helicopter services depart from Bluff and fixed-wing aircraft depart from Invercargill Airport. The ferry crossing takes approximately one hour; flights take 15 - 20 minutes.

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