Paradise on Ulva Island

Ulva Island is a paradise for bird watchers and a beautiful nature retreat for people looking to get away from it all.

Situated in Paterson Inlet, just off the coast of Stewart Island, Ulva Island is one of the few open island sanctuaries in the country. 

Due to predator controls, an abundance of native birds and plants thrive in the island’s forests of ancient, primitive native trees. Combined with coves of white, sandy beaches and pristine aqua-green water, all this helps to create a never-to-be-forgotten setting. 

Step off the boat onto the island and the air is alive with the sound of tui and bellbirds. It is an absolute joy for bird watchers with the chance to see weka, kaka, Stewart Island robin (toutouwai), red crowned parakeet (kakariki), rifleman (titipounamu), yellowhead (mohua) and New Zealand wood pigeon (kereru). 

The added beauty of Ulva Island is that the birds come so close that visitors often don’t even need binoculars or a telephoto lens to see them.

Three walking tracks

There are three main walking tracks on the island between Post Office Cove, Sydney Cove, Boulder Beach and West End Beach. Ulva Island’s forest has a soft, mossy floor and many young rimu, miro and totara tree seedlings sprout from the forest floor. As the island has never been milled, the forest is filled with ancient native trees that have been standing for hundreds of years.

Conservation success

Ulva Island is a success story for conservationists as it was one of the first islands to be cleared of predators. It has now been predator-free since 1997. This has allowed for the Department of Conservation to gradually reintroduce vulnerable animals, plants and birds.

Some of the rarest plants in the world such as Gunnera hamiltonii and Euphorbia glauca (no common names) have been planted here as an insurance against further decline in the wild. The island is also home to plants such as the tmesipteris and lanternberry, which are older than the dinosaurs dating back 400 million and 100 million years respectively.  

Saddleback birds were reintroduced to the island after an absence of about 140 years. At the time, there were only about 35 of this species left in the world. Now their numbers are slowing recovering as they flourish in the environment on the island.

It is relatively easy to get to Ulva Island with tour operators and water taxis available from Golden Bay, on Stewart Island. On a clear sunny day, recreational boaters and kayakers can also make the journey to Ulva Island to enjoy this glorious setting.