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Page updated: 5 July 2015

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About Ulva Island

Trip Details


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About Ulva Island

Ulva Island is situated within Paterson Inlet, approx. 30 minutes by kayak from Watercress Beach. It has an area of approximately 269 ha, 3.5 km long and 1.5 km wide. It is managed by the Department of Conservation as an Open Island Sanctuary. A visit to Ulva Island is a must for anyone interested in New Zealand birds and flora.

A picturesque, forested island with easy walks, beautiful beaches and interesting coves. During the 1990's, rats were removed from the Island to create a safe haven for native birds and plants, and now the Island's ecology is thriving.

Marine Reserve

During 2004, a large part of the coastline surrounding Ulva Island has been dedicated to a Marine Reserve to protect the special sealife surrounding the Island.


Ulva Island is one of the few places in New Zealand where you can view near-pristine native podocarp forest including the majestic rimu, miro and totara. There are also flowering southern rata and kamahi, tree ferns, delicate ground ferns and mosses. A number of orchid species are a delight to see, especially during the summer months.


Since the eradication of rats, four bird species have been released on Ulva Island, the rare South Island saddleback (Philesturnus carunculatus curunculatus), the threatened Stewart Island robin (Petroica australis rakiura), the rare yellowhead (Mohoua ochrocephala) and the rifleman (Acanthisitta chloris chloris). There are also plans to release the Stewart Island fernbird (Bowdleria punctata stewartiana).

There are few places in New Zealand like Ulva Island where a variety of native birds can be viewed at such close range. We often hear kaka, our native parrot calling their liquid honey notes, interspersed with the bellbird's exquisite notes and the wonderfully varied calls of the tui, with lime green parakeets flying amongst the tree tops. South Island saddleback, yellowhead, robin, rifleman, red and yellow-crowned parakeets, wood pigeon and weka (wood hen), tui, fantail, tomtit, brown creeper and New Zealand wood pigeon, are amongst several varieties of birds that are often sighted.

Please help to keep Ulva Island rat free by checking you packs before you leave for the Island!

TRIP DETAILS: Ulva Island Circumnavigation
Duration 8 hours including 1 ˝ to 2 hours walk on Ulva Island
Distance Kayak: approx. 3 kms (1.8 miles) to/from Ulva Island, plus approx. 11 kms (7 miles) around Ulva Island’s coastline.

Oct to Mar
8.30 am – 4.30 pm

Apr & Sep
9.00 am to 4.00 pm

May to Aug
Subject to prior bookings

Start/End Watercress Beach, Paterson Inlet, 15 minutes walk from Oban, Halfmoon Bay.
Fitness Good
Terrain Ulva Island – well formed gravel tracks – easy walk with steps
Adult $230.00 p.p.
Child N/A.
Lunch $18.00 p.p. (optional or bring your own)
Includes Kayak, spray skirt, spray jacket, paddle, safety gear. Hot drinks and some refreshments.
Minimum 4 persons
If you are only one or two persons, check to see if we have achieved minimum numbers or we can put you on our wait list.
Maximum 8 persons (per guide)

Travel around Ulva Island, marvel at the crystal clear waters, listen to the chorus of birds and enjoy a short walk through lush native forest…

Book Now (click here to make a booking)

What we do - See also main Map.

We meet at Watercress Beach for a short briefing before kayaking for 30 - 40 minutes across Paterson Inlet to Ulva Island, landing at Post Office Cove. Ulva Island is a picturesque, forested island with easy walks, beautiful beaches and interesting coves.

After a short rest we kayak around to Boulder Beach. Gaze through crystal clear waters at the superb marine life including starfishes, jellyfish, mussels and intricate seaweed. Explore the surrounding islets, where New Zealand fur seals may be seen before continuing on to The Snuggery, Rogers Bay and Sydney Cove.

Enjoy seabirds in the water or along the shore including penguins, cormorants and oystercatchers. As we kayak around Ulva Island we may hear/see kaka (native parrot) calling their liquid honey notes, interspersed with the bellbird's exquisite notes and the wonderfully varied calls of the tui. The cheeky weka (wood hen) may also be seen foraging at the beach. Loose yourself in the magic of the place!

At Sydney Cove enjoy lunch before taking a walk to explore the Island's forest and view rare and threatened birds and plants. Lime green parakeets flying amongst the treetops, saddleback, yellowhead, robin and wood pigeon are amongst several varieties of birds that may be sighted. The near-pristine native podocarp forest includes majestic rimu, miro and totara, flowering southern rata and kamahi, tree ferns, delicate ground ferns, mosses and some orchids.

From Sydney Cove we paddle across Paterson Inlet back to Watercress Beach.

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Ruggedy Range™ Wilderness Experience
"Birds & Forest Booking Office"
Stewart Island - Travel & Activities

14 Main Road
P O Box 188, Stewart Island, NZ

Ph: 64 3 219 1066
Fax: 64 3 219 1078
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Office now centrally located opposite Department of Conservation Office and approx. 2 minutes walk from flight/ferry See Map.

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