Ulva Island

Ulva Island

Self Guided Walks


10 Rankers Reviews

7 Face-to-Face

2 Halfmoon Bay

Your Nature Guide

Marios Gavalas's avatar

Marios Gavalas

Author And Researcher

Nau mai, haere mai

Nau mai, haere mai

I'm Marios, delivering the best of Aotearoa's nature walks to your device.

I've personally walked hundreds of New Zealand's tracks and spent months in libraries uncovering interesting information on New Zealand/Aotearoa. And you'll find a slice of that research on this page - enjoy!


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Untouched goodness on Ulva Island
Cruise through the forest


Approx 7 km return | approx 3 hours return (these are maximums)

Ulva Island is an open sanctuary. This means the island is predator free, all wildlife is fully protected AND public can visit. A forest free of mammalian browsers, an absence of hungry rats gorging on seed, avian resident free to breed without perpetual threat, young with odds of survival stacked in their favour, a well watered forest floor with a cache of insect larvae. All the ingredients are here present for life as Zealandia knew it. You might have travelled in time hundreds, thousands or millions of years. Apart from the obvious extinctions, this is as close as we can get to feeling the echoes of life’s ancestry.


Many operators on Stewart Island operate water taxis. The information centre can advise or visit https://www.stewartisland.co.nz/organisations/information-and-bookings/rakiura-national-park-visitor-centre/ for links.


There are several walking tracks on the island, including Flagstaff Point Lookout, Boulder Beach and Westend Beach.

All tracks on Ulva Island are meticulously maintained.

It will take less than the 3 hours above to walk all the tracks, but the essence here is to take your time. Place a $2 donation in the box at the shelter near the wharf and pick up a copy of the booklet. All profits go to the Ulva Island Charitable Trust.

The network follows a neat clockwise loop, starting and finishing at Post Office Bay. Climbing to Flagstaff Point, descend to Sydney Cove and find a shady spot on the golden sand.

Head inland through the forest to a four-way junction. Continue to Boulder Beach, head right to the top end and re-enter the forest to West End Beach.

Just behind the beach the track continues back to the four-way junction and the return to Post Office Bay.

All through the forest are benches.


Here’s the trick. Don’t try and move. Sit on your bench and wait. Spend an hour. The birds will come to you. Lie back and close your eyes. Listen all around. Pick up their calls from a distance. Make a mental map of where they are.

Watch what plants are in flower and which have berries on them. Coprosmas with their bright red fruits are always a good one. Pick a place by a food source and wait.

And then you may start to gain a glimpse into the New Zealand that was.

European History

Charles Traill was the first European resident who settled in 1870. He was the first postmaster and ran the general store. His keen interest in the natural world sparked the enthusiasm for protecting Ulva Island.


Since colonisation by humans and especially following the introduction of Pakeha, New Zealand’s birdlife has taken an irreversible turn for the worse. Tens of millions of years of evolutionary isolation led to the formation of a unique and finely balanced set of ecosystems, unprepared for the invasion of alien forms.

Since splitting from the supercontinent of Gondwanaland over 60 million years ago, the raft of animals has included no mammals, save a few species of bat. New Zealand was thus truly the domain of birds, who were able to colonise the land. In the absence of mammalian predators, the need to fly diminished and many species such as the moa, developed the habit of gigantism. Birds such as the kiwi, takahe and kakapo roamed the forest floor, the canopy was filled with song of the kokako, hihi and huia and the skies screeched to the call of kaka, kereru and kea.

Introductions by Maori of the Polynesian rat (kiore) started the decline, accentuated markedly from the mid 1800s when European settlers brought cats, stoats, ferrets, weasels, Norway rats, deer and possums. The forest was seen as an enemy to be conquered and vast tracts were cleared for conversion to pasture. The diminished habitat resulted in unviable populations.

This sorry story has left New Zealand with the unenviable legacy of having the highest number of extinct bird species and the greatest number of species on the Red List ( a list drawn up by the United Nations of critically endangered species).

Ulva Island (and Stewart Island) never received rabbits, mice or mustelids. It has been protected since 1899.


Feature Value Info


DOC Southland

Central government organisation


South IslandStewart IslandHalfmoon Bay


  • Walking
  • Free


Rachel Ram's avatar

Rachel Ram

United Kingdom

Ranking: 10/10

We were so surprised to meet so many rare and beautiful birds, feel very lucky to have spent time at such a special place.

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in October 2016

Fiona and Matthew's avatar

Fiona and Matthew

New Zealand

Ranking: 9/10

The ferry across is interesting. Ulva Island is pristine and untouched. Animals and birds that are there do not know to fear predators = so cool. Seafood = YUM! Food everywhere was amazing.

Reviewed almost 6 years ago and experienced in January 2016

Manuel El-Amine's avatar

Manuel El-Amine


Ranking: 9/10

Interesting birdlife, nice beaches, great walks.

Reviewed almost 6 years ago and experienced in February 2016

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Helen Parsons's avatar

Helen Parsons


Ranking: 9/10

This is one of many walks in and around Stewart Island. The track was well maintained, the views from the beaches were beautiful. I would like to do more walking on Stewart Island itself.

Reviewed over 6 years ago and experienced in February 2015

Emma Rochester's avatar

Emma Rochester

Ranking: 10/10

After a delightful ferry ride across with an informative ferry driver we spent four blissful hours walking the island. There was a lovely picnic spot on the beach with a rope swing which was idyllic. Lots of wildlife and the robins even came and ate at our feet after we disturbed the ground as advised by our ferry driver - it was magical. Would completely recommend visiting this island and just walking around getting immersed in nature.

Reviewed over 6 years ago

Loesje's avatar



Ranking: 10/10

Such a nice spot! We weren't sure if we wanted to spend the money on the ferry from Stewart Island, to Ulva Island, but we're so happy we did, because it was so special and worth it! Amazing how many birds are there, all around us and when having lunch one came and sat on my foot, haha! And I know this must sound crazy, but I promise I'm not making it up... We got chaised by a sea lion, walking through the BUSH on Ulva Island Ha! AWESOME! :) (at the moment a little bit scary too, but hey, now one of our best stories :))

Reviewed about 9 years ago and experienced in December 2012

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topsy08's avatar



Ranking: 10/10

Great walks, lots of birds, a really nice day out.

Reviewed about 11 years ago

Barbara Probert's avatar

Barbara Probert

United States

Ranking: 9/10

Beaut track, great mix of beach and bush.

Reviewed about 11 years ago

Judith's avatar



Ranking: 10/10

With a watertaxi you can reach Ulva Island within 7 min from Stewart Island. The walks are great (there are 3 different ones) you can see lots of birds in the bush/rainforest.

Reviewed about 11 years ago

A Southwood's avatar

A Southwood

Ranking: 10/10

Bird watchers paradise, lovely walks through native forests and bays.

Reviewed over 12 years ago

DOC Managed

Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍

Cymen Crick's avatar

Cymen Crick