Stewart Island – Rakiura
Rakiura, or Stewart Island, is the third-largest of NZ’s islands, and it is (while still of significant heft) a very great deal smaller than either North or South Island. (Get this: the South Islanders like to call South Island ‘The Mainland’ since it’s bigger than North Island. Umm, guys, you’re both islands. No mainland here. Deal.) Anyhoo — Rakiura is now mostly national park, aside from a bit around Oban, the only town with all of 380 inhabitants at last census (there are maybe 15,000 kiwis on the island — the birds, that is) and some chunks that are Maori tribal lands. In Maori legend, there was a mythical man who, from his canoe (South Island) fished North Island out of the water; Rakiura, in this telling, was the anchor he threw over to anchor his big canoe when he realized how big a fish he’d hooked. Hence the chain, below; there’s also a chain on the South Island, near the town of Bluff. Rakiura is known above all for being more free than the rest of NZ of the scourge of mammal predators that have destroyed many of NZ’s native bird species. Therefore one can see, here, abundant native parrots, parakeets, little hens and other such birds which are decimated on the two larger islands. I had a lovely quiet two days at the South Sea Hotel in Oban, and walking the streets and trails of town and Ulva Island.