A very early start (for us) for our tour of Stewart Island organised by Stewart Island Flights. Check in at 7:30am and the taxi man was early at 7:10 – you can imagine how close the airport is to the City.
Apart from a predictably crummy breakfast at the airport, we boarded our aircraft, the very same Cherokee Six (ZK-DIV) that I flew to the South Island in about 1986. It's done a few more hours since then and time has not been that kind to it. However our pilot (Gerrard) kindly let me have the right hand seat and even take the controls for the straight and level. It does fly well, they are a terrific aircraft.
Everything went well, transfer to Oban (tiny village you understand) walk over the hill to Golden Bay to meet Ken the water taxi man who got us to Ulva Island by 08:50. “Take the paper for John and I'll see you at 11:30” says Ken. “What on Earth will we do here for over two and a half hours?” think I. Actually it flew by.
Ulva is a predator free bird sanctuary and it is utterly unbelievable how noisy it is teaming with native birds. John on the other hand has 19 acres of the place and it's been in his family since 1922. Very kindly he shows us around his part and the old pioneer cemetery. An utterly charming man and the most wonderful place for a bach (crib I suppose they would call it here in the South Island)
We had a good walk around the circular track and really enjoyed the place.
Ken was back bang on time and we were in the South Seas Hotel by 12:15 or so for the biggest “Fishermans Basket” lunch I've ever seen. Huge and mostly deep fried in beer batter but good none the less.
The afternoon was a mini van tour with Stewart of the 27km of road on the Island (no need to take the bikes is for certain) and we find the other end of the “chain” that holds the South Island in place. We had an hour or so to kill at the end of the day while we waited for the return flight (17:30 departure).
Personally I'd struggle to live there full time but I can see the attraction. The weather today has been fine (mostly) but windy and cold, something you'd have to learn to live with here for sure. For me it was a five layer day and I guess I'd have to buy more merino thermals as well as getting pretty familiar with the South Seas Hotel.
Overall you could not help but recommend the Stewart Island Flights full day tour. http://stewartislandflights.com/sections/theflight/daytrips
Dinner presented more of a problem but we took mine host at the Bella Vistas recommendation and went to 'Buster Crabb'. Picked up by Alan the owner and had the best lamb rump this side of the black stump. This place was heaving on a Tuesday night and quite rightly. If you find youreslf in Invercargill you should go.