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History

Stewart Island’s rich human heritage dates back to the 13th Century when Maori referred to the Island as Rakiura (land of the glowing skies) or Te Punga o te Waka a Maui (the anchor of Maui’s canoe). Maori visited seasonally, attracted by the delicious titi – the chick of the sooty shearwater.


Captain Cook was the first European to sight the Island in 1770, but thought it to be a part of the South Island so named it South Cape. In the 1800’s Europeans arrived to exploit the booming seal and whale industries.

Fishing has always provided a source of income for permanent residents and today the blue cod, crayfish and oyster industries support the Island along with farmed salmon and mussels.

Much of the Island has been long set aside as nature reserves so farming and clear felling forestry have not destroyed the native forests. Now, 80% of the Island is protected as Rakiura National Park.

A small tourism industry has slowly grown over the last 100 years – the Island is a haven for visitors who love its slow pace and connection with nature.