Paterson Inlet, Stewart Island, New Zealand

“The Inlet”

Map of Paterson Inlet, Stewart Island

Paterson Inlet, and our trip from Golden Bay up the Inet and back past Ulva Island into Halfmoon Bay

Paterson Inlet is like a mini fjord. It penetrates Stewart Island providing water access down to some of the walking tracks that cross the island and a great many hunting blocks between the ocean and the inlet. It is home to the wildlife sanctuary of Ulva Island, numerous smaller islands, bays and mini inlets, mudflats, marine farms for mussels, oysters and salmon with rainforest to the waters edge. Most of the time it is more sheltered than the open ocean.


Heritage and Character Inns

After getting our tiny house “crib” into a decent enough state to offer a dinner, albeit balanced on our knees, we were able to return some of the very kind hospitality offered to us by Peter and Iris Tait of Sails Ashore Luxury Lodge in Oban, Stewart Island. Peter and Iris are members of the Heritage and Character Inns group and have hosted us for dinner a couple of times – once with Tracey and Jim from Summit Lodge, who had journeyed south to meet some fellow Heritage and Character Inns members. They probably hadn’t intended meeting some of the Akaroa contingent on Stewart Island.


A stay at Sails Ashore is much more than a bed for the night. As with all Heritage & Character member properties there are special features and attributes that distinguish an owner hosted property from a hotel. Hosts are available as much or as little as guests require with many doing specialised tours, talks and classes.


Paterson Inlet Boat Trip

After a couple of post dinner ports (liquid not nautical) Peter said “what are you doing Saturday morning?” And so we were lucky enough to be invited for a spin around Paterson Inlet.


Peter collected us from the Golden Bay wharf. He took us to places we had only been on foot and some we had never been at all.

Vaila Voe, Paterson Inlet

Looking out from “Vaila Voe”


Paterson Inlet is huge. The main part of Paterson Inlet is about 15 km long and the two “arms” at the end are half as long again as the main inlet.


The passion I already had for the island was amplified as we headed down Paterson Inlet towards Ryan’s Creek. “This is the boring bit of the island” Peter responded to my rapturous “I just love it here”. (The southern harbour of Port Pegasus” was what Peter was comparing the Inlet to)

Whalers Base, Paterson Inlet, Stewart Island

Old Propellers from Norwegian Whale Chasers at “Whalers Base”

The sea was a perfect mirror until our multi horsepowered intrusion into the little inlets and bays. With a low tide the beaches at Ryan’s Creek, Kaipipi and Millar’s Beach showed off their gilded shores – along with some nasty little rocks jutting just out of the water. These inspired a new respect for the pioneers who charted these waters that go from fathoms deep to hull piercing in a matter of metres. It’s all very well when the water is like glass. Spotting these pinnacles when there is a chop on the surface is much more difficult. With a tidal difference of around 2 metres the high water comes right up the bush level while low water reveals golden sand beaches.

Stewart Island Shag on Ulva Island, Stewart Island

Stewart Island Shag on Ulva Island, Stewart Island


Our tour in a fast boat covered an area rich in history, natural beauty and wildlife. From the back of Ulva Island where the marine farms of Big Glory Bay could be seen, we threaded our way through the offshore rocks and

"Post Office Bay" The landing serving Ulva Island Open Sanctuary

“Post Office Bay” The landing serving Ulva Island Open Sanctuary

headed past The Neck, Ackers Point and into the wharf at Oban where Iris met us having been interrupted making scones for the imminent arrival of the bishop.


The Taits obviously enjoy meeting people and telling a few good yarns. With years of experience on the island and the ocean there are plenty of good yarns willingly shared with those interested in finding out more about what it is like to live and work on the edge of the Great Southern Ocean.


Stewart Island is way past the end of the road. There is so much to see and do so make the most of the fare and effort to get there and stay long enough to get to know at least a little about the place and the people. And be prepared. Every now and then, when one of the great storms roars in, your stay may be a little bit longer than you anticipated. It’s just a good excuse to chill out for another day.


I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t steal at least a little bit of your heart because it has a great big chunk of mine.